CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Speakers' Corner

Abstracts from the Speakers’ Corner held on Tuesday 4 June at the Bode-Museum. If you wish to contact one of the speakers, please find their contact information by clicking on their names.

Borman and Sons. The Best Sculptors

Marjan Debaene, Head of Collections, M-Museum Leuven

The presentation discussed the question of ‘how to research medieval (anonymous) sculpture’ by presenting the preparatory work that went into the forthcoming Borman exhibition and catalogue. A second question that was raised is ‘how to curate a big exhibition of medieval sculpture’, as the topic is not as popular as painting from the same period, nor is it evident in terms of presentation and transport, which require ample budget.

To Instruct and Delight: The Role of Art Exhibitions Today

Rima Girnius, Associate Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

As museums seek to appeal to a larger and broader audience, curators are increasingly called upon to develop exhibitions that are not only visually appealing and scholarly, but also address contemporary concerns. We expect exhibitions to delight and inform visitors but should they also raise political and/or social awareness? Should art have a social purpose? And if so, to what extent?
Girnius is also seeking scholarly input on an exhibition that she is developing, tentatively titled Marvels and Monstrosities in the Age of Discovery, 1500-1700, centered on the notion of the monstrous as a culturally specific construct. By considering how monsters of the past were used and represented, the exhibition will provide ample opportunities to find parallels in our current society, no less fascinated by monsters.

Preserving the Paintings Collection of the Maritime Museum: Adding Knowledge in More Ways Than One

Irene Jacobs, Curator, National Maritime Museum, Rotterdam

The Maritime Museum holds approximately 570 paintings in its collection, dating from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. These paintings have all been preserved by a painting conservator over the past years, improving the general condition as well as improving the knowledge about their condition and used materials. This project, focusing on the materiality of the objects, added a great deal to the knowledge of the collection (also about the historical content) but also led to new questions. Are there other disciplines that Jacobs could involve that would add to the knowledge of the painting? Are there any similar projects which she could learn from?

Chronicle of the Exhibition Foretold

Dragana Kovačić, Senior Curator, National Museum, Belgrade

The National Museum in Belgrade plans to exhibit Netherlandish prints from its collection. The collection was never thoroughly researched or adequately displayed, leaving both the Serbian public and academia largely unfamiliar with Netherlandish printmaking. Can the social impact and memorability of contemporary art (such as the recreation of Goltzius’ Ixion by international street artist Žilda on a façade in Pančevo, Serbia) be utilized towards promoting traditional Old Masters, such as Goltzius’ Tantalus? How do these cultural realms interact and connect?

Help the RKD to get the Bredius notes online!

Suzanne Laemers, Curator of Early Netherlandish Painting, RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague

Since 1946 the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History in The Hague is in the possession of the so-called Bredius notes: ca. 43.000 small pieces of paper on which Abraham Bredius (1855-1946) wrote brief summaries of the contents of archival documents kept in Dutch city archives, concerning the life and work of artists from the Dutch Golden Age. The plan has been taken up to digitize the Bredius notes and present them online. Because of the large number of notes, the RKD seeks a helping hand of the crowd. In the near future, the RKD will launch an online crowdsourcing platform to allow the public to provide help in transcribing and indexing the Bredius notes in order to have them accessible and searchable online as soon as possible. A call to participate will be published on the CODART website in due time.

The Technical Investigation of a Rembrandt Studio ‘Tronie’

Stephen Lloyd, Curator of the Derby Collection, Knowsley Hall

The Derby collection (Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool) is little-known but houses (among others) an important collection of Old Master paintings, including notable Netherlandish works. One of the least studied oil paintings at Knowsley is a panel ‘tronie’: Head of an Old Bearded Man in Oriental Dress (ca.1635). It was purchased for the Derby Collection before 1818 as ‘by Rembrandt’. Exhibited as a Rembrandt in London throughout the nineteenth century and at Amsterdam in 1898, it was downgraded to ‘school of’ Rembrandt’ in 1969. This panel does not appear to have been studied in person by any Rembrandt specialists since 1899, until now. Recently this panel painting has undergone technical study in the Liverpool Conservation Centre, with X-radiography, infra-red reflectography and dendrochronological analysis. How do we interpret the recent technical analyses with respect to other panel paintings produced by Rembrandt and by pupils in his studio during the mid-1630s? Members of CODART may contact Stephen Lloyd for information and high quality pictures.

Anna & Rachel – Two Sister Painters in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam

Robert Schindler, Fariss Gambrill Lynn and Henry Sharpe Lynn Curator of European Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama

This exhibition will explore the early careers of the little-known flower painter Anna Ruysch and her much-acclaimed sister, Rachel. The core of the exhibition would comprise a group of early still lifes by Rachel and Anna. The exhibition would further explore the environment in which they grew up, their artistic training, their relationships to other artists, and also include a range of works in different media to illustrate the different facets of Anna and Rachel’s fascinating story. As such, the exhibition would address overarching questions related to who gets to be an artist; women artists; artistic training; the science of botany and its intersections with painting and nature; as well as the history, making, meaning, as well as reception/perception then and later of flower still life painting. For this project, I am seeking assistance from colleagues with identifying and locating paintings, especially by Anna, as well as other venues.

The Curator in a Digital World: Fluidity and Flexibility in the Online Catalogue

Lara Yeager-Crasselt, Curator, The Leiden Collection, New York

What do we, as curators, look for in digital scholarship, and digital collection catalogues in particular? How can we make the digital better serve our needs? How do we balance the scholarly audience and a broader public one? And finally, how often should digitally published content be updated or revised — how fluid and flexible should this form of publication be?