Today’s highlight from the Library collections is big. Literally!
This mammoth tome’s spine measures over 28 inches. That’s more than enough to stagger your humble servant, the Librarian. The book is a commemorative piece containing prints depicting exercises at École Impériale de Cavalerie, the French riding school. It was edited by Javaud, and I can’t locate an entry crediting the artist who did the paintings, though the artist’s signature (though illegible) is on almost all of them. The book begins with a brief essay on the history and structure of the school.
Twenty-two years ago, longshot Thoroughbred Sea Hero gave owner Paul Mellon (1907-1999) his first Kentucky Derby victory. It was also the first Derby win for jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer MacKenzie Miller. With the victory, Mellon became the only owner to ever win the Kentucky Derby, the Epsom Derby, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Sea Hero went on to win the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He was retired to stud at age four. Today, Sea Hero is the oldest living winner of the Kentucky Derby.
Paul Mellon commissioned British sculptor Tessa Pullan to create a beautiful, three-quarter size bronze of the horse in 1995. Pullan is the same sculptor who created the Civil War Horse at the entrance to the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) campus. The sculpture of Sea Hero came to NSLM in October 2014 via the bequest of Mr. Mellon. It stands atop an impressive stone base, weighs over two tons and measures eight feet tall. Now installed in the NSLM boxwood garden, Sea Hero has recently been cleaned and treated by conservator Andrew Baxter.
There are only two weeks left until Hero in the Homestretch: The Sea Hero Symposium on Saturday, May 30th! We invite you to join us for a day of presentations on the art and conservation, the transport and installation, and the horse that was the inspiration for the newest sculpture at the NSLM. This event will delve into the science of fine art conservation, in particular Andrew Baxter’s years caring for a variety of Mr. Mellon’s sculptures. Benjamin Gage will discuss the challenges of moving large-scale sculptures, and racing historian Ed Bowen will detail the history and legacy of Sea Hero and Mellon’s Rokeby Stables.
Last week, fine art conservator Andrew Baxter was here on site to treat our bronze sculpture of Sea Hero. Andrew specializes in sculpture conservation and has worked on metal and stone art objects at major institutions like the National Gallery of Art, the White House, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (and the NSLM!). He will be presenting at our upcoming program Hero in the Homestretch: The Sea Hero Symposium on May 30th. Here is a sneak peak at some of the trade secrets he will be sharing in his presentation.
The amazing thing about conservation is, it’s about artandscience! This is one of the few times you will see this art historian get excited about math and chemistry!
So how do you go from this:
Not surprisingly, conserving an outdoor sculpture starts with the basics – getting it clean.
One of the many fun facts I learned last week: Orvus is a shampoo that many horse people are familiar with for cleaning up their equine friends. This same shampoo used to be widely utilized (and is still sometimes used) on bronze sculptures because of it’s non-corrosive nature. Andrew used a similar cleaning agent.
Next comes some more chemistry. The sculpture is treated with a solution which helps slow corrosion. Bronze metal is actually a combination of copper and tin. As most of us have seen, copper wants to turn green when it is out in the elements. While sometimes those green tints and weathered appearance can look beautiful, for bronze they are actually evidence of corrosion (think rust) which ultimately shortens the lifespan of the metal.
Our conservator then carefully applied layers of pigmented wax to protect the bronze and enhance the dark bay (brown-black) patina of the sculpture. Lots of polishing – and a perfectly warm and sunny day – resulted in the gleaming horse you see now in the boxwood garden.
If you want to learn more about how to care for sculptures, and see great images of some of the other beautiful pieces Andrew has worked on, don’t miss his presentation at the symposium! He’ll also be sharing some wonderful stories of his time working for the great philanthropist and art collector Paul Mellon. Also presenting will be Ben Gage – an expert sculpture handler who has installed some amazing large scale artwork. (He is also one of the most enthusiastic art professionals you will ever meet!) And if you’re curious to learn more about the celebrity model for our bronze, racing historian and author Ed Bowen will be speaking about Mellon’s Rokeby Stables and Sea Hero the horse. Sea Hero is the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner and is currently living a life of luxury in Turkey. His 1993 Derby win was the first for owner Paul Mellon, trainer Mackenzie Miller and jockey Jerry Bailey.
Come join us to learn more about them all on May 30th! To read more and register, click here or call us: (540) 687-6542 x. 25
Today’s post is a bit brief. I want to highlight a tiny (about six inches by four inches) foxhunting diary in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. It was donated by Virginia Fout in 2008. This diary is by an unknown author and covers 1816 to 1820. It features brief, staccato hunting entries.
Foxhunting is a very old sport, dating back into the 15th and 16th Centuries. Modern foxhunting, however, is generally accepted to have started in the middle of the 18th Century. Many factors contributed to the sport’s rise in popularity. As open fields became enclosed by fences and the Industrial Revolution brought more roadways into rural environments, foxes and hares became a more sporting hunt than the traditional deer hunt. Speaking of foxhunting, don’t forget about our upcoming Foxhunting Roundtable, The Dynamic Role of Lady Masters: A Foxhunting Roundtable. It will take place at NSLM on Saturday, May 23. E-mail us for information on this event
The second image shows a diary entry for hunting on December 15 in Stratton Audley. It suggests that the hunter was in South East England. On the inside of the front cover is a news clipping date 1817. It is addressed “To the Editor of the Lichfield Mercury,” and it references the temporary departure of Mr. Osbaldeston’s Fox Hounds to Lincolnshire.
The writing in the diary is very difficult to make out. Hopefully one day soon this little book will be digitized, and then the public will be able to try their hand and transcribing it! What words can you make out? Tell us in the comments!
Jim Casada came to the National Sporting Library & Museum in 2014 for a John H. Daniels Fellowship. Mr. Casada writes the books column for Sporting Classics. He wrote a wonderful article about NSLM and his fellowship in the latest issue of the magazine. Mr. Casada will be returning to the NSLM for a lecture and book signing on July 7, 2015. This is a preview of Mr. Casada’s article. You can read the whole article at Sporting Classics Daily.
During the summer of 2014 I received a John H. Daniels Research Fellowship at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) in Middleburg, Virginia. The fellowship supported my research toward producing a biography of Archibald Rutledge, longtime poet laureate of South Carolina and possibly the most prolific outdoor writer of the 20th century.
My time, however, at the NSLM involved appreciably more than delving into their first-rate Rutledge holdings. Simply put, my fellowship tenure in Middleburg was an eye- opening, enchanting experience involving an excellent collection with unlimited potential for growth. The library is constantly expanding its holdings and is already a significant research center in a number of fields, but it has the potential to become the focal point for the study of America’s sporting past.
Many years ago Yale University had a golden opportunity to become such a repository, thanks to alumnus Charles A. Sheldon, who died in 1930 and left the university his impressive personal library of sporting literature. Sadly, Yale did not seize the momentum offered by the acquisition of Sheldon’s thousands of books, pamphlets, bulletins, and long runs of sporting magazines. More than four-score years have passed, yet there is no evidence that the university has made any effort to expand or update the Sheldon collection. Had they done so, the Ivy League institution would now have a magnificent holding of inestimable potential for anyone researching subjects relating to conservation, hunting, fishing, and life outdoors.
Fortunately, the Sheldon collection is covered fully and is the sole listing in John Phillips’ Bibliography of American Sporting Books, 1582–1925, published shortly after Sheldon’s death in 1930. And in 1997 Meadow Run Press, now an inactive sporting publisher I hope to cover in a future column, brought out a continuation of the Phillips bibliography with M. L. Biscotti’s A Bibliography of American Sporting Books, 1926-1985. Together, the pair forms a logical starting point for anyone wanting to take a comprehensive look at the evolution of American sporting literature. They also offer a solid roadmap for creating a truly comprehensive collection of works on American sport—no such holding, outside of the Library of Congress, presently exists.
Perhaps it is just as well. In today’s world, the ivory tower and the hunter’s ethos are seldom ideal soulmates—although such was not always the case. Consider the life of Theodore Roosevelt for example. Indeed, in many parts of current academia, even in fields of study such as wildlife biology, a distinct anti-hunting bias prevails.
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“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.