Category Archives: Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications

Dandies in the Digital Collections

Some of the earliest accounts of the “dandy” appear in the eighteenth century when it was generally defined as a person who places excessive importance on his or her clothing and personal appearance.  The Digital Collections captures eighteenth and nineteenth century European responses to and descriptions of the dandy.  Specifically, the collection contains Portuguese material with laws and ethics cautioning against excessive attention to one’s dress, as well as exhibition catalogs describing British and French artists and personalities who were celebrated dandies of their time.

The 1982 Met Museum exhibition catalog, La Belle Époque, reproduces Giovanni Boldini’s (1842-1931) portrait of the flamboyant Count Robert de Montesquiou (1855-1921).  A known dandy himself, Boldini captures the count’s haughty air.  The description in the catalog describes Montesquiou as an “aesthete extraordinaire” who “occupied one of the most prominent positions in Parisian society.”  He is also described as a scolding dandy who “worshiped the exquisite, and in its name he meted out admonishments to all, both verbally and through a sizable literary production.”

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The Costume Institute’s 2006 exhibition, Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, describes the English dandy at length, crediting George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840) as the originator of a type of Regency dandyism that influenced decades of design from the Duke of Windsor all the way through to late-twentieth-century Punks.  The catalog states Beau Brummell’s “emphasis on a relaxed, effortless appearance (achieved through arduous dressing rituals) was central to the dandy creed, [and he] is commonly regarded as the greatest exemplar of Regency dandyism.”  The catalog includes an illustration of Richard Dighton’s caricature, “The Dandy Club” (1818), which conveys the extremes the dandy went to in order to achieve a strong masculine profile, often resulting in almost comical effects.

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In addition to French and English descriptions of the 18th and 19th Century dandy, the collection contains Portuguese morality poems and plays, reports, and sumptuary laws warning about the perils of fashion fads.  A narrative written by a dandy in 1784 Lisbon describes the dangers of a hunt while wearing “various garments of silk” which, according to this account, attract vermin.

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Another account takes the form of an instructive poem written by a father lamenting his dandy daughter’s transformation into a “woman of fashion”:

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He laments: “You used to fight with me to make me agree to buy the ridiculous garments. When I told you I did not like you in those fashions, you had a fit and threw a tantrum.  You liked your dress short (actually the skirt lifted up on one side) and did not see that this was madness.  Our ladies of fashion do not realize that what they wear makes them look ugly, and they don’t care as long as it’s ‘fashionable.’  They will follow the most horrible taste as long as they think it is modern.”  The title of the poem, Amusing and instructive poem about a lady-dandy, who flew through the air by her scarf, and by the hood of her cape, is a reference to the invention of the balloon in 1783 (see our Highlights post about “balloon mania” here).

A particularly colorful Portuguese text, written in 1788, is replete with reproaches about the dandy’s excessive intake of sweets and the fines and penalties imposed on them: “The bombastic title calls our attention to the fact that it took more than the right dress to make a Dandy.  He had to love luxury and eat the kind of food which was in fashion.  His lifestyle included an addiction to sweets.  There were times when our Dandies always had a candy between their teeth.  The people did not like it.  Because your love of sweets is threatening to make you a glutton, a trial is being held to bring all sweets to justice.”  The offensive candies included licorice, cheese cake, plum preserve and rum tarts.

The Portuguese texts all come from the Costume Institute collection, while the exhibition catalogs both come from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection.

Connecting the Collections: Eugène Delacroix

Currently the Digital Collections has 20 different collections. Searches can be done throughout the Digital Collections as a whole, or they can be done within specific collections.  Some subjects and artists appear throughout the Digital Collections, appearing in several different individual collections. One such artist is Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), the renowned French Romantic painter. Works by and about him appear throughout the Digital Collections, and we will look at a few of these items here.

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This reproduction of the famous Delacroix self-portrait appears on the cover of an exhibition catalog entitled, Concerning Delacroix and Jules Breton, apropos of a special exhibition of their work at the galleries of M. Knoedler and Company (1888), which appears in the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs collection. The catalog begins with this adulatory assessment of Delacroix’s significance, “If we may say, with an acute contemporaneous critic, that Delacroix represents the supreme, the last, and the highest manifestation of the French genius in the domain of art…” This is how many 19th-century critics viewed Delacroix, as we will see again later in the post.

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications collection, we have a 200-plus page 1991 exhibition catalog, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863): paintings, drawings, and prints from North American collections:

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This catalog features essays by art historian and Delacroix specialist Lee Johnson, as well as many reproductions of Delacroix’s work.

From the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collection, we have Catalogue of celebrated paintings by great French masters, brought to this country from Paris, for exhibition only (1887), which includes a lengthy biographical sketch of Delacroix. It too begins with an adulatory assessment of the artist: “Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix, the greatest, noblest, and most illustrious painter of the French school of the nineteenth century…”

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Finally, in the Auction Catalogs collection, we have Catalogue de sculptures originales: terres cuites, platres, bronzes groupes, statuettes, bustes, médaillons, esquisses, tableaux et dessins par J.-B. Carpeaux, dessins par Eug. Delacroix (1913), in which a number of Delacroix drawings were being auctioned.

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Delacroix, like several artists in the Digital Collections, appears in a number of different collections, from exhibition catalogs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications, the Knoedler & Co. Exhibition Catalogs, and the Rare Books in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries collections, to auction catalogs in our Auction Catalogs collection. We will try to “connect the Collections” in future posts as well, focusing on artists and subjects represented in a number of different collections within the Digital Collections.

Summer G.A. Liesel Vink on her work in the Digital Collections

As a Graduate Assistant this summer, I’ve been working on a number of different projects for the Digitization Team at Thomas J. Watson Library. Being a part of the process has given me insight into the various stages a single digitization project goes through, as well as the many staff members involved in each stage. Since beginning at Watson in May, I have helped scan the J. W. Mayer Papers, created page-level metadata for several Met Museum publications, and renamed folder structures for the Brummer Collection. Each task represented a different part of the digitization workflow but all contributed to the same result: free digitized content made fully available to scholars, researchers and the public alike.

As a Pratt SILS graduate student, familiarizing myself with metadata is crucial to my education, so I went into the opportunity to create page-level metadata for the Met Museum publications with an eagerness to learn as much as possible. One item I created metadata for, the 1939 Guide to the Collections Part I and Part II, consists of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek & Roman, Near Eastern, and Far Eastern artwork, as well as Near Eastern, Indian, and Japanese arms and armor.

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Remarkably, much of what was in this 1939 catalog is still in the permanent collection today. For example, this Bodhisattva sculpture from the 1939 catalog now sits in Gallery 208 (accession number 34.15.1a, b) and is part of the permanent collection to this day.

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Not only was I able to learn about metadata creation, but I was also able to connect with The Museum’s past through the material I was helping to digitize.

The summer semester has quickly come to an end, and though I am reluctant to leave the community at Watson to pursue new opportunities in the field, I feel confident that this experience has helped prepare me for my final two classes at Pratt: Metadata and Projects in Digital Archives.

 

The Harry Bober Papers

For more than 50 years, the medieval scholar Harry Bober generated an astounding archival collection which reflects his passion, knowledge, and achievements in the field of medieval art history. In 1991, the papers of Harry Bober were donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art by his sons, David and Jonathan Bober. The collection was delivered to The Met’s Medieval Department, where it was housed until its transfer to The Cloisters Archive in 1993. The finding aid for the Harry Bober Papers is available in the Digital Collections.

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Harry Bober was NYU’s first Avalon Foundation Chair of the Humanities. He was also a founding member and first secretary (1956-1959) of the International Center for Medieval Art, for which he also helped launch Gesta, an important publication in the field. (Work published in Gesta is cited in dozens of items in the Digital Collections.) Bober was also an avid collector and had a fine collection of medieval art (as well as other genres), some of which was included in The Met’s 1968 show Medieval Art from Private Collections.

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This collection contains correspondence from prominent art historians such as Erwin Panofsky and Ernst Gombrich, as well as numerous publications by these important scholars.

The collection is also full of bibliographical and visual materials which can help art historians explore the complex concept of medieval schemata and provide a glimpse into the evolution of medieval art. His interest in the unique concept of medieval schemata dominated the middle years of his career and is taken up in many lectures, manuscripts of written works, and research notes in the collection. Much of the research accumulated by Bober on this topic, including his studies of the medieval pictorial language and the scientific and philosophical culture of the Middle Ages, is included as well. Also, there are photograph files that contain comprehensive collections of manuscripts and sculptural programs which support his theories pertaining to medieval schemata.

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There are also a number of investigation files created by Bober while working as a consultant for various art dealers (primarily H.P. Kraus). His consultant work reveals his remarkable and well-respected abilities as a connoisseur within the art community. The files display his vast erudition and thorough knowledge of a range of periods and artists spanning many different cultures, as well as his keen and critical “eye”.

Bober’s collection holds extensive research material that could be valuable to a wide range of scholarly disciplines. The collection is a beautiful synthesis of bibliographical and visual resources that could serve as the foundation for iconographic studies or studies in the evolution of the medieval style of art.

A Bicentennial Souvenir

In 1976, design legends Charles and Ray Eames were commissioned to create an exhibition commemorating the bicentennial of the American Revolution. This exhibition, entitled The World of Franklin and Jefferson, was on display at The Met from March 5th to May 2nd, and also toured internationally (in Paris, Warsaw, London, Mexico City, Chicago and Los Angeles).

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A souvenir from this exhibition is available in the Digital Collections. It presents a timeline of important American and European cultural, intellectual, and literary figures from  late 17th to the early 19th century, as well as dates of significant historical events. The dates chosen offer a glimpse into the idiosyncratic but provocative perspectives of Charles and Ray Eames, who, for example, have chosen the publication of Sense and Sensibility and the Luddite riots in England as the two most significant events of 1811 (see below).

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Two other items in the Digital Collections that might be of interest on this Independence Day are the exhibition catalog American Impressionism and Realism: the Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915 and Gilbert Stuart. Both feature works by some of the most revered figures in American painting and offer a glimpse into the rich and varied past of this 237 year old country.

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Wikipedia Case Study on Museums Association Website

As mentioned in an earlier post, William Blueher has been collaborating with an editor at Wikipedia, John Byrne, to add links to items in the Digital Collections to relevant Wikipedia articles.  This collaboration was also discussed in a recent GLAM-WIKI “case study,” co-authored by William and John, and now a similar “case study” has been published on the UK Museums Association website. This online-only article briefly discusses the collaboration between Watson Library and Wikipedia, available in the “Museum Practice” section of the website. To learn more about how Watson Library is working to both enhance Wikipedia and drive users to the Digital Collections, take a look at the article here.

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Also, if you’re interested in getting a better understanding of how this collaboration works, please visit the Wikipedia user-page created by William (username: WilliamDigiCol) that illustrates the process used to add content to Wikipedia.  As you will see, William selects a text in the Digital Collections and then proposes a number of relevant Wikipedia articles to link it to.  John then looks over these proposals and suggests other relevant articles or points out potentially irrelevant ones. This page provides extensive documentation of this collaboration, and it helps to give an idea of the scope of this collaboration.  So far hundreds of Wikipedia articles have been updated with links to the Digital Collections, and as both case studies point out, this has served to greatly increase traffic to the Digital Collections (for instance, more than 50% of traffic to the Digital Collections now comes from Wikipedia).

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Currently, Wikipedia is driving the most traffic to the exhibition catalog Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. You can see each of the Wikipedia articles this catalog has been linked to here (there is a link in over 50 articles).

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Case Study on GLAM-WIKI

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Over the last six months, we have added links to our Digital Collections in hundreds of relevant Wikipedia articles.  This has been carried out in collaboration with a Wikipedia editor, John Byrne, who has provided feedback on how our digital content can most constructively be embedded in Wikipedia.  Recently, John and Watson Library’s William Blueher wrote a case study on this collaboration for GLAM-WIKI (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), an arm of Wikimedia Outreach that aims to support “institutions who want to work with Wikimedia to produce open-access, freely-reusable content for the public.”  This case study details both what is involved in this collaboration, as well as the impact it has had on attracting users to the Digital Collections (there has been an over 500% increase in visitors since this collaboration began, for instance).  For more details about what we are doing with Wikipedia and how it has impacted traffic to the Digital Collections, I encourage you to check out the case study itself.  You can do so here.

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