Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has received a major bequest in the form of nearly 500 works of Renaissance gold and silver from the collection of Michael Wellby (1928–2012), the museum has announced.
Wellby was a well-known antiques dealer specializing in German and Flemish silver of the 16th and 17th centuries. He ran a shop in London for many years. As is typical with antiques dealers, he kept some of the best pieces for his personal collection.
Some of the pieces were made for royalty, like a silver gilt ewer made in Portugal c.1510-15 that bears the Royal Arms of Portugal. Another stunning item is a lapis lazuli bowl with gold mounts made in Prague in c. 1608 by the Dutch goldsmith Paulus van Vianen. Many of the pieces incorporate exotic materials such as ostrich eggs and nautilus shell, items that were just becoming available to the wealthy of Europe through the new global trade routes.
The collection will go on display in a temporary gallery this month and will remain there until a new permanent gallery is opened to house the collection. The Ashmolean already has an impressive collection of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern art, including a large display of English silver.
The Ashmolean, like the equally famous Pitt-Rivers, are both free museums, making Oxford a good budget travel destination.
[Photo copyright The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is famous for its impressive collection of American art, including iconic images such as Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Now that collection has a larger, better designed home thanks to a $100 million renovation.
The New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts open Jan. 16 and total 30,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is 3,300 more than previously. It houses American art from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries and provides better lighting and access than the previous galleries.
Besides Leutze’s work, which has been given a new gilded frame, the collection is a who’s who of American art, including painters such a John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Remington. Cole’s painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm-The Oxbow is also on display and is shown below. There’s also a large folk art collection, historic furniture, and work by important silversmiths such as Paul Revere.
Paintings by Emanuel Leutze and Thomas Cole courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Belgium is famous for its silver. Belgian silversmiths have a history stretching back hundreds of years. Their work has always been sought after for its high degree of craftsmanship and so it’s no surprise there’s a Silver Museum in Antwerp dedicated to the craftsmen that make these works of art.
Besides talent, they have a sense of humor too. This wine cup, shown here in a photo copyright Hugo Maertens of Bruges, is actually an early drinking game. It’s shown upside down so you can get a good view of the clockwork mill. When it’s wound up, the mill begins to turn and the people climb up the stairs. After a few seconds the clock strikes 11, and if you haven’t drained the cup you have to drink 11 more times. The fact that this was made back in 1688 or 1689 shows just how good the Belgian silversmiths were, and what people liked to get up to on their off hours.
Antwerp has been a center for silversmithing for 500 years and the Silver Museum is in the castle of Sterckshof. Different sections explain how silver is mined, processed, and worked. Sumptuous displays of silver items from all times fill the many rooms.
Until 9 April 2012 there’s a special exhibition called Esthétique Moderne focusing on Belgian silversmiths of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This covers the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements. It’s an impressive collection of works of art. For images from the exhibition, check out the gallery, and if you like seeing beautiful works of art, check out the Silver Museum.
Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.
Coming up next: The oldest printing press in the world!
This trip was partially funded by Tourism Antwerp and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.