In The Inside Story (previously titled Collection Connection), Taft staff explore a range of topics related to the museum’s permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, and the history of the Taft house. This series of articles was originally published in Portico, the Taft’s members’ magazine.
Limoges Meets Beijing
In 2014, the Taft Museum of Art accepted a remarkable gift of 89 pieces of Chinese painted enamel copperware. The late Reverend Compton Allyn left these rare treasures to the Museum in his will. Made by painting colorful diluted glass paste onto copper forms, the enamels in Reverend Allyn’s collection illuminate a story of cultural exchange between East and West.
The Tafts and Cincinnati Art
The special exhibition A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820–1920 highlights the impact made on art in the city by the former residents of the Taft Museum of Art’s historic house. Charles and Anna Taft were the last of these residents. In 1900, after Anna inherited her father David Sinton’s $20 million estate (over $500 million today), the Tafts became philanthropists and art collectors who made a lasting mark on visual art in the Queen City.
A Splendid Century
By the 1840s, artists had begun coming to Cincinnati from the surrounding region to learn more about art, as well as to exhibit and to sell their work, and many born in the city enjoyed success. In 1840, a writer for the New York Star asked, “Cincinnati! What is there in the atmosphere of Cincinnati, that has so thoroughly awakened the arts of sculpture and painting?
Solved: The Mystery of the Unknown Cabinet Maker
A slew of tantalizing questions surround this 18th Century furniture maker. First, was this the same Porter Clay who made the Taft Museum of Art’s early Kentucky sideboard? If so, where did Clay run off to? Was he captured? When did he come back to Lexington? Finally, did he avoid a jail sentence, and, if so, how? Such questions abound in an intriguing story featuring a runaway furniture maker, spiked with notes of nepotism and Kentucky luxury.
When an art object is going to be photographed for publication, it needs to look its best. One of the Taft’s treasures, the splendid but badly tarnished 17th-century Two-Handled Covered Cup, was brought to the Museum’s conservation lab to be cleaned and stabilized prior to photography (The Taft has a lab on site for the use of different contract conservators, each of whom specializes in certain kinds of art objects.)
Oz Visits the Queen City
In 1900, L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the following year he began adapting the book as a musical for adults. The show premiered in Chicago in 1902, became a smash hit, opened on Broadway, and then toured until 1909. The Wizard of Oz opened in Cincinnati at the Grand Opera House on New Year’s Day, 1905.
The Power of Landscapes
In 1757, Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke published On the Sublime and the Beautiful, which defined two different emotional responses to landscape in nature and in art. Burke stated that the beautiful is comforting and fosters pleasant and calm feelings—a placid lake, a perfectly formed seashell, a clear blue sky. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the sublime overwhelms with awe, terror, or danger—a steep precipice, a thunderstorm, a crashing waterfall. Burke explained that when experienced at a distance, such as translated through art, the sublime generates delight.
Limoges Enamels during the Reformation
Small and shiny, Limoges enamels glow like jewels in the Taft Museum of Art’s Medieval and Renaissance galleries. Workshops of skilled artisans in Limoges, France, produced these decorative objects by delicately fusing layers of vividly colored glass to copper. By the 16th century, influenced by the Italian Renaissance and aided by a newly developed enameling technique similar to painting, enamellers replaced medieval modes of decoration with dynamic storytelling.