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Frick Launches Two New Online Databases to Stimulate Research

NEW YORK, NY.- The Frick Art Reference Library announced the launch of two new electronic resources available online and at no charge. One is a directory of particular interest to those researching the history of collecting art in the United States, and the other is a database of inventories from the Dutch Golden Age. Comments Inge Reist, Director for the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting in America, “We are thrilled to introduce these two resources, knowing that art historians and others will find them fascinating and rich in information. Nothing comparable to the Center’s new Archives Directory has ever existed―surprising given the increasing number of exhibitions based on individual collectors, among them William Randolph Hearst, the Clark Brothers, Grenville Winthrop, and Ambrose Vollard. Such a consolidated and easily searched online source as the new Archives Directory will prove invaluable to this deepening field of study and will ensure that researchers can locate primary documents such as letters, bills of sale, and other transaction records that are so essential to reliable scholarship. Indeed, users will more readily find their way to all manner of repositories, from those that are well-known to utterly unexpected caches, which in turn may lead to new discoveries and inspire fresh perspectives.”

Dutch Collectors in the Golden Age
The complete Montias database, currently accessible only through the Frick’s website, offers an unprecedented look at ownership of art during the seventeenth-century in Holland, known as the “Golden Age.” It is a trove of searchable information about buyers, sellers, and prices, including comprehensive information on over 50,000 objects (paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, and so forth) listed in nearly 1,300 Amsterdam city inventories. Approximately half were created in preparation for auctions, almost an equal portion were notorial death inventories for estate purposes, and the remaining documents relate to bankruptcy cases. Although the database, which specifically addresses records from 1597 through 1681, is not a complete record of all inventories made in Amsterdam, it contains a vast amount of information that can elucidate patterns of buying, selling, inventorying, and collecting art.

John Michael Montias was an eminent economist at Yale University who began recording details of ownership of works of art from inventories held in the Amsterdam municipal archive, or Geementearchief (now known as the Stadsarchief), in the early 1980s as part of his own work on the prices of Dutch paintings at seventeenth-century auctions. In 1986, he was given a grant by the Getty Art History Information Program (now the Getty Research Institute) in conjunction with its Provenance Index. Montias was one of the earliest contributors to the Index, which had been established only a few years earlier, and he eventually provided information from over 300 inventories. After his association with the Getty ended, he continued inputting material on his own and added data from nearly 1,000 more documents, all of which he gave to the Frick Art Reference Library to host. The Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie serves as a co-sponsor. Visit this Frick Collection web site link to view the Montias Database:

A Unique Directory Dramatically Aids Researching American Collections
From its inception in 2007, the Frick’s Center for the History of Collecting in America has worked to broaden and deepen scholarly research in this field of study, in an effort to expand the related body of literature. The Center’s new Archives Directory, the first online database of its kind, speaks directly to that vision by consolidating into one place a wealth of information about the location and nature of documents and archives available on American collectors. Until now, scholars have had to comb through multiple websites, and, if permitted, sift through analog data held at library, museum, and university archives to construct their own plans for research―a time-consuming and imprecise process. The Center’s new Directory is, by contrast, accessible around the clock via the institution’s website, presenting the information in a manner that allows for greater flexibility in searching for and organizing information. Its use will help scholars worldwide as they approach research projects, guiding them beyond existing publications and standard paths to overlooked repositories, including primary source materials.

Currently, the Archives Directory guides researchers to more than 5,000 collections held in more than 300 repositories worldwide, which together have bearing on the lives and activities of more than 1,500 American collectors. Information in the Archives Directory was culled from various online and printed materials ranging from federated and individual online library catalogues to Google Books to published literature in the field. By launching the Directory with this critical mass of material in place, the Center for the History of Collecting in America moves its development to the next phase, that of welcoming contributions of additional information for this online resource. Indeed, it will be through the combined efforts of professionals and researchers who are aware of lesser-known archives that the Directory will continue to grow and become an increasingly valued resource for art and cultural historians. To explore the Archives Directory, visit the web site via this link:

The Frick Art Reference Library | Inge Reist | Online Databases |

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