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Curator Pick of the Month

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.