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Highlights from the Taft Collection | Summer 2020


Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Memory of Riva

In 1834, Camille Corot spent a week in Riva del Garda, a scenic village at the northern tip of Lake Garda, near the Italian Alps. He made this painting more than thirty years later, referring to oil sketches he made during his time at the lake and relying upon his memory. Corot distilled the emotions he felt at Riva into a dreamy landscape, with a tree silhouetted against a pearly blue sky and the rosy sun glowing at the horizon beyond the placid lake. Describing how he created his late landscapes like this one, Corot said, “As for me, I paint feeling over feeling.”

Robert S. Duncanson, Landscape Mural

Trees frame a vista across a rugged landscape. The sky glows orange and pink above a river cascading down from distant mountains. Four woodsmen gather around a campfire, smoke rising from its embers. Robert S. Duncanson painted this spectacular landscape, along with seven others, as part of a commission by Nicholas Longworth (1783–1863) to decorate the entry hall of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art. Likely inspired by the Ohio River Valley, the murals represent imagined landscapes rather than particular places. The murals launched Duncanson’s career: he went on to become the first African American artist to achieve international acclaim.

Jean-Baptiste Carnay and Alexandre-Jean Noël, Snuffbox with Views of a Portuguese Villa

This stunning gold snuffbox, made by Jean-Baptiste Carnay, was intendedto store snuff, a smokeless tobacco widely popular in Europe during the 18th century. It is fitted with eight intricately painted miniatures by Alexandre-Jean Noël. These panels depict multiple views of a villa near Lisbon, Portugal, which the merchant Gerard de Vismes (1725/1726–1798) purchased in 1767. Vismes lavishly decorated his Neoclassical palace and added waterfalls to the ground’s elaborate gardens. A visitor recalled that “at each step my eyes see objects that surpass anything I could imagine and that leave me with no other feeling than pure admiration.”

Vase with Dragons

Two horned dragons encircle this vase, their twisting bodies emerging from the crashing waves. In Chinese culture, these creatures, often associated with water, symbolize power and strength. Artists and craftsmen depicted the four-clawed mang dragon, seen here, on objects made for or acquired by high-ranking officials and nobility. The delicate curves of this vase showcase the pale green celadon glaze covering its body. Collectors and scholars hold green glazed-celadon vessels in high esteem because of the color’s association with jade, a mineral valued since antiquity for its spiritual and medicinal powers, as well as its durability and purity.

Pierre Reymond, Casket with the Triumph of Diana

During the Renaissance, as now, couples exchanged gifts. This casket, a luxury object commissioned as a wedding present for a bride, once held jewelry, cosmetics, hair combs, or sewing tools—all possible offerings integral to courtship. The depiction of three Roman goddesses further celebrates the theme of love: Juno symbolizes marriage and youthfulness, Venus represents beauty and desire, and Diana signifies chastity and childbirth. Pierre Reymond showed off his superb skill by delicately modeling the figures and animals. He created the images by building up and then slowly removing layers of white enamel from a nearly black initial layer. This technique, known as grisaille, resulted in subtle shades of gray.

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