Now On View: Pietro Calvi’s Othello

See the installation of the Walters Art Museum’s newest acquisition, Pietro Calvi’s Othello, and learn more about the artwork.

This week, the Walters Art Museum installed Othello, Pietro Calvi’s stunning bronze and marble bust of Shakespeare’s tragic hero. The sculpture bears striking resemblance to Ira Aldridge, one of the first African-American actors in the nineteenth-century to play the role of Othello in Europe. Associate Curator of 18th- and 19th-Century Art, Jo Briggs, explains the significance of this exciting new acquisition below.

See how the piece was installed:

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The Clothilde Missal

In 2016, the Walters Art Museum purchased a unique and fascinating Edwardian era manuscript from 1906, known today as the Clothilde Missal (W.934) after its creator Clothilde Coulaux. This exciting acquisition greatly enriches the Walters manuscript collection, which includes only a small handful of manuscripts made by women. Clothilde was a young French woman living in Molsheim, a city in German-occupied Alsace, France, and her lovely manuscript is a testimony to her artistic skill, imagination, and ability to find beauty in an uncertain world.

A self-portrait by the artist graces one of the last pages of the missal.

While the text of her manuscript is traditional and religious, Clothilde illustrates all 174 pages with a rich variety of imagery including not only devotional subjects, but also scenes of everyday life, music, feasting, courtship and child rearing, death, warfare, and regional architecture. Her religious illuminations often draw upon prints by Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein, and other early masters, as well as art she possibly encountered in her environment such as stained glass, sculpture, and liturgical instruments. Much of the other imagery, however, is uniquely her own, and seems to play around the edges of a text to which it does not entirely relate. Personal touches like her cat gazing out the window, or a tiny figure spilling an enormous ink pot, add whimsy and humor to the pages. The book is her canvas, and the text a background and excuse for her art.

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Q&A with Katherine Kasdorf on Ferocious Beauty

Katherine Kasdorf is the Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow and curated Ferocious Beauty: Wrathful Deities from Tibet and Nepal with a team of educators, conservators, designers, and registrars. The exhibition features 12 paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects depicting deities that appear fearsome, but are meant to help their devotees. Their fearsome qualities are intended to frighten and conquer things that hinder the path to enlightenment. We caught up with Katherine to dig a little deeper into the meanings behind these works and what makes them so intriguing.


What was the purpose of these works/ How did people use them?

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Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part III

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a part-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

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Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part II

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a full-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

Continue reading Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part II →

Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part I

The Walters recently launched a new website that houses its digital collection of manuscripts: manuscripts.thewalters.org. Featuring a user-friendly design, the site provides visitors with intuitive search options, including the ability to refine their search by date, geography, subject, culture, and more. 

Lynley Anne Herbert is the Robert and Nancy Hall Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Walters. She started working at the museum as a fellow in 2010, and was soon brought on board as a full-time cataloguer of Western manuscripts for the NEH-funded manuscript digitization project. It often took her and the digitization team up to two weeks to catalogue and digitize a single book.

Continue reading Illuminating Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age, Part I →

Unlocking a Fifteenth-Century Flemish Casket

This casket hasn’t been opened since Henry Walters first acquired it.

A fifteenth-century Flemish casket with scenes from romances was recently brought to the conservation lab to be evaluated for a possible loan to another museum. It is a rare example of painted and gilded locking caskets with secular imagery. Purchased from the Parisian bookbinder and antiques dealer Leon Gruel by Henry Walters, only a handful of similar examples are known.

This casket is made of wood covered with leather that has been cut to create images and designs.  Iron straps surround the exterior, and there is a large lock on the front, suggesting the casket was intended to hold objects of great value.  When it arrived in the lab, the casket was locked.  There is no key and no record of it ever being opened at the museum.

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Q&A with Sara Shahabi

Graphic designer Sara Shahabi was commissioned by the Walters to create the title wall for Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

Sara Shahabi’s background in exploring experimental English and Farsi typography made her a perfect fit for executing the evocative title wall that greets visitors at the start of Pearls on a String. Her installation continues a theme in the exhibition that considers how artists, patrons, and poets form a constellation of relationships. In Sara’s work we see a contemporary expression of that theme, to compliment works from the Islamic courts of the sixteenth- and eighteenth-centuries. We talked to Sara about how the title wall came to be, from concept to execution.

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Art Conservator Q&A with Julie Lauffenburger

Julie Lauffenburger, Director of Conservation and Technical Research shares her passion for conservation, curating the Gold in the Ancient Americas exhibition and her journey to the Walters Art Museum.

Why are you so passionate about preserving art?

I am a bit of a history nerd. Just ask my children—always a historic site wrapped into a family vacation! Preserving art to me is about preserving the legacy of human creativity: what makes us human and what is universal about all of us wherever we live. I have always been fascinated by material culture and have always wanted to travel and see the world; preserving art ensures that material culture from around the world will be there for future generations to discover. It makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger.

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The Walters Art Museum’s Unsung Veteran

Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe.

MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle
MFAA Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle

As we remember the service of our friends and loved ones on this Veterans Day, I thought you might like to hear about the exploits of the Walters Art Museum’s most unsung veteran. Marvin Chauncey Ross was our Curator of Medieval and Subsequent Art from 1939 to 1952. In 1942 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and saw combat in the South Pacific as Assistant Wing Officer with the first Marine Aircraft Headquarters.

In 1944 the young Ross, now a Captain, was called by General Eisenhower to join the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission (MFAA) to assist in the discovery and repatriation of artworks seized by the Nazi occupation forces throughout Europe. His expertise in art and also his language skills enabled his work, and one remarkable event in late 1944 is well worth recounting. He entered the Chateau of Haute Koeningsbourg, in the Alsace region of France where allied troops had identified a cache of artworks hidden by the Germans. On his inspection of the chateau, Ross discovered the Isenheim Alterpiece by Grunewald. It was protected by American forces until the end of hostilities and returned to the Unterlinden Museum in Alsace where it can be seen today. The MFAA units had an enormous task to locate and secure cultural treasures. They often worked alone, and arrived in locations immediately following fierce battles that took place as the Germans retreated. Two MFAA officers were killed in the line of duty.

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