The old adage goes, “Opportunity knocks but once,” but sometimes it’s twice. Two-weekends ago we had the second opportunity to showcase the National Sporting Library & Museum at the Washington Winter Show (WWS). Each year they invite a museum to exhibit at American University’s Katzen Center in Washington, DC, during their charity antique show in January. This year, they ventured into the virtual world due to COVID-19 with a theme of “@Home with the Washington Winter Show” and welcomed previous exhibitors to present live tours and pre-recorded segments. We went live in the Library (thanks to Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Valerie Peacock’s camerawork) and uploaded a virtual 360° guided tour of our current exhibition, Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art.

Screen shot of virtual 360° guided tour of Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art

Coincidentally, WWS’s theme eight years ago was “The Thrill of the Chase,” and we fit right in. NSLM was asked to curate the exhibition at the Katzen Center, and we jumped at the opportunity. We highlighted art and books including our 49-inch-long silver coach which was even featured on the front cover of the catalogue, and I wrote an essay, “Sporting Pastimes: Art & Objects of Leisure.” It was a great chance to introduce NSLM’s then-new Museum, which had just opened a little over a year earlier, to a broader audience. A primer on the history of five country sports, the exhibit was broken up into five sections: angling, wingshooting, coaching, foxhunting, and horse racing.

2013 Washington Winter Show catalogue front cover featuring: Park Drag Tabletop Centerpiece, c. 1910, English sterling silver on a marble and wooden base, complete with custom-built, mahogany travel case made by Elkington & Co. Ltd. Silversmiths, London (not pictured), 17 ½ x 41 ½ x 9 ½ inches (excluding the base)
Museum purchase with funds donated by: Hector Alcalde, Helen K. Groves, Manuel H. Johnson, Jacqueline B. Mars and Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom, 2011

The NSLM’s English sterling silver model of a park drag was the centerpiece of the installation, surrounded by a decorative coaching horn inscribed on the bell “London to Bristol 1805” and a set of four coaching prints after Henri D’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817-1859), La Vie d’un Gentilhomme en Toutes Saisons: Printemps, Été, Automne, and Hiver. Published in 1846, the title of the set translates to the “Life of a Gentleman in All Seasons” and depicts pleasure driving in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Coaching display at the 2013 Washington Winter Show

Because the installation was only on view for four days, it allowed us to install several books in fanned positions to reveal their fore-edge paintings. Always popular on a rare books tour, these curiosities are made by clamping a book in a vise and painting a scene with watercolor on the edge. Once completed, the book is returned to its natural position, and the page ends are gilt, masking the painting in the book’s natural position.

Fore-edge books from the John H. and Martha Daniels Collection in the 2013 Washington Show

It was an exciting time for the growth of NSLM’s art collection. At the center of the angling section in the exhibit was The Day’s Catch, 1864, by 19th century British artist John Bucknell Russell, one of a pair by the artist which had been recently donated by Dr. & Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan. Still-life paintings were popularized in Britain in the mid-1800s, and Russell’s highly detailed compositions of arranged fish on a riverbank were academic exercises showing his mastery in painting every glistening fish scale.

John Bucknell Russell (British, c. 1819 – 1893), Day’s Catch, 1864; oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches; Gift of
Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

Also on view were a set of three prints (after) Samuel Howitt (English, c. 1765 – 1822), Pheasant Shooting, Partridge Shooting, and Wild Duck Shooting. The 1809 first edition aquatints were among an impressive donation of 120 early 19th-century fine prints given to NSLM by Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins in 2012. The collection reflects the popularity country pursuits had attained across Britain and a revival of fine print making during this era.

Wingshooting section in 2013 Washington Winter Show with set of Samuel Howitt prints at left.

One of the museum collection favorites was also prominently on view, John Emms, Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878. The large oil painting set the bar for the growth of the collection as part of an incredibly generous donation of 15 British sporting artworks made by Felicia Warburg Rogan in 2008. Alongside the Emms hung a painting by American artist Franklin Brooke Voss, Portrait of Elida B. Langley, Aside on Sandown, 1921. The early 20th-century painting of a smartly turned out sidesaddle rider, represents the end of the time period in which highly skilled women participated in hunting, predominantly riding aside instead of astride.

FranlJohn Emms (English, 1841-1912), Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878, oil on canvas
39 x 52 inches, Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
Foxhunting Section in the 2013 Washington Winter Show

In the exhibit, the Emms was also flanked by an 1850s light-blue hunt vest embroidered with running foxes and fox masks; the riding boots of philanthropist, sportsman, and art collector Paul Mellon; and a natural horn manufactured in 1898 by Coesnon & Cie., Paris. The latter is a style of large circular or “curly” horn used in stag hunts and in early English foxhunts before the traditional, straight short horn began to be adopted towards the end of the 17th century. While the NSLM’s Collecting Plan focuses on fine art, we have accepted a few objects such as these into the collection as well.

Detail of: British, mid-19th century, foxhunting vest, cotton on canvas lined with dark blue, medium blue and neutral polished cotton, brown leather facing, and brass buttons, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

The racing section included loans relating to famed Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The iconic blue and white checked silks of Penny Chenery’s stable from Washington & Lee University collection drew viewers’ attention. Also selected for the display was Proctor Knott (The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish), c. 1888, by Louis Maurer (American, 1832 – 1932). It is a study for the large painting of the first Futurity Stakes held in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s collection in Saratoga, NY. Shelby “Pike” Barnes is shown in the lead astride the bay racehorse Proctor Knott. Barnes was the leading North American jockey in both 1888 and 1889 and was the first jockey to win over 200 races in a year. Important scholarship (much of it done at the NSLM’s Library) has established the legacy of the highly-accomplished African-American jockeys like Barnes who who dominated the sport in the late 19th century and were sadly driven out by Jim Crow laws.

Horse Racing section in 2013 Washington Winter Show

It was an invaluable experience working on the exhibit in 2013, although I hesitate to call it “work.” This year’s show was surprisingly enjoyable as well—one “for the books” as they say. Just as with everything else related to the pandemic, it was a unique opportunity to bring in new friends and showcase what our organization has to offer. Here’s to a strong start to 2021!

2013 Washington Winter Show co-chair Mason Blavin, a much younger me; Jonathan Willen, Executive Director of the Washington Winter Show; and 2013 Co-Chair Anne Elmore

Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since her curatorial position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

For me, this is the “Slow” Period. My colleagues and I always put air quotes around that because there really is no “Slow” Period for us. There’s the Really, Really Busy Period and Slightly Less Busy Period. With exhibitions now open, I’m able to catch up on projects, including the annual location inventory. Literally just ensuring things are where they’re supposed to be, according to our records (a more in-depth comprehensive inventory is completed every two years).

This gives me time in storage, where I crank up the tunes and just plug away at verifying the Register. As a Collections Manager (and Virgo), I find this very therapeutic and satisfying. It aligns with the mantra of my father (and fellow Virgo), a place for everything and everything in its place.

As I was doing inventory, and with Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art on the brain, the below two prints caught my eye: A Country Horse Race after artist William Mason (British, 1725—1797). They aren’t steeplechase scenes. Rather, they depict a flat race.

In the first, chaos ensues as two jockeys make their way to the starting line. As explained in Thrill of the ‘Chace, steeplechase and flat races were attended across classes. Many sat in the grandstands whilst others on horseback or in carriages lined the rail or positioned themselves along the course.

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Preparing to Start, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches
National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

As an introvert, I get anxiety just looking at these. There are people literally everywhere getting into all manner of trouble. There is so much to see and something new each time you look at it, it reminds me of a Pieter Brueghel the Elder painting, or a Mel Brooks movie.

In the right foreground, the jockey in blue vertical stripes looks like he’s being harassed but look closer and look towards the hands. Money is being exchanged between the two men. The man on the right doesn’t even look like a real person, he looks more like a gargoyle, almost personifying his wickedness. The horse, who seems to look at us with pleading eyes, is about to be given wine.[1] Looks like someone is about to throw a race.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The left foreground shows a woman in a post-chaise carriage, but no one seems to care that she is of the upper class because they’ve commandeered her accommodations for themselves. A sailor, in wonderfully blue pants, catches a ride as the man above him has thrown his leg over a brazen woman’s shoulder, which seems like one of many accidents getting ready to happen.

A Country Horse Race, Preparing to Start (detail)

The center right shows another carriage with a man hanging out the window and two figures on top getting into an altercation. It says something that it’s hard to tell if it’s playful or not.

A Country Race Course, Preparing to Start (detail)

Figures crowd the middle, the grandstands, and the rail giving me heart palpitations. I find the three figures in the announcer’s box particularly comical. Facing different directions, observing this mess of an event from the relative safety of their perch, it’s as if they just don’t know what to do. The man with the horn (and furrowed brow), trying to start the race, and with it, perhaps, bring some semblance of order. Sorry, sir, that ship has sailed.

A Country Race Course, Horses Preparing to Start (detail)

The atmospheric perspective provides a sense of depth, emphasizing the extent of the countryside, and in the back right, we see a church steeple. A study of this print is currently in the collection of The British Museum. Click here to see it. When you’re there, click on Related Objects to see other works of art by Mason, including another race scene.

The second print shows the course as the jockeys race towards the finish line on a flat dirt track. The grandstands can be seen in the background. At this point, my heart rate has only increased, and my palms are sweaty. Crowds of figures ride along, pacing the action, as others watch on the sidelines, cheering them on. 

(after) William Mason (English, 1724-1797) A Country Race Course with Horses Running, 1786 aquatint, 16 1/2 x 25 inches National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Parker Poe, 1978

In the lower right-hand corner, a man and woman, and basket of pies, have been knocked over. How did they not hear thundering hooves behind them? To be fair, it seems completely possible the riders went off course. Regardless, this has set off a chain reaction, scaring the dog and boy, who startle the horses. We see a different type of carriage in the foreground, a high phaeton. In the middle, a couple are sharing a horse. Next to them on the left is a woman sitting sidesaddle.

A Country Horse Race with Horses Running (detail)

The “rocking horse pose” of the galloping horses is typical of the time, thanks to prolific British sporting artist George Stubbs (British, 1724—1806), who popularized the erroneous portrayal. This pose would endure for at least another century until the birth of photography and Eadweard Muybridge’s famous stop-motion photographs.

A Country Horse Race, Horses Running (detail)

An interesting question I posed to our George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer is whether these figures on horseback directly behind the jockeys are spectators trying to keep up or amateur gentlemen riders. She replied that they were probably both, and likely foxhunters, as well.

What these two prints show best are the crowds. The range of classes, as exemplified by the different modes of transportation and attire, are out to enjoy (or “enjoy”) the day of sport and socializing. But as is typical of satire, it’s been turned into a caricature. Or has it? Satire is a mirror that shows us for who we are, maybe it’s not that off base?

I’ve about had my fill of A Country Horse Race. But if anyone is interested in seeing them, they are currently hanging in the Founders’ Room. Make sure to call the Library first to arrange a time to see them. If you are interested in a history of jump racing, click here for a link to the virtual exhibition of Thrill of the ‘Chace

[1] https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_2011-7084-51

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

After exploring the NSLM’s collection of sporting books for the last four and a half years I’ve learned that while many sporting volumes were produced with commercial success in mind, many more were simply passion projects authored by true lovers of sport for the sake of celebrating a given activity and perhaps sharing their enthusiasm for it with readers, themselves likely also disciples of the sport. A lot of these volumes are quite elaborate as well, making commercial success even more unlikely. One such work is The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line by William C. Harris (1830-1905).

Original half-title page of volume 1, published in 1898. Image from the New York Public Library.

Harris was an editor of American Angler, and a well published author of angling books. His intention with this project was to create a comprehensive work on the game fishes of North America, including not only textual information but also accompanying color illustrations. To achieve this goal he teamed up with artist John L. Petrie (19th century) and the two of them traveled the continent. Harris would fish and lay out his catch for Petrie to paint on the spot “before the sheen of their color tints had faded.” The preface of the book clearly describes their dedication to the project:

“I have been engaged nearly a quarter of a century in gathering the notes from which the text of this book has been written, and twelve years in procuring the oil portraits of living fish, caught from their native waters, that I might obtain lithographic facsimiles … The aggregate distance travelled was 28,558 miles, and the days occupied in transit and in catching and painting the fishes numbered nine hundred and seventy-two, or eighty-one working days of each angling season during twelve years. Mr. John L. Petrie, the artist, has been my steadfast companion during this protracted but pleasant task. He has painted the portraits of each fish represented … from living specimens caught on my own rod, with the exception of the Pacific Salmons, which were taken alive in traps.”

william C. Harris, In the preface to The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line (1898). From Donald A. Heald RAre Books, Prints & Maps.
How the Work was Done by J. L. Petrie. Illustration facing the introduction. Image from Case Antiques.

Harris had planned to publish the final work in two volumes each featuring 40 color plates. Unfortunately he died before the second volume was completed and only the first was ever published. The NSLM does not hold a copy of this work but we do have a wonderful collection of the illustrations by J. L. Petrie which were created for a planned deluxe subscription edition of The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line. This set was sold under the title Portraits of Fishes in Natural Colors and included 38 color lithographs made from Petrie’s paintings of both fresh and salt water fishes.

Sales sheet included with the set of 38 color lithographs. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Fresh Water set: The Small-Mouth Black Bass — The Large-Mouth Black Bass — The American Brook Trout — The Unspotted Muscollonge — The Brown or German Trout — Winninish-Land-Locked Salmon — The Rocky Mountain Trout — The Michigan Grayling — The Rock Bass — The Eastern or Banded Pickerel — The Pike — The Common Sunfish — The Fresh Water Drum or Sheepshead — The White or Silver Bass — The Rocky Mountain Whitefish — The Montana Grayling — Hybrid Trout-cross of the Lake and Brook Trout — The Kern River Trout of California — The Common Bullhead or Horned Pout — The Mirror Carp — The Cisco of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin — The Sacramento Pike, Squaw’s Fish or Yellow Belly

Brown or German Trout. Specimen weight 1 lb. caught at Caledonia Creek, NY. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
The Common Bullhead or Horned Pout. Specimen weight 3/4 lb. caught at Greenwood Lake NY. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Salt Water set: The Striped Bass — The Weakfish or Squeteague — The Blackfish or Tautog — The Kingfish, Whiting or Barb — The Bluefish — The Spanish Mackerel — The Porgee or Scup — The Spot or Lafayette — The Dollar or Butter Fish — The Mangrove Snapper — The Striped Mullet — The Spotted Sea Trout — The Sea Bass — The Pompano — The Red Drum or Channel Bass — The California Redfish

The California Red Fish or Fat-Head. Specimen weight 3 lbs. caught and painted off Catalina Island, coast of California. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
The Pompano. Specimen weight 1 lb. caught and painted at Naples, Gulf of Mexico. The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The illustrations are lovely to look at but I enjoy imagining Harris and Petrie road-tripping around the country fishing and painting year after year during the late 19th century. It would be interesting to hear what it was like. Perhaps the NSLM will acquire a copy of The Fishes of North America that are Captured on Hook and Line in the future and maybe Harris put a small anecdote or two about their journeys in an introduction or afterword.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Like most museums, the NSLM has only about 10% of its collection on display. Most is in storage, which is where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately and found myself repeating, “I’d love to put this out!” Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just wanting to hang something up. Instead, I decided now would be a good time to share some of those with you.

Of course I’m drawn towards the prints (I have made my love of prints known in a previous blog post). The one below is an engraving of a gentleman on horseback in a landscape and next to the sea. Meet Douglas Hamilton, the 8th Duke of Hamilton, 5th Duke of Brandon (just two of a few titles!). Born in Scotland in 1756, he inherited his titles from his father at the young age of thirteen. Upon the death of the childless 8th Duke, his ducal title was then passed to his uncle whilst his barony was inherited by his half-brother. It is interesting to note that the Duke doesn’t face us, instead turned towards the sea. Published on October 15, 1797, it was engraved by W.Ward and painted G. Garrard.

(after) George Garrard (English, 1760-1826) William Ward, engraver His Grace the Duke of Hamilton & Brandon & etc., 1797 mezzotint, 27 3/4 x 32 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

Below is a coaching scene published on October 1 1837 and entitled The Taglioni!!! Four brown horses pull a fancy Windsor coach, known as a Taglioni. It is believed that the name came from an Italian ballerina, Marie Taglioni (1804-1884), who was thought to be the first to dance en pointe. She makes an appearance as the small ballerina on the door of the coach. Well-dressed aristocrats are sitting atop the carriage with two footmen sitting in the back wearing white and blue uniforms. The horses are in the “rocking horse” pose, thought to be how horses truly galloped. This was engraved by J. Harris and after Charles Cooper Henderson.

(after) Charles Cooper Henderson (English, 1803-1877) Rudolph Ackermann II, publisher, The Taglioni!!!, 1837 aquatint, 23 x 27 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012
Detail of The Taglioni!!!

This next print is by Leon Danchin, Gordon Setter with Duck. Gordon setters (or Black and Tan Setters) are one of four setter breeds, the others are English, Irish, and Irish Red and White. Setters are remarkable wingshooting companions. Here you can see that the gundog has retrieved the quarry. They are trained to “soft mouth” their catch so as not to damage any of the meat. If you want to learn more about setters, or any breed, head over to the website of the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog here.

Leon Danchin (French, 1887-1938), Gordon Setter with Duck, 20th century, 16 x 22 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of William E. Enemark, 2014

Here’s a close-up:

Detail of Gordon Setter with Duck

The last print I’d like to share is that of British jockey Fred Archer (1857-1886). This was produced to commemorate the jockey’s death. Archer came from a family of jockeys that included both his brothers and his father. Though he had a relatively short career, Fred Archer is considered one of the greatest turf jockeys: he won the Epsom Derby five times (1877, 1880, 1881, 1885, and 1886), and won 246 races in 1885, a 62-year record. He was tall for a jockey, coming in at 5’ 9” and was constantly having to keep his weight down, resorting to unsafe diets to control it. After his wife died shortly after childbirth and his health took a turn for the worse, he died by suicide at the extremely young age of 29. The below print was reproduced in the newspapers, showing Archer wearing the colors of the Prince of Wales.

The Late Fred Archer in the Colours of H.R.H. Prince of Wales, 1886, lithograph, 18 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

I hope you enjoyed the trip into storage, keep your eyes peeled on our social media feeds to see more behind-the-scenes at the NSLM.


Sources:

George Glazer Gallery: https://www.georgeglazer.com/wpmain/product/sporting-art-coaching-taglioni-charles-henderson-antique-print-london-1837/

How They Play: The Tragic Life of Fred Archer by Rupert Taylor https://howtheyplay.com/animal-sports/The-Tragic-Life-of-Jockey-Fred-Archer

Museum of the Dog: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/gordon-setter/

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

I was recently at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Virginia with a friend, who is also the employee of a museum, and we were enjoying the Cast of Punt Reliefs from the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri (here’s a link, it’s wonderful!). It’s a replica relief of the original and the only thing separating Us from It was a railing…how we wanted to touch it! Museum employees, who know better, wanted to touch! The lure of the hieroglyphics and depictions of underwater creatures was too much!

Look at that squid!
Detail of Cast of Punt Reliefs from the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia.

One of the first rules at most museums is No Touching. But, why is that? The simplest answer is that the oils from our hands leave residue on the object and can create damage. You often see museum employees with the telltale gloves, protecting the objects from ourselves.

The image below shows what happens when metal is touched. This is from our dog collar collection – at some point, the metal was handled. This is not surprising, considering this was utilitarian object. It was meant to be used and it was. We can’t be upset by that. Now that it’s part of the museum’s collection, we need to preserve it the best we can and, since it’s metal, we wear gloves.

Every Collections Manager’s worst nightmare!
NSLM Dog Collar Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2015

If you’ve visited the Vatican, you may have heard that rubbing St. Peter’s foot will bring good luck or help you get into Heaven. Not just any sculpture (please do not run around Vatican City touching all the feet of St Peter you find), but perhaps it is the most famous one, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (Italian, c. 1240-1300/1310).

St. Peter Enthroned, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, bronze,
St. Peter’s Basilica

Take a look at those feet!!

Detail St. Peter Enthroned, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, bronze,
St. Peter’s Basilica

His right foot is almost completely gone and his left one looks like a hoof. Of course, this is over centuries of pilgrims and visitors coming into contact with his feet, so it is an extreme example. But it does give you an idea of what could eventually happen.

The rule of thumb has been to always wear gloves when handling objects, but interestingly, there are instances when gloves can actually cause more harm than good. Works on paper, like unframed prints, don’t require gloves because it’s possible that pre-existing tears can catch on the gloves and create further damage. As one professional writes, “Gloves make you clumsy.” Instead, we wash (and dry!) our hands thoroughly beforehand and ensure we don’t touch our faces, transferring any oils. This is harder than it sounds. It’s like when you’re supposed to be quiet, but then you can’t stop laughing. Once you start thinking about it, suddenly, your nose starts itching!

There are the white cotton gloves and the nitrile gloves. I prefer the nitrile because they fit better. I have found that the white gloves are either too big or too small, there’s no Baby Bear size, and having gloves that don’t fit right is a problem. You don’t want something to slip out of your hands because you don’t have a firm grip.

Seen as intimidating, some museums are trying to move away from this by having touching stations. During 2019’s NSLMology: The Science of Sporting Art, the chemistry section had a bronze mare and foal on display that asked visitors to touch.

Students at the Middleburg Charter School touching our study collection bronze,
Pierre-Jules Mene, Jument Arabe et son Paulain (Arab Mare and Foal), bronze on wooden base,
12 x 19 x 9 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Atkinson, 2014

The VMFA has a clever idea to educate visitors who are curious as to why we can’t touch, and that’s to show what happens when we do touch. In the lobby of the museum, near the ticket desk, there’s a touching station that presents an array of mediums found within the museum, like metal, fabric, and wood. Each sample has the top half covered by plexiglass and the bottom half exposed, encouraging people to touch. It shows how the materials are affected by continual handling: the area covered by plexi maintains its original condition whilst the exposed half reveals the damage incurred from the oils on our hands.


“Tempted to Touch” station at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

As for us, we put our hands in our pockets like naughty children and laughed at ourselves that even museum employees are susceptible to the siren’s call to Touch Objects.

References:

Art History News, The white glove fallacy, published September 29, 2012

Image of St. Peter: Visit Vatican City

Image of St. Peter’s foot: Reach the World

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Let me put this out there, I love prints and I am not ashamed to admit it. I have several decorating my house, my favorite being Edvard Munch’s lithograph of The Scream. Though I love the warm colors of the oil and pastel paintings, the lithograph provides a rawness unique to the medium. Why can I afford a print of one of the most well-known works of art in the world? Precisely because it’s a print.

Edvard Munch, The Scream, copy of lithograph, 1895, copyright King & McGaw New Road, Newhaven, England, BN90EH

The term prints can be a little misleading as it can be used as a catch-all for a range of works on paper. Within most museums and galleries, it generally encompasses the various techniques of lithography, aquatints, block prints, drypoints, screenprints, and engravings. People love to hate them because they can be mass produced, which makes them more ubiquitous than their one-of-a-kind counterparts: paintings. An original print loosely refers to works made by the artist using one of the above methods. A reproduction would be a copy of an original work of art or, in the case of my version of The Scream, it’s more likely a copy of a copy of a copy, which technically (and confusingly) still qualifies as a print. Have I lost you yet?

“Mass production” doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. For many artists, especially before the advent of modern technology, it was a way to become more familiar to potential clients. Albrecht Durer (German, 1471-1528), arguably the greatest of Northern Renaissance artists, understood the importance of mass production. Engravings and lithographs made his works available to everyone whilst simultaneously spreading his name and thereby, his recognition.

Prints also show us what subjects and themes were considered popular enough to be reproduced. As they were so prevalent, it should not be a surprise to reveal that prints are the best represented medium within the NSLM collection. Several are currently on display in Gallery 7, including Herring’s Agricultural Scenes by John Frederick Herring Sr. (English, 1795-1865). These are three lithographs entitled Hay-making, Hop-making, and Ploughing.


The prints were initially published in 1856 (Hay-making) and 1857 (Hop-picking and Ploughing). Putting the works themselves into context, they capture a moment in time when there was a longing for “simpler” times, one where life was unencumbered by the noise and grime of the city in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. One where there was a desire for nature and the clean air of the countryside. But these prints are remembering a way of life that never was, instead it shows a romanticized version of arduous and demanding jobs. One would imagine that those undertaking these grueling tasks would be grimacing and covered in sweat and dirt. Instead, everyone, even those working, are spotless and neat. Figures are sitting on the ground, a child is petting a dog, women are talking amongst themselves. It is actually a very leisurely scene considering the subject matter.


Interestingly, the women bear a resemblance to images of a young Queen Victoria, who would have been in her late thirties when the prints were produced. It could simply be a coincidence that the leading publisher of the day, Henry Graves & Co., was the official publisher to the royal couple. As stated below each image, “…Henry Graves & Co., printsellers & publishers to Her Majesty the Queen & His Royal Highness, Prince Albert.” I would be curious to see how much input the publisher provided or maybe Herring was just being clever. The royal family was considered the epitome of the wholesome family and served as an example to others. This scene, then, could also represent the tenet of the family unit working together harmoniously.

“J.F. Herring” is listed as pinxit meaning “he painted” and “Vincent Brooks” is credited as lith, the company that printed the lithograph. (For more Latin terms and another print collection at the NSLM, see the blog entry Princely Prints by former Curator of Collections, Nicole Stribling.) Herring produced numerous works for the publisher Henry Graves & Co., and these could be purchased through mail-order catalogs. Hop-picking and Ploughing were available in Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser shown below.

Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser, August 10, 1858, Volume 18, pg. 144
Bent’s Monthly Literary Advertiser, August 18, 1858, Volume 18, pg. 54

Prints are very fragile and can be susceptible to a wide range of issues, from accretions and buckling to warping and wrinkling. They also require their own unique care – for instance, light levels need to be lower, and they need to rotate into storage more often. You can see in the below image the waves at the top of the paper, this is referred to as “buckling.”

Herring’s Agricultural Scene: Hay-making, 1856

Having been on display for several months, the Agricultural Scenes will be returned to storage shortly for a much-needed break. I hope you had the chance to see them for yourself.

While my print of The Scream is not an original print by any stretch, it was produced in the same spirit as Herring’s Agricultural Scenes: that of personal enjoyment within my little home and to symbolize my mood when someone comes to visit.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

As I was researching the sport of falconry for our recent event and demonstration a few weeks ago, I found myself going down a “falconry in art” rabbit hole.  Our Library really is a wonderful repository. We have several shelves of books with titles like The Art of Falconry (1943), American Falconry in the Twentieth Century (1999), Practical Falconry; to which is added, How I Became a Falconer (1972), Falconry for You (1960), and Falconry and Art (1987).  Grabbing the last title, I sat on the floor of the Library and dug in. I never noticed how much falconry is portrayed throughout art and really, how early it is shown: 4th-century Etruscan tomb decorations, an 8th-century Mesopotamian stele, and a 13th-century bas-relief in Turkey (pictured below). 

Bas-relief of falconers from the Ruins of Bogazkab (Asiatic Turkey), 13th century. The falconer on the right holds the leash of the bird.

Of course, one of the most familiar images of a falcon is in Egyptian iconography, the god Horus, who was depicted with the body of a man and head of a falcon. Interestingly, no images of a falcon in captivity exist nor is there a hieroglyphic symbol for falconry, which suggests that the sport was not practiced in Egypt. Likewise, there are no images in early Greek or Roman art, possibly for the same reason.

Image of the Egyptian god Horus.

Coinciding with the rise of falconry in the Western Middle Ages was the rise of its depiction in art.  The 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry shows several instances of King Harold with a hawk on his arm. In one, he is presenting it as a gift to William of Normandy.

This scene is after Harold has brought the falcon to William who is shown holding the hawk.

One of the most well-known works in art history is Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1413-1416), a devotional book, known as a Book of Hours. Amongst the psalms and prayers are calendars, each month alternating between depictions of agricultural and courtly life.  The month of August shows a scene of men on horseback and women seated aside with them, along with a groom in front, carrying raptors on their arms. 

A century or so later, birds of prey were included in The Lady with a Unicorn tapestry series. Dating from the late 15th to early 16th centuries, the six tapestries are thought to be allusions to the five senses with a sixth tapestry whose subject is unknown. Depictions of animals, both real and mythical, are interwoven throughout.

A falcon gently lands on the hand of the woman in the center.

On the other side of the world, falconry was a frequent presence in Eastern culture and, therefore, art. Terracotta figures found in Japanese burial mounds, known as haniwa, include figures of falconers. The one depicted below is from the Kofun Period (c. 250–c. 600 CE). These were life size and placed on top of graves.

A 16th-century drawing, Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami, from a Persian Royal Manuscript shows a falconer with his hawk on the left-gloved hand and an injured duck in his right. The glove he uses looks detailed and contains some of the only remaining color.

From 18th-century India is a Portrait of a rajah, goshawk on fist, currently housed in the Louvre in Paris.  It shows a strong profile view of a man with a falcon perched on his glove, looking back at him.

We continue to see falconry throughout the Western Renaissance and into the 18th and 19th centuries.  As the popularity of the sport ebbs and flows so does its prominence within artistic tradition. So what, then, do we have in the 21st century to represent this ancient sport?  Photographs. Copyright laws prevent me from producing them here, but I invite you to Google “21st-century falconry photography.” Beautiful contemporary images appear of men and women continuing in the tradition of the medieval lords and ladies in Les Tres Riches Heures and the Indian Rajah holding a goshawk.

Falconry has, literally, withstood the test of time, remaining relevant in a modern world. The art produced throughout the centuries proves this. I’m eager to see what will be created next.


Image citations:

Falconers from Ruins of Bogazkab : Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Egyptian god Horus: By Jeff Dahl – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3280569Image of the Egyptian god Horus.

Bayeux Tapestry: Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry in Reading. The website has the entire story broken down by scene – certainly worth a click! http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/bayeux7.htm

Tres Riche Heures: By Limbourg brotheres – R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojedachateaudechantilly.com, Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108570 . The Book of Hours is currently housed at the Musee Conde outside of Paris, France http://www.domainedechantilly.com/en/accueil/chateau/reading-room/selected-works/

Lady with the Unicorn: Taste: http://tchevalier.com/unicorn/tapestries/taste.html, Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2724262
Currently housed at the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris, France
https://www.musee-moyenage.fr/collection/oeuvre/la-dame-a-la-licorne.html

Haniwa falconer: https://jref.com/articles/japanese-falconry.217/ . A wonderful resource on Japanese falconry.

Mirza Ali Haft Awrang of Jami: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.

Portrait of a Rajah, goshawk on fist: Christian Antoine de Chamerlat, Falconry and Art, London, Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1987.


Citations:

Resource on the Bayeux Tapestry: Robin S. Oggins, The Kings and Their Hawks: Falconry in Medieval England. Yale University Press, 2004.

Resource on haniwa: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/art-japan/kofun-period/a/haniwa-warrior

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

It’s that time of year when things slow down, ever so slightly.  The spring exhibitions are open and there’s a little breathing room before we need to start devoting all of our energy to the fall exhibition.  This is a great time to catch up on the tasks that have accumulated on my desk.  One of the most important responsibilities in Collections is inventorying: to verify locations and assess the condition of all the works of art in all of our collections.  It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? 

The tools: measuring tape, condition report, flashlight, pencil (always a pencil!), dusting cloth, and the ever-present nitrile gloves. (after) Samuel Howitt (English, 1756-1822), Fox Hunting No. 3, hand-colored aquatint, 18 x 22 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of George and Susan Matelich and Family, 2016

There are two different types of inventory that we utilize: comprehensive and location.  A comprehensive inventory is just that, an inventory of the permanent, study, and loan collections, complete with thorough condition reports and photographs.  Depending on the size of the museum or gallery and staff resources, this should (ideally) be completed annually.  A location inventory has a smaller scope; it verifies that the accession number on the object matches the record, is in the correct location, and if the condition has changed. This is not as time intensive as a comprehensive inventory and should be completed if a comprehensive inventory isn’t possible.  Because of our staff size, we like to alternate annually between the two.

Recall the condition reports from my February 19, 2019 blog entry on the installation of the Sidesaddle exhibition. The inventory process requires that a condition report is filled out for each object and retained in the object folder. Along with the basic information, like title, artist, medium, and date, I also record a brief description of the object, including any defects, like warping of a canvas or scratches on a frame.  Visuals are always helpful when documenting changes.  I try to take as thorough a reference as possible, highlighting any potential issues that should be tracked.

The oldest work of art in our art collection is A Horse in a Landscape, an oil on panel by Abraham van Calreat (c. 1690).  That’s over three centuries of exposure and changing hands and an expansive time frame for it to be dropped, hung above a fireplace, or placed in direct sunlight.  Part of an inventory is to make note of chipped frames and discoloration which are just two possibilities of the previous three scenarios. Despite its age, A Horse in a Landscape is in very good condition.

Works on paper have other potential concerns such as being susceptible to foxing.  Those are the small brownish spots you might see speckled about in old books or prints. The print below has evidence of foxing on the right border. 

Foxing can be seen most noticeably on the right-side border. Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874), Kentucky, 1867, colored engraving, 24 1/2 x 32 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Peter Winants, 2004

Another example of a noteable paper condition issue is seen in the image on the left below of the 1923 wedding invitation of the artist Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) to his wife, Harriet.  The discoloration is easily noticed.  What would have caused this?  Perhaps it was displayed in a frame where, over time, the light caused it to change. 

Invitation to the wedding of Paul Desmond Brown to Harriet Smith, November 12, 1923, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

The backside of the paper below has several issues including discoloration, missing elements, accretions, tears, buckling, and flaking.

Verso of paper with envelope affixed to the front, addressed to Harriet Smith, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Nancy Searles, the artist’s daughter, 2011

A comprehensive inventory also serves another purpose. Do the works of art under scrutiny still meet the mission of the organization?  As museums and galleries evolve, their mission statements and policies may need to evolve too.  This could include adjusting the scope of the collection plan, meaning that objects in the collection may be better suited for interpretation at a different institution.  If that is the case, further evaluation is warranted.

An inventory can be a long process, but it serves an important purpose; it is one of the principal aspects of Collections Management.  For now, if you need me, I’ll be in storage, listening to big band music, and plugging away at this year’s inventory.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

In July 1836, a stage coach at Walham Green suffered an accident: runaway horses overturned the coach and several passengers suffered broken limbs. One of the passengers was forcibly thrown from the coach, but escaped with only a strained back. That passenger was named James Pollard, a painter of coaches and carriages who was also a great traveler across the English countryside in pursuit of his occupation.

pollard2
“Omnibuses Leaving the Nag’s Head, Holloway,” Cat. No. 140, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

James Pollard (1792-1867) was the son of engraver Robert Pollard (1755-1838). The elder Pollard strove to encourage his son in an artist’s career, and young James worked alongside his father producing drawings and designs for engravings while honing his skills as a painter.

pollard5
“‘Fly Fishing,’ from a painting by James Pollard, engraved on wood by F. Babbage,” from Animal Painters of England From the Year 1650, Volume II by Sir Walter Gilbey. National Sporting Library & Museum.

In 1820, James was commissioned by Edward Orme to produce a painting of a mail coach for a signboard of an inn. The painting caught the eye of the Austrian ambassador, who requested another by the same artist. Three more orders came in, and James was on the road to an established career painting coaches, horses, and passengers. He would go on to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1821 and again in 1824.

pollard4
“The Bath & Bristol Mail Coach By Moonlight,” Cat. No. 19, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Pollard was a sportsman, and although he enjoyed most success as a painter of coaches, he also painted other sporting scenes. He was an avid fisherman and painted angling scenes multiple times. He also painted scenes from the Epsom races and occasionally foxhunting scenes.

2012.40.14a
(after) James Pollard (English, 1792-1867) Aylesbury Grand Steeplechase, The Light Weight Stakes: Starting Field, Plate 1, 1836 aquatint on paper, 15 ¼ x 20 ½ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

In 1825, James married and went into business for himself as an independent artist. He enjoyed great success in the 1830s, but in 1840 his wife and youngest daughter both died. It was reported that James never truly recovered his old form. His career suffered, though he continued to produce paintings into the late 1850s. In his later years, he retired to live with his son and family, and he died in 1867 at 75 years old.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

If you are at all familiar with the village of Middleburg, you have likely seen iconic images of the Middleburg Hunt and hound parade in the snow. It just doesn’t feel like the holiday season has begun in this region until Christmas in Middleburg takes place on the first Saturday every December. The celebration brings people from far and wide to enjoy this spectacle as well as the traditional afternoon Christmas parade with brightly-colored floats, a variety of horse-drawn vehicles, and other animals. Even Santa Claus arrives on a four-in-hand.

Although we did not experience a magical snow this past Saturday, there was no shortage of holiday cheer for the festivities. Partnering with the National Sporting Library & Museum, Colonial Williamsburg’s Director of Coach and Livestock Paul Bennett brought and drove the historic city’s Wythe Chariot, a highlight of the parade.

Partnering with the NSLM, Colonial Williamsburg made a special appearance in the Middleburg Christmas Parade on December 2, 2017, with the recently-restored Wythe Chariot driven by Director of Coach and Livestock Paul Bennett.

The royal blue livery brought to mind a wintry, 19th-century French print in the NSLM’s collection…

(after) Henri d’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817 – 1859), La vie d’un Gentilhomme en toutes Saisons: Hiver (one of a set of four), hand-colored aquatint, 21 ½ x 30 ¾ inches, engraved by Jazet, Paris; published by Goupil et Vibert, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

Subtitled Hiver (Winter), the hand-colored aquatint is one of a set of four in the series, La vie d’un Gentilhomme en toutes Saisons (The Life of a Gentleman in All Seasons). First published in 1846, each print depicts a different season of carriage driving in France. The original paintings from which the engravings were made were by Henri Auguste d’ Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat, a French sporting and animal artist.

(after) Henri d’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817 – 1859) La vie d’un Gentilhomme en toutes Saisons: Hiver (Detail)

The snowy scene shows two postilions, each riding the near post-horse of a double team at a fast pace. (It is typical to ride the left horse of a pair since horses are trained to be mounted from the near side.) The riders are wearing the unmistakable rigid boots of their profession to protect their legs from being injured. Posting was a common mode of transit in England and on the Continent before trains. Postilions were hired through postmasters and traveled from post house to post house, on successive legs of a journey. Tired riders and horses were replaced as needed along the way.

(after) Henri d’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817 – 1859), La vie d’un Gentilhomme en toutes Saisons: Hiver (Detail)

The carriage depicted is a shooting phaeton, a four-wheel open carriage with room for four passengers, game, and a compartment with ventilation under the seat to transport gun dogs.  Snow flies up from the wheels as the sportsmen return from a successful day afield. The gamekeeper, bundled up in a fur coat with a powder flask at his side, points to a village in the distance. A huntsman and the gentleman holding a shotgun enjoy a cigar while the fourth companion wearing a buttoned-up frock coat and a brimmed cap, crosses his arms, bracing himself against the cold. A gun dog peeks out from the gentleman’s lap blanket while another alert dog is at the front of the carriage. The vehicle is filled with a mixed bag  – a plentiful variety of hare, pheasant, duck, partridge, snipe, and stag – and game bags hang from the back.

Although it’s not a one-horse open sleigh, the scene conjures a line from the classic American melody, Jingle Bells. “Dashing through the snow…”  Carriages, wheeled and sleighs alike, are icons of a long-gone era, but still strongly resonate with the sentiment of the season. Thank you to our friends at Colonial Williamsburg for journeying to Middleburg and “making spirits bright.”

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org