Essay Abstracts

Astrological volvelle / Thurneisser
Bruce T. Moran, "Art and Artisanship in Early Modern Alchemy," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 1–14.

What some in the early modern era called the ars chymistica and others called alchemy involved a great deal more than chrysopoeia or gold making. "He who turns what is found in nature into something useful for human beings . . . he is an alchemist," wrote the 16th-century physician and alchemist Paracelsus (ca. 1493–1541). With that definition, alchemy embraced the efforts of numerous artists and artisans whose knowledge of procedural operations and materials allowed them to make a variety of desired objects and useful substances, including medicines. The Italian polymath Hieronymus Cardanus (1501–76) made a list of what its practitioners knew how to produce. Some things, he wrote, were admirable; some worthless, and some beautiful; some aided health, some were otherwise efficacious, and some were divine. Focusing on the work of the German alchemistand self-trained physician Leonhard Thurneisser (ca. 1531–96), the essay explores the relationship between art, craft, and medicine in the 16th century, as alchemy and artisanal culture worked together to unlock nature's secrets, and intertwine artisanal know-how and private curiosities with desires for profit, the creation of pleasing objects, and the delight of spectacle.

Portrait / Campagna
Barbara Furlotti, "New Considerations on a Set of Portrait Drawings of the Orsini Family by Giovanni Campagna," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 15–28.

This essay considers for the first time side by side an intriguing group of 16 drawings representing illustrious Orsini men and an early 17th-century manuscript from the Archivio Capitolino in Rome, which contains an unpublished history of the powerful Orsini family. The round shape of these drawings, which were once in Cassiano dal Pozzo's famous Paper Museum, has suggested to scholars that they might be models for (or copies from) maiolica dishes or plaquettes. As for their authorship, they have been attributed to Bernardino Capitelli, a Sienese painter and printmaker who worked for Cassiano. However, careful iconographic comparison with the apparatus of engravings included in the manuscript of the Archivio Capitolino allows us to argue that the drawings of the Orsini men were in fact intended as models for a new set of portraits to be added to the history of the family. We also argue that their author was a fascinating although little-known artist, possibly from northern Europe, who was competent in paleography and epigraphy, had a distinct interest in antiquarianism, and might have been in the service of Cassiano dal Pozzo.

Ceiling Design with Cosmological Cycle / Maria Conca
Adriano Aymonino, "Tommaso Maria Conca's Drawing with the Chariot of the Sun: A Cosmological Scheme for the Borghese Family," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 29–40.

This essay examines a large drawing attributed to Tommaso Maria Conca (1734–1822) preserved in the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute. While the drawing has traditionally been related to the late 18th-century refurbishment of the Casino Borghese in Rome, the author proposes a different original location—the urban palace of the Borghese family—and a new iconographic interpretation, substantiating at the same time the painter's authorship. Particular emphasis is given to the drawing's sophisticated iconography, which reflects Conca's renowned literary and antiquarian accomplishment in its references to established cosmological themes, to previous commissions of the Borghese family, and to celebrated antiquities displayed at that time in the Casino.

First page of Eruditi Italiani miscellaneous letters / Bandini
Luisa Ciammitti, "Reassembling a Dismembered Archive: Tomitano's Eruditi Italiani Archive at the Getty Research Institute," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 41–55.

The paper reconstructs the origins and dispersal of the Eruditi Italiani archive, now held at the Getty Research Institute in 234 volumes (comprising 18,000 letters, most written between 1701 and 1799). This collection, originally preserved at the convent of San Michele di Murano near Venice, was part of a larger collection first assembled by Fortunato Mandelli (1728–97), the convent's librarian, and the collector Giulio Bernardino Tomitano (1761–1828). The original collection is now dispersed among the Saltykov-Sčedrin Library in St. Petersburg, the Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana in Florence, and the Getty Research Institute. The subjects discussed by the correpondents include anatomy, ancient Greek seals and inscriptions, numismatics, epigraphy, painting, sculpture, and topography: an invaluable source for the history of 18th-century antiquarianism and erudition.

Letter to Jean-Baptiste Hyacinthe Pascalis / unknown
Valérie Bajou, "A Hagiographic Collection: Remarks on the Taste of Louis-Philippe, Duc d'Orléans," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 55–73.

In 1985, the Getty Research Institute acquired 89 short letters belonging to Louis-Philippe, the duc d'Orléans, who became king of the French in 1830. These handwritten documents are notes—aide-mémoire, lists of things to do, transmission orders—related primarily to acquisitions of works of art made between 1817 and 1828, during the Restoration. The letters reveal the place that art occupied in the life of Louis-Philippe, outline his methods of acquiring and commissioning artworks, and constitute a first step toward understanding his aesthetic choices. The Louis-Philippe letters also allow us to understand how the collection, assembled rapidly over a 10-year period, evolved to form a true "museum," with a curator and catalog.

Account of the Commune / Bracquemond
Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, "Public Commemoration and Private Memory: Félix Bracquemond vis-à-vis the Siege of Paris and the Commune," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 73–88.

In 2009 and 2010, respectively, the Getty Research Institute acquired a sketchbook and a set of prints by the French painter and printmaker Félix Bracquemond (1833–1914). Both groups of works document episodes from the traumatic eight-month period in Parisian history (September 1870–May 1871) that witnessed the siege and invasion of Paris, and the Commune. This essay discusses the differences between the two documents: one a set of prints, carefully packaged for marketing purposes, which depicts scenes from the siege; the other a spontaneously scribbled narrative along with several watercolors and wash drawings that provide a dramatic eyewitness account of the final "bloody week" of the Paris uprising. It then links these differences to the ways in which the siege and the Commune have fared in collective French memory.

Photo of David Croal Thomson / unknown
Anne Helmreich, "David Croal Thomson: The Professionalization of Art Dealing in an Expanding Field," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 89–100.

This essay examines the practices and strategies adopted by art dealers to establish their professional expertise. The essay focuses on David Croal Thomson, whose papers are held by the Getty Research Institute and who was affiliated with the London firms of Goupil, Thomas Agnews & Sons, the French Gallery, and Barbizon House. Thomson eschewed connoisseurship as practiced by many of his predecessors in favor of art writing, participating alongside academics, critics, and museum keepers in shaping the emergence of art history in Great Britain. Rather than the model of empirical historicism then being adopted from Germany, Thomson preferred biography, a dominant discourse in British art writing that was well suited to supporting the market in contemporary art.

Cover design for Mirskontsa / Goncharova
Nancy Perloff, "Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards): Collaborative Book Art and Transrational Sounds," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 101–18.

The artist's book Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards) occupies a unique place in the history of Russian futurism. It was the outcome of an intricate collaboration, in which two futurist poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexei Kruchenykh, and four painters, most prominently Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, worked closely together to create a new form of book art. Mirskontsa was the first of the futurist books to cultivate an aesthetic of perpetual variation based on a curious impulse to resist finality and permanence and to embrace the idea of infinite beginnings. The sound poetry in this book transformed an essentially visual and verbal medium into an auditory one. Positing that the artist's book as a hybrid form has not received the attention that scholars devote to other media, this essay proposes a critical, analytic reading of Mirskontsa that highlights the hybrid, that is the interplay of word-image-sound, and foregrounds the phonic.

Senegalese Soldier / Hoffman
Rebecca Peabody, "Race and Literary Sculpture in Malvina Hoffman's Heads and Tales," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 119–32.

In 1933 the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago opened the Races of Mankind—an anthropological exhibition of nearly one hundred portrait sculptures, all by American artist Malvina Hoffman, which was meant to display the physical traits of racial difference as they were understood by scientists of the era. A few years later, Hoffman published a book documenting her experiences while carrying out the commission. Titled Heads and Tales, the work is at once a personal memoir of Hoffman's travels, a technical guide to the process of creating bronze sculpture, and a distillation of Hoffman's reflections on the science that undergirded the project's racial typing. While Heads and Tales has often been cited in order to explicate the sculptural exhibition, it has not yet been considered as its own object—a discrete project that is fundamentally linked to, yet still separate from, the Field's exhibition. This essay argues that Heads and Tales should be considered as its own object of study, that the work done by the book differs in important ways from the work done by the exhibition, and that the illustrated text of Heads and Tales went further than the exhibition in making racialized ways of perceiving others accessible to readers.

View of the exhibition / unknown
Martin Schieder, "Alfred Schmela, Yves Klein, and a Sound Recording," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 133–47.

From the late 1950s until well into the 1970s, the Düsseldorf gallerist Alfred Schmela was instrumental in helping German artists and collectors to escape the misery and isolation of the postwar era and to engage with a new international art scene. In 2007 Schmela's estate found a new home in the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute, which also includes the archive for the exhibition Yves: Propositions monochromes, with which Schmela opened his gallery on May 31, 1957. Besides letters and photographs, the archive contains a remarkable document: what is in all probability the first sound recording of an artists' talk in Germany. This took place in the gallery, with an audience of mainly laypeople, on the evening after the opening and was led by Yves Klein, Norbert Kricke, and Pierre Restany. These archival materials cast a new light on that legendary exhibition, in which the display, the German-French cultural exchange, and the reception and medialization of Propositions monochromes were all of special significance. At the same time they also convey a typical picture of the reservations the German public still had toward abstract art in the late 1950s.

Tools of Scholarship

Fanal of the Christ Child standing / unknown
Lina Nagel, "The Tesauro de Arte & Arquitectura and Tesauro Regional Patrimonial: Tools for Describing and Enhancing Access to Latin American Cultural Resources Online," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 149–56.

Two digital tools for the control of vocabulary have been developed to aid the automation of Chilean museums: the Tesauro de Arte & Arquitectura (TAA) and the Tesauro Regional Patrimonial (TRP). The methodology for translating and seeking Spanish equivalents for the Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) required a survey of and in-depth research into specialized publications and legal and other documents relating to terms of art and architecture used in Latin America; this in turn made it possible to suggest new terms for the AAT. The TRP underwent a different form of development and is being prepared for a thorough editorial revision before it is made available to the scientific community in the areas of anthropology and archaeology. Both online thesauri make it possible to normalize the information available in the vernacular Spanish in other digital resources created by heritage organizations. This in turn makes possible the exchange, recovery, and feedback of information contained on digital platforms generally.

MACE Semiotic-Based Faceted Taxonomy / unknown
Massimiliano Condotta, "Using Controlled Vocabularies for a Creative Interpretation of Architectural Digital Resources," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 157–63.

Architectural works and artistic productions are often characterized by a process of signification based on the personal interpretations of those who enjoy and use them. Such freedom of interpretation is understood in the present paper as a creative process that, in reworking facts and concepts, leads to the development of alternative solutions that are innovative and therefore creative. If applied by way of semiotic taxonomies to the management of digital resources, this process can enhance the contents by transforming them into multipliers of experience, able to provide new and unexpected suggestions capable of activating creative mental processes. The research and experimentation carried out by the faculty of architecture of the Università Iuav di Venezia, described in the present paper, help to explain and elucidate this theory, which presents a new challenge for faceted taxonomies and controlled vocabularies.

Acquisitions and Discoveries

Waterspout with Acheloös / unknown
John North Hopkins, "The Getty Triton Mutulus Plaque and Acheloös Waterspout," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 165–72.

This essay reassesses the function and significance of two terracotta plaques in the J. Paul Getty Museum collection. The first is a revetment previously of unknown function, which the author proposes may have served as a mutulus plaque. The other is a sculpted head of Acheloös, which the author suggests may have served as a waterspout, thus pushing back the date for the earliest example of such an architectural feature by some 200 years.

Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Christians / Dürer
Louis Marchesano, "Prints by Albrecht Dürer in the Getty Research Institute's Special Collections," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 173–82.

This brief, well-illustrated introduction to the Getty Research Institute's recent acquisitions of prints by the German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) includes discussions on one of the artist's earliest multi-figure woodcuts, Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand Christians (ca. 1496–97), and a complete set of the 1511 edition of Life of the Virgin. The strategic acquisitions also include a magnificent example of the 1511 woodcut of St. Christopher. Its fluid lines give the composition the appearance of a drawing, and therefore demonstrates how far Dürer had challenged the technical conventions of woodcutting. This essay ends with an overview of one of only six etchings produced by the artist, the enigmatic Desperate Man (ca. 1515).

View of the Palacio Salvo / unknown
Virginia Bonicatto, "Mario Palanti and the Palacio Salvo: The Art of Constructing Skyscrapers," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 183–88.

In 1922 the Milanese architect Mario Palanti won an international competition and for the second time in his career gained the opportunity to design and construct a skyscraper: the Palacio Salvo in Montevideo, Uruguay. The building was commissioned by the Salvo brothers, a family of immigrant industrialists, and combined real-estate investment with architectonic experiment. The documentation on this building in the collection of the Getty Research Institute affords a new perspective on Palanti's architecture. In the context of early 20th-century Montevideo, this architect brought to bear his Milanese training on the new problems presented by the urban landscape; the result was a work that combined technical, formal, and functional innovation.

Italian textile / unknown
Perri Lee Roberts, "Ulrich A. Middeldorf (1901–83) and Textiles," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 189–96.

Known for his scholarship on 16th-century Italian sculpture, drawings for sculptures, medals, and plaquettes, the eminent German American art historian Ulrich A. Middeldorf (1901–83) was also a student and collector of Renaissance textiles. This essay examines the evolution of his interest in Italian fabrics and personal collecting habits, as revealed in his correspondence with textile experts Harold B. Burnham, Stella Mary Newton, and Anne E. Wardwell (records stored in the Special Collections of the Getty Research Institute), as well as through statements he made in essays and reviews.

Mary Caroline Richards / unknown
Jenni Sorkin, "The Pottery Happening: M. C. Richards's Clay Things to Touch . . . (1958)," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 197–202.

A pivotal figure in the history of Black Mountain College, Mary Caroline Richards (1916–99) was an English professor turned potter and philosopher. This essay reconsiders the role and nature of her ephemeral practices within the context of her 1950s avant-garde milieu.

Gerhard Wolf and Christa Wolf / Hines
Thomas S. Hines, "Christa Wolf and the 'Coming to Oneself': Reflections on a Friendship," Getty Research Journal, no. 5 (2013): 203–11.

The German writer Christa Wolf (1929–2011) was a visiting scholar at the Getty in 1992. Architectural historian Thomas S. Hines reflects on his friendship with Wolf in Los Angeles and after, and the exploration of identity and personal history that played out against this background.