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Morgan Library opens a rare display of items related to founder Pierpont Morgan's life
Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868–1949), Photographic portrait of Belle da Costa Greene, ca. 1910. Archives of the Morgan Library & Museum.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum continues its popular Treasures from the Vault exhibition series this spring with the presentation of thirty diverse works in its iconic 1906 McKim building. The great library was commissioned by museum founder Pierpont Morgan and completed in 1906, just seven years prior to his death in 1913. To commemorate Morgan’s life as one of America’s best known financiers and philanthropists, a selection of items are being exhibited in the library’s marbled rotunda. Included in the display are Morgan’s high school essay on Napoleon Bonaparte (he considered Bonaparte’s tragic flaw to be placing “personal ambition” ahead of “the future welfare of his country”); a stock certificate from the United States Steel Corporation—an enormous undertaking which gave Morgan control of almost half the nation’s steelmaking capacity—signed by the company’s first president, Charles Schwab; the last surviving letter from Belle da Costa Greene, Morgan’s dynamic librarian, sent to her “Big Chief” shortly before his death; and the iconic portrait of Morgan by legendary photographer Edward Steichen.

Additional highlights from this season’s Treasures include Colm Tóibín’s manuscript of the short novel The Testament of Mary, the basis for his play that debuted in New York in April; a mid-fifteenth-century English cookery scroll containing nearly two hundred recipes in Middle English; autograph music manuscripts by Wagner, Verdi, and Britten; the first book printed in the English language; and writings by Jane Austen and Albert Einstein. The objects are on view May 7–October 6, 2013.

Originally conceived as a monologue for an actress, Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary was published as a novel in 2011. The story takes place after the Crucifixion; as two of Jesus’s followers begin shaping the narrative of his life for their gospels, Mary gives her personal account of her son’s experience. Tóibín’s hand-written first draft of the novel—which he subsequently rewrote for the New York stage production—is being shown.

A mid-fifteenth-century cookery scroll—measuring over twenty feet long and featuring nearly two hundred recipes in Middle English—speaks to medieval tastes. Among the recipes on view are two for “conynges” (coneys or rabbits), one in syrup, the other in clear broth. The first recipe instructs the cook to “Take conynges and seethe them well in good broth. Take Greek wine & add a portion of vinegar & flour of cinnamon, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, and other good spices with raisins, currants, and ginger….”

Although Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) did not attend the premier of his Aida in Cairo in 1871, he took a hands-on approach to the opera’s Italian premiere at La Scala in February 1872. In the annotated libretto on view, Verdi sketched out his staging for the first three acts, specifying the singers’ placement, movement, and even gestures.

Guests at a 1930 fundraising dinner organized by the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies were treated to a filmed speech by Albert Einstein on Jüdische Wohlthätigkeit (Jewish Charity). When Einstein recorded his message extolling Jewish moral values, such “talking pictures” incorporating synchronized audio were still in their infancy. The notes he drafted for the speech are being displayed.

The very first book printed in the English language was a collection (recuyell) of courtly romances related to the city of Troy. The book, printed by William Caxton in Belgium, was intended for the English communities on the continent and for export to England. By 1476 Caxton returned to England to build the country’s first printing press.

For over three hundred years, Books of Hours were a popular means of assisting the faithful with their devotions, teaching children to read, and recording family histories. Some small and precious Books of Hours, however, functioned less like a book and more like a piece of jewelry. The ornamental quality of the sixteenth-century manuscript on view—illuminated by Simon Bening, the last and greatest Flemish illuminator of that century—was enhanced two centuries later when its owner commissioned its elaborate, detachable gilt silver filigree binding.

Jane Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra, offer valuable and entertaining glimpses into her private life. In the 1815 letter on view—written while Jane was living at the London home of her elder brother—she tells Cassandra of the delivery of “a brace of pheasants,” continuing, “We shall live upon Pheasants; no bad Life!”

Cesare Negri’s Nuove inventioni di balli, printed in Milan in 1604, is the most comprehensive account of court and theatrical dance of the late Renaissance. In addition to descriptions of complex dances, it discusses proper deportment (for instance, a gentleman should hold the hilt of his sword with his left hand to prevent it from bouncing as he dances). Eager readers of Nuove inventioni could learn the steps for a total of forty-three choreographies.

For most of his life, William Blake earned his living as a commercial engraver. In 1793 he engraved sixteen plates based on the watercolors that accompanied John Stedman’s account of fighting escaped African slaves in the Dutch colony of Suriname. Blake’s hand-colored engraving on view shows the Aboma snake being skinned alive, recalling some of the book’s more brutal imagery. Both Blake and Stedman shared sympathy for the rebel slaves, and this project may have influenced Blake’s anti-slavery stance in his Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793).

Today's News

May 15, 2013

Roof Garden installation by Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi opens at Metropolitan Museum

Christie's to offer a spectacular selection of paintings and works of art in its Russian Art sale

Morgan Library opens a rare display of items related to founder Pierpont Morgan's life

Records fall at Sotheby's contemporary art auction; Barnett Newman painting sells for $43.84M

Leonardo DiCaprio environmental art auction at Christie's New York tops $38 million

Frick announces several important loans on view from collector Horace Wood Brock

International screen legend Gina Lollobrigida's jewels steal the show at Sotheby's Geneva

Lost Masterpiece: Wright to offer an important armchair by Walter von Nessen showcases Asian Art from every period in May 17 Auction

New and permanent galleries dedicated to the work of Henry Moore open at Tate Britain

"New Harmony: Abstraction between the Wars, 1919-1939" on view at the Guggenheim

New York prints and drawings dealer David Tunick opens important Munch & German Expressionism show

Old Master paintings at Sotheby's led by a previously unpublished picture by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Christie's London to offer a newly discovered copy of Virgil's Opera

Eight or Ten, Six or Seven Wolves by Arrieta/Vázquez opens at Fundació Joan Miró

Bonhams sell 100% of netsuke in 'white glove' Japanese sale

New paintings on stainless steel by Beverly Fishman featured at David Richard Gallery

Morphy's Fine Art & General Antiques Auction features broad selection of pottery, art glass, antiques, coins

Buoyant mood & high quality work equal strong sales at Frieze New York

Rare Beatles' guitar goes to New York auction

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1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

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