Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.
Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Aldius Manutius and Francesco Colonna. Triumph of Leda, from Hyperotomachia Poliphili, 1499. Woodcut printed in black with text on paper. Purchased. SC 1950:34a,b
During the Renaissance, scholars began to move away from basing academic theory on Christian theology, focusing instead on the rediscovery and analysis of classical texts. The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Poliphili’s Dream Strife of Love) was a text written in 1499 by Francesca Colonna, and was obviously influenced by this movement. It is one of the most elegant books of the time period, with an elaborate typeset page layout and 168 detailed woodcut illustrations.
Detail of text
Though it was written in Italian, a significant portion of it also used Latin and Greek grammar and vocabulary constructions. Poliphili, lover of all things, searches in his dreams for his love Polia—all things—through an increasingly bizarre series of classically-inspired landscapes. It is implied that Polia is meant to represent all of classical antiquity; something that we can experience through texts and images and imagination, but never truly fully experience. The woodcut illustrations depict images related to a number of ancient civilizations, with text in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and ancient Egyptian.
Detail of Triumph of Leda
The page of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphiliin our collection is of the Triumph of Leda, part of a series depicting a parade of the lovers of Zeus. Accounts differ as to whether or not this seduction was willing, as female consent was not a particularly high priority in these kinds of narratives. However, this particular image shows Leda as exultant, embracing the swan on top of a chariot drawn by elephants, surrounded by a crowd of musicians and onlookers. It is intended to be a celebration of the power that love can hold over all beings—even gods.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Student Picks is a SCMA program in which Smith students organize their own one-day art show using our collection of works on paper. This month’s student curator and guest blogger Anna Saunders '17J discusses her show "Workers in the Shadows: Portraits of Urban Life" which will be on view FRIDAY, February 5 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you there!
Confused and contemplative, I don’t want to say America is at a crossroads with itself, but… it’s like we literally entered a new millennium. This exhibition loosely deals with American adolescence, of coming into a history with uncertain predictions of the future. A juxtaposition of isolated prints, this collection consists of portraits and still lifes that span that from roughly the Sixties to the early 2000s.
David Ricci, American, born 1952. Swan Hotel, Walt Disney World, 1991. Cibachrome. Gift of David Ricci. SC 1991:10
Lauren Greenfield, American, born 1966. Jennifer Lopez in Versace at the VH1;Vogue Fashion Awards, New York, New York, 1998. Dye destruction print. Promised gift of Ann and Richard Solomon (Ann Weinbaum, class of 1959). SC TR 6977.37
These photos represent my fascination with historical progression; the divergent subjects of these photos capture halted moments that are stalled within the context of time and space at which they were taken.
I would like to thank the Cunningham Center for sponsoring such an incredible and unique opportunity. I would also like to thank Colleen McDermott for her help, support and patience.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Clarence Kennedy, American (1892 - 1972). Plate 41. Her Right Hand, Holding Vase of Ointment. Back. Gift of the Hillyer Art Library. SC 1976:55-1(41)
Well-regarded as a Renaissance History professor at Smith, Clarence Kennedy began to take photographs of pre-Modern European sculpture to aid his students in their research. During the early 20th century, photography was the primary way of viewing and studying the art of other regions, especially Europe.
What makes his photographs stand out is the unparalleled level of control he had over their staging. Kennedy recognized the importance of treating sculpture as a three-dimensional object, and carefully controlled the lighting and angled at which he took photographs. His work was not about creating something new, but bringing out features of art that are normally unseen.
This images in this post are of the statue of Mary Magdalene at the Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. The above image is of her right hand, holding a chalice containing ointment. The following three images are all of her left hand, each shot from different angles.
Clarence Kennedy, American (1892 - 1972). Plate 42. Her Left Hand. In Profile. Gift of the Hillyer Art Library. SC 1976:55-1(42)
Clarence Kennedy, American (1892 - 1972).Plate 43. Her Left Hand. Partly Turned from the Observer. Gift of the Hillyer Art Library. SC 1976:55-1(43)
Clarence Kennedy, American (1892 - 1972). Plate 44. Her Left Hand. Back. Gift of the Hillyer Art Library. SC 1976:55-1(44)
Compare this with the full image of the statue below:
Clarence Kennedy, American (1892 - 1972). Plate 33. The Figure as a Whole. The Magdalen. Santa Trinità, Florence. Gelatin silver print. Gift of the Hillyer Art Library. SC 1976:55-1(33)
The sculpture in its entirety is beautiful. Yet it is easy to miss small details like the hands when confronted with the whole.
It is striking how fundamentally different art photography is today. High-resolution color photography enables us to see every paint chip and wood grain on a sculpture. However, no photographer would be able to work as intimately with the art as Kennedy did--and for good reason. Contemporary thoughts on the conservation and preservation of art mean that works are handled as little as possible. Kennedy’s work is an invaluable resource because it reflects both the art and the circumstances which he worked in.
Clarence Kennedy photographing a sculptural relief, c. 1930