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Curator Pick of the Month

November 2015

Title: Dojoji (Dojo Temple)
Artist: Artist Unknown
Creation Date: Date Unknown
Origin: Japan
Medium: Woodblock print

For November, The Drexel Collection chose this intriguing piece from the collection’s extensive variety of Japanese woodblock prints. This print captures a moment from popular kabuki play, “The Maiden at the Dojo Temple”. In this scene, the young maiden transforms herself into a demon, after realizing that her love for a young priest is unrequited. On stage, a skillful actor would achieve the effect of the transformation through a rapid costume change by wearing multiple layers that could be easily removed.

October 2015

Title: Through the Fields
Artist: Paolo Michetti
Creation Date: 1900
Origin: Italy
Medium: Oil, board

In the spirit of the fall harvest, the Drexel Collection chose Through the Fields by Paolo Michetti. This painting depicts a group of children marching through a field of wheat and poppy in the Italian countryside. The blue garmets and accessories of the figures communicates to the viewer that these people are most likely shepherds, returning from a long day at work. Michetti was inspired by the Italian region of Abruzzo, and incorporated its people, animals, and local events into his works. Michetti learned to paint from an Italian fresco painter, and embraced modern methods of painting and the use of clear colors.

September 2015

Title: Portrait of Anthony J. Drexel
Artist: Josef Bergenthal
Creation Date: c. 1860
Origin: Philadelphia, PA
Medium: Oil, canvas

September 13 marks the 189th birthday of the University’s founder, Anthony J. Drexel, born September 13, 1826. In honor of his birthday this month, The Drexel Collection chose this portrait of A. J. Drexel. This portrait is considered one of the most successful portraits of Anthony, as he was notorious for not wanting to sit for his portrait; because of this, there are many reproductions of this portrait throughout campus. Try to see if you can find them all!

August 2015

Title: Tall-Case Astronomical Musical Clock
Artist: David Rittenhouse (1732-1796)
Creation Date: c. 1773
Origin: Philadelphia, PA
Medium: Mahogany, white cedar, poplar, oak, brass, silver

This is the David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock with Chinese Chippendale mahogany case, one of The Drexel Collection’s most prized objects. The Philadelphia Astronomical Society published the book by Ron Hoppes titled “The Most Important Clock in America: The David Rittenhouse Astronomical Musical Clock at Drexel University”. Why is this clock so important you might ask? David Rittenhouse was a renowned Pennsylvania astronomer and instrument maker who designed and built the clock in 1773. He was also a friend of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The clock tells the time, month and day, location of planets, tracks several esoteric astronomical phenomena, and plays 10 different tunes on its chimes. On the top of the clock, there are six tiny planets that orbit the sun (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto had yet to be discovered). It is also outlined with the names of zodiac constellations, and just by looking at the face of the clock you are able to tell where to look for a particular planet that night. The clock is just about in complete original condition. In 1879, we know that George W. Childs purchased the clock, and it was given to Drexel Institute by his widow in 1894. To learn more, watch the video on the clock's restoration and visit the Picture Gallery to see the newly installed interactive about the clock!

July 2015

Title: Modèle du Comité
Artist: Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi
Creation Date: c. 1876
Origin: France
Medium: Terracotta

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than with the Modèle du Comité, a model of the Statute of Liberty. The model is made by the same sculptor as the actual statue, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. It is possible that A. J. Drexel met Bartholdi because they were both members of the Franco-American alliance, a group dedicated to raise funds to build the pedestal for the statue in New York. In order to raise funds for the project, models like this were sold. This model is numbered “50,” and is one of only four that remain today. The sculpture was displayed in the Christie’s exhibition “Images of Liberty: Models and Reproductions of the Statue of Liberty 1867 – 1917” in 1986, and now has a prominent home in the Main Building’s Great Court.

June 2015

Title: Summer Day in Venice
Artist: Rubens Santoro
Creation Date: 1880
Origin: Italy
Medium: Oil on canvas

To welcome summer, the Drexel Collection chose this seasonal scene titled Summer Day in Venice by Rubens Santoro. Rubens painted from life and incorporated scenes from his European travels, especially Venice. Although Rubens appears to have lived and worked exclusively in Italy, he exhibited his work throughout the world in Chicago, Paris, London, Rome, and Leningrad. This shaded canal scene looks like quite the refreshing retreat from the hot Mediterranean sun!

May 2015

Title: Etruscan Ram’s Head
Artist: Artist Unknown
Creation Date: c. 700-500 BCE
Origin: Italy
Medium: Bronze

This Etruscan rendering of a ram’s head is the oldest object in the Drexel Collection, dating c. 700-500 BCE! The Etruscans, the forerunners of the Romans, were known for their fine metal craft, thanks to the high quality of ores in Tuscany. This explains why this delicate piece of less than 3 1/5 inches in diameter was able to survive so many centuries! The ram’s head was created using the technique of repoussé, where the craftsman hammers the piece of metal into shape from the reverse side. In addition to creating decorative pieces, the Etruscans also used bronze to create small objects of daily use, such as storage jars, handles, and mirrors.

April 2015

Title: Silver Resist Lustre Teapot
Artist: Leeds Pottery
Creation Date: 1815
Origin: Stoke-on-Trent, England
Medium: Earthenware

This teapot may look like heavy silver, but April Fools, it is actually a technique called “lustre”. Lustre is a metallic decoration applied to ceramics through precipitation, using salts of silver, gold, or copper that are dissolved and painted onto the surface of the ceramic before firing. This style of decoration was invented in the Near East around the 9th century BCE and then spread to the Islamic culture in Spain. The technique did not come to England until the 19th century when the potter William De Morgan began to develop lustrewares. The Drexel Collection has an extensive collection of lustrewares that are frequently showcased throughout our cases and exhibitions!

March 2015

Title: Banjo Clock
Artist: Unknown
Creation Date: 19th century
Origin: United States
Medium: Wood, gilding, brass

With daylight savings coming up, what better to help us “spring forward” than the banjo clock! This 19th-century clock, named for its unique shape, is one of the many excellent examples of clocks and watches within The Drexel Collection. Both the case and the inner workings were conserved in 2013. The banjo clock is an American invention, celebrated for its innovation and craftsmanship.

February 2015

Title: Glass Bottle of George Washington
Artist: Unknown
Creation Date: Mid-20th century
Origin: United States
Medium: Glass

Happy Birthday George Washington! In honor of President’s Day this month, The Drexel Collection chose a glass bottle molded after George Washington. In the decades after the birth of the nation, the production of glass bottles decorated with celebrated American figures was common. Also called flasks, these historical glass bottles are distinctly American, and are popular among collectors because of their unique place in the cultural heritage of the nation. Figural bottles like this were produced in many shades of amber and also in blue.

January 2015

Title: Conical Clock
Artist: Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and Eugene Farcot
Creation Date: 1867
Origin: France
Medium: Silver, brass, marble

It’s time to start fresh and prepare for a new year! In recognition of the times gone by and the times to come, this month’s curators pick is the famous Eugene Farcot Conical Clock with sculpture by Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. Drexel’s clock arrived at the university in 1912. It was a donation from Mrs. George W. Childs in memory of her husband, George W. Childs, a close friend and business partner of A. J. Drexel. Childs purchased the clock at the Parisian Exposition in 1867 for $6,000, making it one of the most expensive clocks in the entire world. One of only three conical clocks in the United States; it is one of Drexel’s most notable pieces of art. Conical clocks have a pendulum that operates in a circular motion as opposed to side to side, and they are surprisingly accurate.

December 2014

Title: Horse and Cart
Artist: Unknown
Creation Date: 19h century
Origin: United States
Medium: Wood, metal, paint, horse hair

Happy Holidays! In light of the gift giving season, it seemed appropriate to look back on a toy from the 19th century. Horse toys like these were very popular for children of the 1800’s, including rocking horses, horse heads on the end of a stick, and wheeled ones like this one in The Drexel Collection. While some goods at the time were mass-produced, toys of this size and quality were handmade with wood, fabric, and animal hair. Horse toys were a chance for children to imitate the equestrian skills they were expected to have as an adult, making them very popular. In addition to the horse toy, many hand crafted toys from the 19th century are housed in The Drexel Collection.

November 2014

Title: Bronze Plated Hen Pheasant
Artist: Jules Moigniez
Creation Date: 19th century
Origin: France
Medium: Bronze

Jules Moigniez, the sculptor of this pheasant, was an expert in casting bird representations and was wildly popular in the late 19th century. A French artist, he exhibited much of his most notable work in The Salon, however his work was especially popular in Great Britain and America. After he became ill in 1869, he stopped producing work and took his own life. His father continued to cast his sculpture with his old molds but stopped around the time of the First World War when tastes had begun to change.

Ocotober 2014

Title: Salem Witch Spoon
Artist: Daniel Low & Co.
Creation Date: 1891
Origin: Salem, Massachusetts
Medium: Sterling silver

Happy Halloween! This silver spoon is an example of a Salem witch souvenir spoon from Salem, Massachusetts, that dates to 1891. Several versions of witch spoons were made by Daniel Low & Co., gold and silversmiths of Salem. Upon closer inspection, you will see that the handle of the spoon is shaped like a witch’s broom with a witch at one end and a black cat at the other. We thought this was the perfect choice for the October curator pick of the month!

September 2014

Title: The Barber Shop
Artist: George Cruickshank
Creation Date: 1835
Origin: England
Medium: Oil, panel

It’s back to school season and as students are gathering their books and clothes and getting fresh haircuts to prepare, The Drexel Collection chose The Barber Shop by George Cruikshank to celebrate the anticipation. George Cruikshank began his artistic career as an illustrator of children’s books and later turned to political satire in 1811. While most of his work is done in etchings and illustrations, he also dabbled in painting, like this piece which he created in 1811. One could see how his grotesque, theatrical and humorous style translated well for satire and cartoons.

August 2014

Title: Self-Portrait of the Artist at the Easel with Wife and Daughter
Artist: Francis Martin Drexel
Creation Date: 1824
Origin: United States
Medium: Oil, canvas

This self-portrait of Francis Martin Drexel and his family was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1825. Francis was the father of A.J. Drexel, the university’s founder, and had a peculiar skillset. He had succeeded as both a portrait artist and as a banker. While he had aspired to become a painter since his adolescence in Austria, Francis eventually abandoned painting in 1838 to open the Drexel Bank on Third Street. However, the love that Francis had for art influenced his children and his son, A. J. Drexel, created The Drexel Collection for the very new Drexel Institute of Science, Art and Industry in 1891.

July 2014

Title: Eagle
Artist: Artist Unknown
Creation Date: c. 1815-1825
Origin: United States
Medium: Pine, paint

The eagle has been the national symbol of the United States since 1782. The Great Seal of the United States depicts the eagle with wings spread and a shield divided into a blue field across the top and 13 red and white stripes on the bottom. The eagle clutches 13 arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other. In its beak is a banner with the motto “E Pluribus Unum” which translates to “Out of Many, One.” This painted and gilded carved wooden eagle from the early 19th century is a stylized version of the eagle from the Great Seal. The flat bottom edge of the carving suggests that it may have been mounted on a wagon or car, possibly for a circus.

June 2014

Title: In the Garden
Artist: Jennifer Bartlett
Creation Date: 1980
Origin: United States
Medium: Steel plates, baked enamel, silkscreen

With the onset of summer just around the corner, Jennifer Bartlett’s In the Garden stood out as a pick to celebrate the season. The massive mural in the URBN center portrays a garden that the artist studied while visiting a villa in Nice, France. The focus of the painting is a small cherub repeated five times, shown from different angles and at different times of day. The unconventional format of the painting consists of 270 one-foot-square steel plates and was conceived in this way to restrict and formalize the composition of the painting. Its progressive composition seemed fit to install in the brand new URBN Center built in April of 2013.

May 2014

Title: Saxon Flower Soup Tureen
Artist: Unknown Artist
Creation Date: c. 1750-1780
Origin: Jingdezhen, China
Medium: Hard-paste porcelain, enamels

April showers bring May flowers and this soup tureen is covered in them! The famille rose palette with shades of pink, yellow, orange, green, lavender and blue, as well as the rabbit head handles found on the tureen, reflect the brilliant colors and new life of springtime. This tureen is an example of Chinese export porcelain made in Jingdezhen, China, for the European market. It’s decorated with a floral pattern that is a Chinese interpretation of Meissen porcelains called “German” or “Saxonian,” which shows the dissemination of ideas to and from the different continents.

April 2014

Title: Runner
Artist: Sterett-Gittings Kelsey (*1941)
Creation Date: 1976
Origin: United States
Medium: Bronze

In light of the 118th annual Boston Marathon on April 21st, this bronze sculpture of a runner seemed an appropriate choice for this month’s curator’s pick. Created in 1976 by the sculptor Sterett-Gittings Kelsey (b. 1941), this sculpture depicts the moment of victory as the runner is crossing the finish line, leaning forward to break the ribbon his face depicting both exhaustion and joy at the completion of the race. This sculpture is one of several completed by Kelsey and commissioned by the Royal Copenhagen of Denmark in 1973 to produce a series of sculptures expressing different types of movement. In order to fully understand the movements involved in different sports, Kelsey worked with champions in each sport including Olympic Skater Dorothy Hamill.

March 2014

Title: George III Silver Nine-Basket Epergne
Artist: Thomas Pitts
Creation Date: 1765
Origin: England
Medium: Silver

In 1893 Anthony J. Drexel gave the Drexel Institute a solid silver epergne, made in 1763 by a London silversmith named Thomas Pitts. Epergnes became fashionable in the 1730’s when large dining halls were popular for ornate dinner parties. It was used to hold fruit, condiments, and relishes for early courses and sweets for dessert. A lot of these delicacies were shipped from the Far East so they were very expensive; epergnes became popular so guests could take as much as they wanted without wasting the food by preparing these luxuries in the main dish. The Drexel epergne serves as a stunning example of Chinese influence in England during the 1700’s as the Chinese pagoda shape is combined with floral motifs.

February 2014

Title: Portrait of Amanda Fell Cassatt
Artist: Jean Charles P. de Chabannes la Palice
Creation Date: 1910
Origin: France
Medium: Oil, canvas

With New York Fashion Week in full swing, I thought it would be a perfect time to highlight one of The Drexel Collection’s best-dressed portraits. Amanda Fell Cassatt was the Daughter of Sarah Drexel, and granddaughter of Anthony J. Drexel. The portrait depicts this statuesque beauty in a fur-trimmed red velvet overdress concealing a light-colored delicate lace and fringed evening gown. A small blue bow fastens the overdress in the front, adding a flare of contrasting color and a bit of winsomeness to the ensemble. To complete the look, Mrs. Cassatt’s headdress is a fashionable black wrap jeweled at the center with a large black plume. This portrait can be found in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.

January 2014

Title: New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige
Creation Date: 1857
Origin: Japan
Medium: Woodblock print

Happy New Year! This woodblock print is part of a large collection of Japanese prints donated to The Drexel Collection by James W. Paul Jr., Anthony J. Drexel’s son-in-law. In Japanese folklore, it is believed that on New Year’s Eve all of the foxes of the surrounding provinces would gather at a particular tree near the Oji Inari shrine, headquarters of the god Inari. The animals would emit distinctive flames by which local farmers were able to predict the crops of the coming year. This print was most recently part of Drexel’s celebratory exhibition A Legacy of Art, Science and Industry: Highlights from the Collections, Drexel University, Spring 2012.