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by Gary R. Libby

Pierce Francis Connelly (1841–1932), Patrician Lady, 1887. White marble, H. 26 1/2, W. 18 1/2 in. Gift of Kenneth Worcester Dow and Mary Mohan Dow.
When it received accreditation by the American Association of Museums in 1977, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida, owned only three American works: a circa-1890 silver presentation punchbowl by Tiffany and Company, an Elnathan Taber grandfather clock with Salisbury case (circa 1790), and a small circa-1875 landscape by Ralph Albert Blakelock. Soon after, the collection began to grow with major gifts from Anderson C. Bouchelle, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas N. Willins, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Westhrin, and anonymous donors. It was not until 1989 that the museum began to realize its dream of developing a serious American art collection. The museum now houses one of the most significant collections of American fine and folk art in the South, due in great part to the gifts of Kenneth Worcester Dow and his late wife, Mary, whose first gift, made in 1989, was the marble bust Patrician Lady by Pierce Francis Connelly (left).

The museum’s American collection now numbers over 2,742 artworks, offering examples of painting, sculpture, etchings, engravings, furniture, samplers, quilts, lithographs, glass, pewter, and silver, drawn from virtually every period.

The great strength of the collection currently lies in the folk and realistic styles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which reflects the
tastes of the major donors to the museum, who preferred the tranquility of the academic styles over the newness of modernism. Highlights dating from the nineteenth century and later are presented here.

Silver Martelé bowl, Gorham Mnf. Co., ca. 1905. Cast and cold-worked silver. H. 6 3/4, W. 11 1/4 in. Gift of Anderson C. Bouchelle.
The American collection of the Museum of Arts and Sciences is less than twenty-five years old, yet it contains the foundation of a great collection that the museum hopes will continue to grow with the twenty-first century.
Founded in 1831 in Providence, Rhode Island, by Jabez Gorham (1792–1869), the Gorham Manufacturing Company helped nurture the state’s rich silversmithing tradition. Gorham initially produced a modest line of coin silver spoons, combs, thimbles, sugar tongs, and ladies’ belt buckles. In 1841 he was joined by his son, John Gorham (1820–1898). Under John Gorham’s leadership, the company prospered, growing from fourteen employees in the 1850s to 400 in the late 1860s, becoming the largest producer of manufactured silver goods in the world. Products included a full line of flatware, hollowware, silver novelties, special order presentation pieces, an ecclesiastical line, and bronzes. Ever the innovator, Gorham embraced the English Arts and Crafts movement, and created a line of silver goods inspired by it. In 1896, under the guidance of English silversmith William C. Codman, Gorham opened a workshop to produce handmade objects. The line was named “Martelé” (French for “hand-hammered”), possibly to complement its introduction at the 1900 Paris Exhibition.

In contrast to the sterling standard (.925 pure), Martelé objects were crafted in silver of .950 purity, closer to the English Britannia standard. This alloy was not only softer and easier to form and chase, it also set the line apart from any other silver being made in America.

Under Codman’s watchful eye, Martelé silver was painstakingly raised from flat silver stock, chased, and finished entirely by hand. No mechanical stamping, polishing, or finishing was ever used. This bowl was shaped and formed by hand in thirty-one hours and then chased and hammered foreighty-three hours by William E. Jordon, who also worked on the Martelé pieces that were introduced to the world at the Paris Exhibition.

George Loring Brown (1814 - 1889), View of Venice, 1873. Oil on canvas, 28 x 48 in. Gift of Kenneth Worcester Dow and Mary Mohan Dow.
Although from a distance the bowl appears to be a large shell form, careful inspection reveals naturalistic foliage motifs. The Martelé shop closed in 1912, after producing approximately 4,800 pieces, only 700 of which were bowls. George Loring Brown’s (1814–1889) reputation rests largely upon his Grand Tour landscapes, especially those in the romantic realist style. As a follower of Washington Allston, Brown is also considered an important exponent of the luminist tradition characterized by depictions of atmospheric conditions. Critics today maintain that Brown’s genius as a painter was primarily due to his understanding of contrast in color, value, and composition.

View of Venice, 1873 presents the viewer with a vista of the plaza or piazzetta beside the Doge’s Palace. The painting is neatly divided into two by contrasting techniques. On the right, Brown depicts richly colored vignettes of daily life amidst the grandeur of Venetian architecture. The left half captures St. Giorgio Maggiori in the distance in delicate tones of pink and blue. Here, atmosphere is everything as Brown transforms and deconstructs the marble of the Palladian cathedral with gauzy sfumato.

This work can also be understood as an impressive treatment of earth, fire, air, and water, the four elements of the classical world. Brown represents earth and fire through his careful treatment of the plaza, where peasant fires flicker and architecture is treated in a warm brown umber. Water and vaporous air are represented in the other half of the large horizontal format.

In many ways, George Loring Brown is one of the best representatives of the group of popular expatriate American painters in the Grand Tour era whose work celebrated the splendors of European civilization. Yet, unlike many of these technicians, Brown’s progressive vision bridges academic realism with more experimental contemporary European styles, including impressionism. Boston artist Frank Shapleigh (1842–1906) is best known as an accurate recorder of New England landscapes and interior views. Often called the “White Mountain” artist, he developed a successful career as a highly skilled realist whose work is often undercut by a calculated naiveté.

In 1886, Shapleigh and his wife discovered St. Augustine, Florida. After spending three winters in the city, the artist moved into a studio at the Ponce de Leon Hotel recently built there by millionaire tycoon Henry Morrison Flagler. From 1889 to 1892, Shapleigh concentrated on painting the picturesque streets and structures of this historic riverport city.

Panorama of the City of St. Augustine was completed during his first visit to the city. This large topographical painting is considered among his most important works and a critical visual document of the city in the late nineteenth century. Of special note is the inclusion of Flagler’s hotel on the far right of the horizon.

Shapleigh neatly divides his canvas into four sections with the implied diagonals of the sandy boulevards. Under magnification, details of individual houses can be ascertained. Today, this painting is being used as a key to restoration efforts in St. Augustine.

Empire pier table, Edward Holmes, New York City, ca. 1832. Mahogany, rosewood, gilt wood, silvered glass, and marble. H. 371/2, W. 411/2, D. 191/2 in. Gift of Kenneth Worcester Dow and Mary Mohan Dow.
A limited account of the business history of cabinetmaker Edward Holmes is available in records at the New-York Historical Society. He worked in New York City, and is believed to have been a partner of Simeon Haines from 1825 to 1829. By the time this piece was made in about 1832, Holmes was well established on his own, with a manufactory on 20th Street and a store at 56 Broad Street, a popular address for fashionable cabinetmakers in the early nineteenth century. The location of Holmes’s store may indicate influences that shaped his work. Charles-Honoré Lannuier lived and worked two doors down, specializing in marble-topped pier tables with looking glasses similar to Holmes’s piece pictured here.

This table is significant because it combines some of the best elements of French and American Empire styles. While the French preferred round wood columns, lion’s paw feet, and gilt bronze decoration, American cabinetmakers of the period often embellished their work with the symbols of the new Republic—eagles, flowers, foliage, and cornucopias. Here, Holmes combined the French elements of round columns and lion’s paw feet with American cornucopias and foliage.

Double-door wardrobe, Anthony G. Quervelle (1789–1856), Philadelphia, Penn., ca. 1835. Carved and turned mahogany with gilt stenciling.
H. 891/4, W. 723/4, D. 293/4 in. Gift of Kenneth Worcester Dow and Mary Mohan Dow.

Anthony Gabriel Quervelle (1789–1856) arrived in Philadelphia from France in 1817. By 1825, he had opened a showroom and warehouse at 126 South Second Street and was advertising “the largest and most fashionableassortment of furniture ever yet offered for sale in Philadelphia.”

Quervelle sold his French-inspired Empire-style furniture throughout the eastern seaboard while developing a brisk business in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, allowing him to invest in real estate. He is mentioned in Watson’s Annals of Philadelphia (1846) as among the wealthiest men of the community, worth over $75,000.

His furniture was animated by crisp carving, rich veneers, combinations of mahogany and rare woods, all-over gilt decoration, and elegant wood appliqués that gave his designs an unusual presence and unmistakable identity.

The double-door mahogany wardrobe pictured here is believed to be Quervelle’s largest and most ambitious piece of furniture. From its fully carved, ebonized dolphin feet, to its crisply carved five-pointed stars in relief featured on each long door, this is a massive piece
of furniture, yet one of intricate surface detail and interest. While the unusual two sets of pinched ebonized columns are treated in a modified Tuscan order reminiscent of early Empire models created in France before 1800, the pineapple relief carving at the top of each long mahogany door, and the fully carved and inset urns with pineapple tops that flank the doors, suggest Quervelle’s knowledge of eighteenth-century English motifs.

Alberta Binford McCloskey (1863–1911), Still Life of Wrapped Oranges (pair), after 1890. Oil on panel, 8 x 10 in. Gift in Honor of Anderson C. Bouchelle and Kenneth Worcester Dow.
Although biographical information on Alberta Binford McCloskey and her husband, William J. McCloskey, is scant, records suggest that she studied under William Merritt Chase at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and that William studied there after 1870, during the tenure of Thomas Eakins and Christian Schussele.

Current research into the still life paintings of the McCloskeys suggests that they might have worked together on their signature oranges and fruit paintings. Some oils signed by William bear the more substantial technique of Alberta (her depiction of tissue paper lacks the gossamer quality of William’s), while other paintings of fruit signed by Alberta have the heightened illusionism and reflective polished surfaces mastered by William.

The oil shown above (left) presents the viewer with three oranges in a row. The first orange is a simplified whole. The second is tissue wrapped, exposing a small section of bright orange skin. The third is peeled and in sections, revealing the moist, tender flesh of the orange. In this way, Alberta McCloskey leads the viewer through the senses of sight, touch, smell, and taste. The oil on the right is more mysterious and suggestive. Here McCloskey again presents three oranges on a polished tabletop. The first two are concealed within a covering of white tissue, while the third orange is whole and acts as a bridge to the mystery of the first two shrouded oranges. Like other American still life masterpieces at the turn of the century, these cleverly executed oils demonstrate the skillful illusionism and the celebration of the senses found in late-Victorian aesthetics.

Gary R. Libby is executive director emeritus of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, Florida. All illustrations are courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona, Florida.

Text adapted with permission from Gary Libby, ed., A Treasury of American Art, Selections from the Museum of Arts and Sciences (Daytona Beach, FL: Museum of Arts and Sciences, 2003).

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