Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Your Average Joan

Above: Antonin MerciƩ (French, 1845-1916), Jeanne d'Arc, 1875-1900, The Art Institute of Chicago, George F. Harding Collection, 2014.653

One of the commonest questions I get about armor is whether women ever wore it. In general, the answer is no, but there was one very famous exception. When Joan of Arc set out with the French army to rescue the country from the English invaders, she was given a suit of armor that must have saved her life many times over—she was always in the thick of battle, and was seriously injured several times.

Many artists over the centuries have been drawn to the image of the armored Joan. This month, Antonin MerciĆ©’s gilt bronze bust of the warrior saint joined our Knights! exhibition to remind us that even in the Middle Ages, a woman might become a hero.

Joan is on loan to us from The Art Institute of Chicago for a year. As it happens, this almost exactly how long her meteoric military career lasted before she was captured and sold to her English enemies—but not before she had turned the tide of the Hundred Years’ War.

Learn more about KNIGHTS!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Real Helmutt is here!!!

Pictured above: Armor for a boar hound, 1942, in the style of the 1500s, 2014.84.2

Like most good things, it was worth the wait. Helmutt, the dog is once again wagging his tail and showing off his armor at the Worcester Art Museum. Based on an original in the Spanish Royal Armory, this armor for a hunting dog was crafted by Leonard Heinrich, armorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Heinrich gave it to John Woodman Higgins in 1943, and for seven decades, Helmutt welcomed visitors to the Higgins Armory Museum.

Helmutt, the armor-wearing dog inspired WAM’s comic version of Helmutt and Helmutt’s House in Knights! Families can enjoy visiting the “real” Helmutt in the Lancaster Lobby, explore Helmutt’s House in Knights!, and then see how many more Helmutts they can find throughout the galleries.

Learn more about Helmutt!

- Marcia Lagerwey, Curator of Education

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Screen for the New Year

Above: Kano̅ School, Edo period (1615-1868), early to mid-17th century; Six-panel folding screen; mineral pigments, ink, and gold leaf on paper; Stoddard Acquisition Fund, 2012.97

Come celebrate the New Year at the Worcester Art Museum by taking in the beautiful 17th c. Japanese screen, entitled A Screen for the New Year: Pines and Plum Blossoms, now on view in the Japanese Gallery through May 3rd. The screen combines gold leaf with layers of delicately applied paint to create this sumptuous forest scene in subtle relief. If you look closely, you can even see individually painted pine needles!

In preparation for its display, I closely examined the surface of the screen to stabilize pinpoint areas of flaking or insecure paint. The screen is now in stable condition, and a delight to enjoy!

Read more about A Screen for the New Year: Pines and Plum Blossoms

 - Eliza Spaulding, Paper Conservator

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Bacchus" travels to Washington, DC and Florence, Italy

Above: The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, c. 1490, Piero Di Cosimo, Italian, oil on panel, Museum purchase, 1937.76

As news spreads of Raphael’s Renaissance masterpiece, The Small Cowper Madonna, arriving at the Worcester Art Museum on loan from the National Gallery of Art, some may be interested to know that there is a related story of a Renaissance masterpiece temporarily departing from Worcester’s collection. The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, the much loved and highly imaginative painting by Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522), will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence, scheduled to run from February 1 – May 3 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The exhibition will then travel to the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy where it will be on display from June 23–September 27.

In preparation for this major exhibition that is being billed as a ‘once in a lifetime Piero di Cosimo retrospective’, I recently spent considerable time in the museum’s conservation department treating the painting to improve its appearance and ensure its safe travel. The treatment included selective removal of upper layers of synthetic varnish that had developed a hazy appearance since their application in 1971 and 1985. An underlying thin layer of natural resin varnish was left in place and a new conservation-grade varnish was applied in order to achieve the proper saturation and surface sheen. The treatment also included inpainting minor losses and past retouches that had discolored. By reducing the visual impact of the losses and discolored retouches, viewers can now appreciate more fully the illusion of depth, form, and clarity of detail achieved by the artist.

In addition to the conservation treatment, museum preparator Trevor Toney worked with the conservation department to equip the painting with a sealed climate chamber to ensure that proper preservation conditions be maintained throughout its travels. The appearance of this treasured and important painting is now much improved and the painting is certain to be a highlight while on exhibit at the NGA, the Uffizi, and again at WAM upon its return in the fall of 2015.

Learn more about The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus

- Philip Klausmeyer, Conservation Scientist and Paintings Conservator

Monday, February 2, 2015

access magazine redesign

We hope you enjoy the newly re-designed issue of access magazine. After seven issues over the course of two years, we thought it was time for a “re-fresh.”  Our aim was to create a more organized look that pushed collection and exhibition imagery to the foreground, while keeping the design contemporary and unobtrusive. We hope the design changes make access more accessible visually and informationally. 

The re-design includes:
• A table of contents 
• Improved legibility with a simpler grid structure
• More white space to make artwork from the collection really pop
• Reduced number of fonts, continuing to feature Arial (ubiquitous web font / referencing tech)
• An overall look and feel that is contemporary, yet timeless 
• A special, pull-out insert, which uses our new mascot, Helmutt, to engage kids and families in WAM exhibitions

Click here to view a digital copy of the Winter issue of access magazine

- Kim Noonan, Publication and Graphic Design Manager

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