Reading Intimately: Private Devotion in Medieval Manuscripts

Ruth Intervention2

Reading Intimately: Private Devotion in Medieval Manuscripts
A curatorial intervention by Ruth Mullett, Ph.D. candidate, Medieval Studies

This intervention comprises three manuscript fragments, all with vernacular components, dating from the thirteenth- to the fifteenth-century. Two of the manuscript fragments are written in Latin with French verse insertions. One is a woodcut image from a German printed text, Der Schatzbehalter. The manuscripts are brought together to challenge perspectives on medieval devotion: two undecorated manuscript fragments and a woodcut from a printed book are placed alongside, and equal to, the ornate objects already on display in the gallery. The viewer is asked to reassess their understanding of the ‘museum worthy’ display object.  The intervention represents a unique opportunity to view manuscript leaves that directly relate to Marian and Christological devotion alongside altarpieces and sculpture that do the same. The manuscripts introduce, however, an intimacy rarely represented in medieval galleries. The use of the vernacular for these devotions was deliberate; unlike the Latin of the main text, these lyrics were recorded in the owner’s native tongue. These pages would have been spoken aloud and meditated upon internally, and as such they represent a particularly personal form of devotion to Christ and Mary.  The intervention aims to embrace the sensory capacity of these book objects in ways that are related to their original devotional purpose. While it is not possible to handle and touch the manuscript objects, the aural component of recitation is highlighted. The visitor is encouraged to listen to, and to read along with, the contents of the manuscript leaves through audio recordings. Likewise, they are encouraged to gaze upon the woodcut, allowing the image to communicate independently from the text it was formerly contained within. The performative, sensory nature of the objects on display brings to the fore their original affective purpose and deepens our understanding of the complex interaction between the public and communal sphere in medieval Europe.

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Framing Fields: Scientific Illustrations and Changing Worldviews

Louisa S

Framing Fields: Scientific Illustrations and Changing Worldviews
A curatorial intervention by Louisa Smieska, Ph.D. candidate, Chemistry

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, this fabled dichotomy has since been used to describe the worldviews of many great philosophers and writers. Isaiah Berlin summarized hedgehogs as those who view the world as unified by a single defining idea, and foxes as those who experience the world through a variety of divergent pursuits. What would it mean to apply these categories to scientists? This spring, an “intervention” in the 17th century Dutch painting gallery at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art explores the origins of scientific disciplines by contrasting two giants of seventeenth and eighteenth-century natural history: the enigmatic polymath Athanasius Kircher and the famous naturalist Carl Linnaeus. This temporary miniature exhibit employs artworks from the Johnson Museum permanent collection and scientific illustrations from the Kroch Library Rare and Manuscript Collections to reframe seventeenth-century still life painting as a crucial period poised between two dramatically different intellectual eras. Works on view include a sixteenth-century illuminated manuscript page, a nineteenth-century botanical illustration, and many images from texts by Kircher and Linnaeus. For the duration of the installation, the public is invited to cast their votes on which scientist they find most engaging.

My intervention, titled “Framing Fields: Scientific Illustrations and Changing Worldviews,” reflects personal interests in the history of science through an art historical lens. I was inspired by the “cabinet of curiosities” display in the seventeenth century Dutch gallery: as a precursor to modern museums, the cabinet of curiosities is a form of curatorial practice. How objects are displayed, both in museum displays and within art itself, profoundly influences what is seen and understood.[1] I became interested in studying how changing visual representations of the natural world through the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries both defined and were shaped by the concurrent emergence of early modern scientific disciplines. I find that the eighteenth-century Linnaean enterprise of ordering the natural world has surprising roots in the 17th century aesthetic of wondrous, all-encompassing variety.

“Framing Fields” consists of two works from the Johnson Museum collections, a sixteenth century illuminated manuscript page and an early nineteenth century botanical illustration, as well as two images reproduced from books in the Kroch Rare and Manuscript Collections. These works surround the seventeenth century Otto van Schrieck painting, “Still Life with Thistles” (Figure 1), across from the cabinet of curiosities.

Figure 1. Otto van Schrieck, Still Life with Thistles, ca. 1670.

Figure 1. Otto van Schrieck, Still Life with Thistles, ca. 1670.

The intervention is intended to reframe seventeenth century Dutch still lives and their narrative of Western trade and with the development of a nature/science dichotomy whose development can be traced to the present day. I will summarize the arrangement of the intervention as a whole, then discuss the works I have chosen to highlight in detail within their art historical contexts.

Curatorial practice considerations
I strategically selected and placed the objects in “Framing Fields” to create thematic interrelations within the intervention and throughout the galleries. The intervention is arranged to frame the still life painting by Otto van Schrieck, with a focus on flora on the left (the illuminated manuscript and the Andrews print) and fauna on the right (the two snake reproductions). Each side of the painting also contains an image that falls chronologically before (the illuminated manuscript, the Kircher snakes) and after (the Andrews print, the Linnaeus snakes) the van Schrieck painting. The intervention is meant to be read from left to right on the wall, which corresponds to the way I observed most visitors moving through the seventeenth century Dutch gallery.

There are several instances of subject matter correspondence within my intervention and throughout the galleries. The illuminated manuscript treats many of the same subjects as the van Schrieck painting, including butterflies, snails, and flowering plants. Likewise, the adjacent placement of the Kircher and Linnaeus snake engravings emphasizes the subtly painted snake in the van Schrieck still life. The inclusion of a page from a Books of Hours relates the intervention to similar works on display in the previous Medieval art gallery. On a broader scale, the intervention is also related to the Beyond Earth Art exhibit, where artists are seeking to redefine standards for visual representation of objective data and to renegotiate the human relationship to the natural world. In a sense, the more interrelated the world appears, the nearer we may be re-approaching a seventeenth-century universal (even Kircherian?) worldview ourselves.

Although it draws on a relatively large number of artworks, “Framing Fields” functions as an intervention by framing an object in the permanent collection in a new way. The intervention juxtaposes Museum and Kroch Rare and Manuscript Collection materials that would not normally be seen together. Van Schrieck’s Still Life with Thistles is singled out for its ability to engage a facet of visual history not strongly addressed in the Johnson Museum—that of scientific illustration. “Framing Fields” attempts to reach a counterpublic of scientists who may normally feel alienated from or uninterested by what the Museum has to offer.[2] The press release for the project will be sent to a range of departments in the sciences, and I hope to learn from the touchscreen feedback whether this attempt was successful in attracting a new audience.

The glory of God’s creation
Representational artworks immediately preceding the early modern period in Europe tended to reflect the social and intellectual prominence of the Christian faith. Depictions of the natural world often served as reminders of God’s power and generosity through the wonders of creation and as points of symbolic access to religious practice. Many surviving examples of visual artworks from this period are found in Books of Hours, popular prayer books intended for the non-ordained citizens of the Medieval and Renaissance worlds, whose illustrations ranged from the simple and mass-produced to the elaborately detailed.[3] In the case of the sixteenth century “Illuminated Manuscript Page with Naturalistic Border of Birds, Insects, and Flowers” (Figure 2), the plants and animals illustrated around the text act as objects of meditation for Christian devotion.

Figure 2. Flemish, Ghent-Bruges school. Illuminated Manuscript Page with Naturalistic Border of Birds, Insects, and Flowers. ca. 1500-1510.

Figure 2. Flemish, Ghent-Bruges school. Illuminated Manuscript Page with Naturalistic Border of Birds, Insects, and Flowers. ca. 1500-1510.

The text on both sides of this page contains prayers for the dead, including the recognizable refrain “Requiem eternam dona eis domine et lux perpetua luceat eis (Eternal rest, grant them, O Lord, and light perpetual shine upon them).” The presence of this supplication in the text could indicate that this page comes from the Office of the Dead, a series of prayers found in nearly all Books of Hours.[4] Indeed, most of the subjects of the illuminated border might be interpreted as symbols of rebirth, signaling a hope for a divine afterlife. Not only are the caterpillars “reborn” as butterflies, but the birds and plants can also be seen as life that arises from inanimate eggs and seeds. However, these subjects are also repeated on numerous other manuscript pages that correspond less directly to divine reincarnation, such as depictions of the Pieta (Figure 3) or the Adoration of the Magi (Figure 4).

Figure 3. Workshop of Simon Marmion, Belgium. Book of Hours: ms. W. 431, fol. 77v: Stabat Mater: Pieta. ca. 1480. via Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD.

Figure 3. Workshop of Simon Marmion, Belgium. Book of Hours: ms. W. 431, fol. 77v: Stabat Mater: Pieta. ca. 1480. via Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD.

The best interpretation may be simply that these illustrations frame God’s grace with his immensely varied creativity and generosity to mankind.

The human relationship to nature implied by this type of illustration is thus one of humble awe of divine abundance and potentiality. However, the relationship of natural elements to one another in these images is generally arbitrary in scale and hinges on their shared symbolic content. The realistic plants and animals cast shadows on the page, but there is little sense of their natural sizes. This style of representation does not take a strong interest in the interrelation between elements of the natural world, but rather displays the wonders of creation to enhance the adjacent text or illustration.

Figure 4. Flemish, Ghent-Bruges school. Hours of Ferdinand V and Isabella of Spain, fol. 136v: Adoration of Magi. ca. 1492-1504. via Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.

Figure 4. Flemish, Ghent-Bruges school. Hours of Ferdinand V and Isabella of Spain, fol. 136v: Adoration of Magi. ca. 1492-1504. via Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH.

The cabinet of curiosity
Rapid expansion of Western exploration of and trade with the East and the New World during the early modern period brought thousands of exotic natural and man-made objects into European hands. For those with the means to acquire these objects, the assembly of collections became a true fascination. As the replica cabinet of curiosity display in the seventeenth century gallery illustrates, these collections generally contained examples of fine artistic craftsmanship as well as unusual botanical and zoological specimens[5, 6]The wonders of nature and human creation together could also serve the function of enhancing the meaning of text and illustration. In Figure 5, trompe-l’oeil shelves of finely decorated vessels holding peacock feathers, fruit, and fresh flowers surround an Adoration of the Magi scene. Here, it is as if the owner of this Book of Hours is making his own rich offering to the infant Christ alongside the Magi. Man-made and natural objects together could be used to express a carefully curated balance of affluence and piety.

Figure 5. Flemish. Book of Hours, Dominican Use. So-called ‘Hours of Engelbert of Nassau,’ fol. 145v. ca. 1470-1490. via Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Figure 5. Flemish. Book of Hours, Dominican Use. So-called ‘Hours of Engelbert of Nassau,’ fol. 145v. ca. 1470-1490. via Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

The influx of new artifacts and creatures also added urgency to the philosophical inquiries of the early modern period, which included questions of the origins of life and the organization of the natural world.[7] Visual representations of the natural world during this period reflect these questions by exploring the interrelationships between diverse and exotic elements of nature. In this intervention, the van Schrieck painting at the center most directly represents the seventeenth-century examination of the origins of and connections between plant and animal life. The genre of sottobosco, or forest-floor painting invented by van Schrieck is thought to express support for the theory of spontaneous generation of “lower” forms of life, including the snails, insects, lizard and snake depicted in this example.[8] These chthonic creatures were thought to spring from the earth fully formed, but could also easily be absorbed back into the fertile soil. In contrast with the illuminated manuscript borders in Figures 2-4, these subjects of the painting are represented in realistic style and scale relative to one another. Although the dense arrangement of various species exaggerates actual biodiversity, the animals in the painting interact with their botanical setting and are arranged to signify an Aristotelian natural hierarchy. A butterfly, or Greek psyche, is placed at the top of the composition, indicating the supremacy of the soul over the lowlier creatures and the baser drives they represent.[9] The triumph of the soul’s capacity to develop over other less “pure” organisms is connected to alchemical ideals of spiritual purification and affirms human development as the pinnacle of divine creation. A progression of thistles in various stages of growth from left to right might signify the lifetime in which this spiritual development must be accomplished. Van Schrieck’s painting remarkably balances the tension between a scientific interest in the origins of life with a classical and spiritual perspective on the hierarchy of nature.

The engraving of snakes (Figure 6) reproduced from Athanasius Kircher’s text, Arca Noë, is not clearly visually related to the eclectic universalism generally associated with cabinets of curiosities.

Figure 6. Engraving of snakes, reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Arca Noë (1675): 54-55. Framing Fields, right.

Figure 6. Engraving of snakes, reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Arca Noë (1675): 54-55. Framing Fields, right.

Instead, the snakes are depicted realistically and placed outside of a natural setting for comparison to one another. However, like van Schrieck’s painting, Kircher’s scholarship exemplifies the unification of scientific inquiry and spiritual development. Kircher was a German Jesuit polymath who worked in Rome for most of his life on projects as diverse as magnetism, the interior of the Earth, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Arca Noë is concerned with the narrative and logistical details of how Noah’s ark was built and stocked with enough animals to regenerate the world’s pre-flood biodiversity.[10] In the text, Kircher organizes the animals into three groups: “insects,” or lowly terrestrial creatures; quadrupeds, including amphibians; and birds; within these groups, he arranges the animals in order of decreasing weight. The organization of the Ark is illustrated in Figure 7; the three stories of cabins filled with animals, people, and supplies echoes the visual language of the cabinet of curiosities.

Figure 7. Inside of the ark, reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Arca Noë (1675): 46-47.

Figure 7. Inside of the ark, reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Arca Noë (1675): 46-47.

In addition, realizing that not all species would fit on the Ark, Kircher makes two important scientific assumptions. The first is that all the “insects” except snakes reproduce by growing from seed deposited in the earth, something like van Schrieck’s spontaneous generation, so that these creatures must have been left off the Ark and instead obtained from seed in the droppings of the other animals on the Ark. The second assumption is that hybrid and climate-specialized animals could be left off the Ark, and simply be obtained later by crossbreeding or acclimatizing other creatures. Kircher’s hybrids included mules (horse and ass), leopards (lion and panther), armadillos (hedgehog and tortoise), and the fantastic cameleopard (panther and camel).[11] Although we would disagree with large parts of these assumptions, Kircher’s organization of species into hierarchically ordered groups and the realization that new species could be produced by adaptation to a local environment are plainly precursors to the later famed work of Carl Linnaeus and even Charles Darwin. However, Kircher’s enthusiastic efforts to align his scientific studies with his Catholic alliance and Hermetic mysticism led to inconsistencies that other scholars found impossible to accept.

The seventeenth century in Europe witnessed violent upheaval in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) as well as an enormous expansion of the “known” world. An intense interest in understanding the new world order was reflected not only in cabinets of curiosity, but also in still life painting and scholarly texts. For a brief period, ancient and modern views of the world coexisted in a heady mixture, and it was possible to imagine a purely unified worldview- as Kircher does in the frontispiece to his work on magnetism, Magnes (Figure 8). This illustration shows medallions representing different facets of knowledge, such as geometry, music, and poetry, linked together and inscribed with the message, “The world is tied with secret knots.” In spite of this unifying passion, the short-lived popularity of the sottobosco genre and the decline in Kircher’s reputation by the end of his life indicate the difficulty most scholars found in harmonizing objective experiment, spiritual dedication, and a universal worldview.

Figure 8. Frontispiece reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Magnes: siue, De arte magnetica opvs tripartitvm (1641).

Figure 8. Frontispiece reproduced from Athanasius Kircher, Magnes: siue, De arte magnetica opvs tripartitvm (1641).

Ordering nature
Even the great universalist Kircher and his contemporaries were interested in organizing the natural world, as discussed above; however, the drive to categorize and order nature was taken to new extremes in the early eighteenth century, especially in the field of botany. The use of naturalistic drawings and grids to arrange botanical information was common throughout the seventeenth century, but the organizing principles behind such systems were not standardized, ranging from alphabetic to geographic depending on author preference.[12] These systems were generally serial (i.e., lists) and use-driven rather than hierarchical, created to supplement the study of medically interesting plants in nature and in medical teaching gardens.[13] During the later seventeenth century, however, morphology became increasingly important as the key factor in distinguishing plants from one another. Veracity, rather than artistry, became the essential characteristic of illustration.[14]

It was in this atmosphere of growing accuracy in visual representation of morphology that Carl Linnaeus developed his taxonomic system of classifying the natural world using binomial nomenclature within three broad kingdoms, publishing the first edition of his Systema Naturae in 1735. It could even be argued that the organization of text on the pages of the Systema Naturae has its origins in the seventeenth century table and grid systems.[15] Linnaeus’ tables may have been intended primarily as helpful memory tools for naturalists in the field.[16] However, it is difficult not to see his system as inherently hierarchical, placing man first before the rest of nature, animals, plants, and rocks included.

Although Linnaeus did not invent binomial nomenclature or the idea of grouping classes of organisms together, his system was the first to be so widely adopted by naturalists throughout Europe, perhaps in part because it provided a framework for the incorporation of newly discovered species into the records of Western scholarship. The image listing the genera within the class “amphibia” is reproduced for my intervention from the seventh edition of this volume (Figure 9). The visual similarity between it and the image of snakes from Kircher’s Arca Noë is striking. In both cases, the animals are depicted naturalistically outside of a natural context, but their sources are radically different in worldview. I mentioned above that Kircher seems to have anticipated Linnaeus in the classification of the natural world; indeed, it seems that Linnaeus was familiar with at least some of Kircher’s scholarship, mentioning him by name in correspondence.[17, 18]

Figure 9. Amphibia reproduced from Carl Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (1735). Framing Fields, right.

Figure 9. Amphibia reproduced from Carl Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (1735). Framing Fields, right.

Figure 10. Methodus plantarum sexualis in Sistemate Naturate descripta. Originally by Georg Dionysius Ehret. Reproduced from Carl Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (1735).

Figure 10. Methodus plantarum sexualis in Sistemate Naturate descripta. Originally by Georg Dionysius Ehret. Reproduced from Carl Linnaeus, Systema Naturae (1735).

Linnaeus stated in 1751 that, “the best pictures should show all the parts of the plants, even the smallest parts of the fruit-body. The most numerous and outstanding differences, which do most to distinguish a species, lurk in the smallest parts.”[19] The chart in Systema Naturae depicting the Linnaean sexual system for plant identification set the standard (Figure 10).

Greater attention to detail with little to no emphasis on a natural setting characterizes much post-Linnaean botanical illustration. An early nineteenth century print in my intervention of the Cape heath Erica grandiflora by Henry Charles Andrews exemplifies this new style (Figure 11). Andrews published this image, and many like it, in a series of bulletins titled “Coloured Engravings of Heaths,” whose title page boasted:

The drawings taken from living plants only. With the appropriate specific character, full description, native place of growth, and time of flowering of each; in Latin and English. Each figure accompanied by accurate dissections of the several parts (magnified where necessary) upon which the specific distinction has been founded, according to the Linnaean System.[20] The shrub is illustrated in bloom, and the parts of its flowers are depicted below, numbered from one to five and generally increasing in magnification from left to right. As more plants were being imported into Britain from abroad, amateur gardeners demanded affordable guides for their own personal use. One fashion was even to plant gardens according to the Linnaean taxonomic system (Figure 12), effectively turning the physical world into a sort of cabinet of curiosities.[21]

Figure 11. Henry Charles Andrews, Erica grandiflora, ca. 1800. Framing Fields, left.

Figure 11. Henry Charles Andrews, Erica grandiflora, ca. 1800. Framing Fields, left.

With the Linnaean enterprise to catalogue the natural world according to purely objective morphology, the depiction of the natural world seems shifted irreversibly towards the secular. Yet the Systema Naturae concludes with verse 24 of Psalm 104: “O Jehovah! Quam ampla sunt Tua opera! Quam ea omnia sapienter fecisti! Quam plena est terra possessione Tua! (O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.)” Although the visual language for the representation of the natural world is somewhat changed, post-Linnaean illustration and medieval illumination share a style that tends to isolate natural elements from their settings and a sense of wonder in the divine creation. However, the post-Linnaean world would likely interpret Kircher’s idea that “Nothing is more beautiful than the knowledge of everything,”[22] as referring to the minutia of a specific field, not a universal understanding. The Linnaean focus on morphology as an indicator of identity led to closer and closer looking, driving future scientific inquiry into more and more finely divided subfields.

Figure 12. Garden Plan reproduced from John Hill, The gardener's new kalendar (London: printed for T. Osborne, in Gray's-Inn; T. Trye, near Gray's Inn Gate, Holborn; and S. Crowder and Co. on London Bridge, 1758): 61.

Figure 12. Garden Plan reproduced from John Hill, The gardener’s new kalendar (London: printed for T. Osborne, in Gray’s-Inn; T. Trye, near Gray’s Inn Gate, Holborn; and S. Crowder and Co. on London Bridge, 1758): 61.

Are you a Kircher or a Linnaeus?
The final portion of the intervention is a touchscreen component located below the two prints of snakes (Figures 6 and 9), intended to engage visitors by asking them if they feel a particular affinity for either Kircher or Linnaeus. The touchscreen runs a website powered by wix.com, located at http://lmb327.wix.com/linnaeusorkircher. The head of the site asks, “Are you a Kircher or a Linnaeus?” Below the name of each scholar are the years of their lives and an epithet- “The last man who knew everything” (Kircher) and “The father of modern taxonomy” (Linnaeus)- followed by slides that can be viewed at leisure, presenting other images from Kircher’s and Linnaeus’ works. At the bottom of the page, viewers can anonymously submit the name of their preferred scholar.

The touchscreen allows the intervention to contain a much greater number of images than gallery space would otherwise allow. It also provides a visual elaboration on the biographies and philosophies of Kircher and Linnaeus, figures who may not be immediately familiar to visitors. By asking visitors to identify with these historical figures, I hope to underscore the differences between the worldviews behind the two snake images on display and to surprise viewers when they realize the contrasting sources for these images. I also hope that by prompting a sense of affinity for a system of visual representation, visitors might feel a bit of the same sort of invitation that a cabinet of curiosities might have generated- perhaps it will offer, as Elizabeth Honig puts it, the feeling that generating meaning is an individual process of imaginative performance.[23]

Concluding thoughts
The subject of scientific illustration is entirely too large to be fully addressed in such a small intervention. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the number of works in the Museum’s collection that could be related to this topic, and also by how well these pieces work together despite their disparate acquisitions. Further exhibits on this subject would do well to explore the extensive visual information available in the Kroch Rare and Manuscript History of Science Collection. The research for this intervention also brought up several fascinating subtopics within scientific illustration that would be interesting to study in greater depth, particularly the issue of authorship of images. Many illustrations within the history of science were executed by unknown or poorly acknowledged artists, while credit for the images is linked to the scholar who generated the accompanying text. I suspect that graduate students in the sciences would be interested in a critical comparison between the historical situation and their own generation of quantitative figures for the advancement of a primary investigator. In the mean time, I hope that this intervention has reinforced the importance of visual representations of the natural world in the development of scientific fields as they are known today.

Notes
[1] Svetlana Alpers, “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991): 29.

[2] Jennifer González, From Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 65-119.

[3] Lawrence R. Poos, “Social History and the Book of Hours,” in Time sanctified: the Book of hours in medieval art and life. ed. Roger S. Wieck (New York: G. Braziller in association with the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 1988): 33-34.

[4] Roger S. Wieck,Top of Form

Roger Time sanctified: the Book of hours in medieval art and life (New York: G. Braziller in association with the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, 1988): 124.Bottom of Form

[5] Daniela Bleichmar, “Seeing the World in a Room: Looking at Exotica in Early Modern Collections,”in Collecting Across Cultures, ed. Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011): 15-16.

[6] Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen, “Commerce and the Representation of Nature in Art and Science,” in Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe, ed. Pamela Smith and Paula Findlen (New York: Routledge, 2002): 6.

[7] Karin Leonhard, “Pictura’s fertile field: Otto Marseus van Schrieck and the genre of sottobosco painting,” Simiolus 34 (2009): 105-106.

[8] Leonhard, 97.

[9] Leonhard, 109.

[10] Joscelyn Godwin, Athanasius Kircher: a Renaissance man and the quest for lost knowledge (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979): 25-27.

[11] Godwin, 26.

[12] Claudia Swan, “From Blowfish to Flower Still Life Paintings: Classification and Its Images, circa 1600,” in Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe, ed. Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen (New York: Routledge, 2002): 122.

[13] Swan, “From Blowfish to Flower Still Life Paintings,” 113.

[14] Claudia Swan, “Illustrated Natural History,” in Prints and the pursuit of knowledge in early modern Europe, ed. Susan Dackerman (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Art Museums, 2011): 190.

[15] Isabelle Charmantier, “Carl Linnaeus and the Visual Representation of Nature,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 41 (2011): 390.

[16] Charmantier, 403.

[17] Carl Linnaeus to Kungliga Svenska Vetenskapsakademien, December 1760, The Linnaean correspondence, linnaeus.c18.net, letter L2826 (consulted 14 April 2014).

[18] Carl Linnaeus to Johan Ernst Gunnerus, 1 December 1766, The Linnaean correspondence, linnaeus.c18.net, letter L3839 (consulted 14 April 2014).

[19] Carl Linnaeus, Philosophia Botanica, trans. Stephen Freer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003): 284.

[20] Henry Charles Andrews, Coloured Engravings of Heaths vol. III (London: Published by the author, No. 5, Knightsbridge, printed by Taylor and Co., 1802): 1. http://www.botanicus.org/page/1901767 (consulted 15 April 2014)

[21] John Hill, The gardener’s new kalendar, divided according to the twelve months of the year, And under each Month into the separate Weeks. Illustrated with elegant and useful figures. Containing The whole Practice of Gardening, under the four general Heads, 1. The Pleasure Garden, 2. The Kitchen Ground, 3. The Seminary, 4. The Fruit Garden, and Orchard. And Directing What is to be done every Week; and the Manner of doing it: With the general Culture of hardy, Greenhouse, and Stove Plants; the raising tender Annuals, and the Management of Flowers. The system of Linnæus is also explained in this Work, and illustrated with Figures; Exhibiting The Characters of all the Classes. And the method of designing, and laying out a garden in the modern taste; With a Copper Plate Figure, elegantly engraved, from a Drawing of Mr. Wale, After a Design laid down in the Compleat Body of Gardening (London: printed for T. Osborne, in Gray’s-Inn; T. Trye, near Gray’s Inn Gate, Holborn; and S. Crowder and Co. on London Bridge, 1758): 63.

[22] Godwin, 9.

[23] Elizabeth Alice Honig, “Making Sense of Things: On the Motives of Dutch Still Life,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 34 (1998): 183.

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The Modern Ancient Tablet

The Modern Ancient Tablet
A curatorial intervention by Alex Marko, MA student, Archaeology

The Modern Ancient Tablet explores the many ways of seeing ancient Mesopotamian art.  The Jonathan and Jeannette Rosen Cuneiform Tablet Collection has allowed the Johnson Museum unprecedented access to artifacts from the ancient Mesopotamian world, and The Modern Ancient Tablet pairs these artifacts with cutting edge scientific tools and the research they have enabled.  This fascinating juxtaposition of ancient and modern explores what we see when we look at ancient art and how our experience can be enhanced and changed through scientific representations. It is estimated that only 200 specialists in the world can translate and read cuneiform tablets, yet these objects are still highly prized and universally appreciated as finely crafted works of the ancient human past.  The digital representations and 3D printed replicas displayed in The Modern Ancient Tablet allow new, more in-depth appreciation of the artistry and sophistication of these tablets that were used for detailed accounting and intricate storytelling.  The thrill of viewing tablets that are some of the earliest examples of writing is a rare privilege in itself, and The Modern Ancient Tablet enhances our ability to engage with these priceless artifacts.  Modern scanning capabilities even allow museum visitors to see inside artifacts that have not been opened since they were sealed more than 4,000 years ago.

Cuneiform tablets are uniquely situated as both archaeological artifacts and art objects.  Cuneiform is the world’s oldest known system of writing,[1] and Mesopotamian accounting systems such as sealed bullae with interior counting tokens predate even cuneiform.  This ancient system of writing was not deciphered until the 1800s[2] and remains the domain of only highly trained academic specialists to this day.  Coinciding with the academic isolation of these classes of objects is also a spatial one, as existing collections span four continents[3] and require expensive travel (often leading to highly restricted access).[4]  Despite the many barriers to full academic engagement with these artifacts of the ancient Near East, any museum that is privileged enough to have access to them would be remiss to exclude them.

In The Modern Ancient Tablet[5]a Pre-Sargonic[6] bulla dating from the 4th millennium BCE[7] and an Old Babylonian cuneiform tablet, both from the Jonathon and Jeannette Rosen Cuneiform Tablet Collection, have been installed alongside modern scientific interpretive tools.  The aim of the intervention is two-fold: firstly, the juxtaposition of ancient artifacts alongside modern scientific representations is meant to illuminate the advances in scholarship such tools facilitate.  The second and arguably more important aim is to explore both the way we see ancient artifacts and the experiences that our modes of viewing allow.  The Modern Ancient Tablet, therefore, is meant to explicitly inform as well as raise unanswered questions for the viewer.  Paramount among the issues raised by the exhibit are the implications of the way that viewing publics experience art and objects, both in the museum and beyond[8].

Ways of Seeing
At the core of The Modern Ancient Tablet are the ways in which we, as individuals, publics, connoisseurs, and/or scholars, see objects and art.  The modes of display incorporated in many museums often “isolate [an object] from its world, to offer it up for attentive looking and thus to transform it into art,”[9] a process which creates a unique way of seeing.  This mode of viewing has both positive and negative consequences; isolation may diminish contextual information, but simultaneously allows for a depth of study owed to its ideal situation for “attentive viewing.”  The former consequence, in some cases, can lead to museums “[making] it hard to see”[10] by removing objects from their broader context without adequately interpreting and explaining them.  This problem particularly arises with archaeological artifacts, which are sometimes difficult to appreciate[11] due to their nature, size, delicacy, and reliance on contextual information for interpretation.  The addition of new interpretive tools, particularly those that represent objects in their full 3-dimensional form, can greatly help to enhance appreciation of museum objects.[12]  The use of 3D digital representations can serve as a proxy for the haptic experience that researchers, as well as an objects original creators, have when engaging with an ancient artifact.  Technology has also enabled mimetic replicas through 3D printing, offering another means of sharing the information and experience available to those who directly handle original artifacts.  The process of 3D printing has been described as “additive manufacturing”, wherein three-dimensional objects are created via the successive addition of layers[13] of a printing medium.  This medium can come in many forms, such as hardened plastics, wire, ceramics, metals, and even food.  The applications of this technology extend far beyond museums and archaeology, and it has already been applied to a range of pursuits from toy manufacture to molecular scale medical research[14]

The incorporation of new, scientifically derived interpretive tools allows museumgoers to become more engaged by allowing new interactions with objects, even if by proxy, in which they actively participate.[15]  In addition to experiencing the objects themselves, viewers engaged in these new interactions also gain a sense of the ways of seeing employed by researchers who study archaeological artifacts.  By personally engaging with ancient artifacts through these interpretive tools, museumgoers can also experience a moment of discovery akin to that felt by archaeologists when they unearth objects from the past.  Archaeological investigation of these objects has, at its core, “interact[ion] with the object in hand, by tilting it in many directions to find the best lighting and viewing angles when investigating a particular detail”[16]. This is particularly true of the cuneiform tablets and bullae represented in the intervention, both classes of object of which a single perspective cannot reveal complete information or understanding.[17]  The fine details of cuneiform tablets can represent up to 600 different symbols or characters[18] arranged into complex texts.  While translation of these texts is an option only for a select few dedicated scholars, the complexity of this early writing system and the craftsmanship required to construct the tablets can be broadly appreciated.  Empowerment to see objects in the way that researchers do encourages and in-depth engagement with the artifacts and with scholarship.

New visualization techniques are not only employed to spread information about cuneiform tablets, but also to actively further knowledge of them.  The main impetus behind these new techniques is often to facilitate future research.[19]  These methods provide more efficient and objective results to facilitate the translation processes for cuneiform texts and create new opportunities for research thanks to the increased visibility of the object surface.[20]  An increased depth of vision is not only beneficial for aesthetic appreciation, but also affords even the most highly trained specialists new perspectives and opportunities for study.  The creation of digital records has the added benefit of acting as a digital safeguard,[21] preserving the textual content and complete three-dimensional morphology of original artifacts in previously unparalleled detail.

The creation of “safeguards”, whether they be digital, 3D printed, or other more traditional methods of preserving the information of an artifact, are especially important for cuneiform tablets.  Not only are individual pieces original and unique artifacts from ancient civilizations, but also as a collection the tablets comprise the earliest written record of human history.  The objects presented in this intervention are prime candidates for digital preservation and study due to their particular situation in scholarship and politics.  The collection from which the objects derive has no recorded excavation context.[22]  Without such a context, some scholars have speculated that the collection was looted from Iraq following the 1991 Gulf War.[23]  While investigations into the collection have provided no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either the collector who purchased the tablets or that of Cornell University, the U.S. government accepted a request for repatriation by the Iraqi government and forfeiture of the entire collection is pending.[24]  The intricate details of the process of looting and repatriation and the ideological and ethical issues of cultural patrimony will not be discussed at length here, but the implications of repatriation on the recordation and preservation of artifacts brings the scientific ways of seeing that the intervention seeks to explore into sharp focus.

Only a small percentage of known cuneiform tablets have been published[25] and up to 150,000 tablets per year are looted from Iraq,[26] after which it becomes exceedingly unlikely they will ever be properly studied or published.  Study and conservation of cuneiform tablets is expensive and time consuming,[27] and so the Cornell curators in charge of the collection represented in The Modern Ancient Tablet have worked to “carefully conserve, photograph and study the tablets, publishing their work in more than 16 volumes [and counting] over six years”[28] before the collections’ repatriation to Iraq.  Digitalization of tablets through imaging and scanning (and subsequent 3D printing, in some cases) has been an important component of both study and preservation in this process.

Detailed discussion about both the original objects and new ways of seeing that interpretive tools allow shows the value in technologically advanced study and digital preservation of archaeological materials.  While The Modern Ancient Tablet primarily focuses on ways of seeing, traditional scholarship on the objects presented also yields fascinating information about the materials themselves and the broader context of their creation, even if specific information about their recovery has been lost.

CUNES 51-01-001
This cuneiform tablet was created in the Old Babylonian period at a site known from the written record as Dūr-Abiešuh, though the site’s exact location is unknown today.[29]  This tablet and others in the collection linked to the same original site can be dated to a roughly 80-year period spanning the rule of Abiešuh to his successor Samsuditana.  CUNES 51-01-001 is dated to the reign of the latter leader, who ruled from 1626-1595 BCE[30].  This particular tablet was chosen for The Modern Ancient Tablet due both to its prior study using the methods of digital interpretation that the intervention seeks to explore as well as the interesting and highly particular story that the text conveys.  Audiences see the object, both original and digital enhancements, as a finely crafted and ancient text yet only those trained to translate cuneiform tablets can access the details of its writing without the analysis of a third party.  This difference of experience itself reflects the museum way of seeing, where much of the information present in or about an object of art is obscured to non-specialist observers.  The selection of this particular tablet, therefore, speaks to the individuality of experience that each viewer brings; no matter how extensively an object is interpreted (through digital or any means) it will necessarily be read differently by every viewer.  The benefit of added comparison with a manipulable digital representation of the object is, then, both an increased understanding of scientific methods and a critical engagement with what each individual can and cannot derive from their experience of the piece.

CUNES 51-01-001 offers a businesslike account of the provisioning of a merchant to take goods to both trade and to pay the ransom for a captured man.[31]  The text, translated in its entirety, reads:

1 mina of silver, ransom for Ahunatum, the son of Elil-mansum, 0,1.0 kor of oil, worth 12 shekels of silver, to buy bitumen and 1 donkey for safe transport that Elil-mansum, the nešakkum, the son of Ursattum, gave to Šelebum, the merchant from Ibrat.  At the completion of his business venture, Šelebum, the merchant of Ibrat, will receive (an accounting of 2 ?) + ½ mina of silver for Ahunatum, the son of Enlil-mansum,, and he will repay the 12 shekels of silver, the price of the bitumen at the purchase price at the destination and he will return the donkey in good condition to his owner.  If he does not return (the donkey), he will pay the rental cost of 12? Shekels of silver, the price of bitumen at the destination. (four witnesses) [32]

Like much of the written record of the period, this tablet is businesslike in its writing.  The payment of a ransom would have been a more common occurrence at the time than in modernity, but the dispassionate writing style still seems unusual for such a circumstance to the modern reader.  The price of the ransom is also higher than others of the period, perhaps owing to the captive being the son of the local leader (nešakkum) under whom the text was written.[33]  The tablet also bears a seal belonging to Sin-mušallim, a clergyman and servant of the king who wrote the document.[34]

The depth of the textual evidence present in this artifact illustrates its dual situation as detailed explanatory text and unprovenanced archaeological artifact.  The tablet provides highly detailed information about life, commerce, and even specific individuals in the past, yet the lack of information about its source leads the location of its production to be a matter of conjecture.  Nevertheless, the object clearly belongs to an important cultural tradition and therefore instills the awe of a long and fascinating human tradition as only ancient artifacts can.

Digital Representations
The digital component of The Modern Ancient Tablet consists of a video derived from a digitized version of CUNES 51-01-001.  The digitized version of the object is interactive and manipulable; however, technological constraints[35] have led to presentation as a video recording of the author’s interaction with the file.  The digital representation is a Polynomial Texture Map (PTM), a 2d+ (or pseudo-3D) rendering of the original object surface.[36]  The representation was created through use of a specially designed lighting rig and digital camera, which records images of the artifact that allow for re-lighting and image enhancements.[37]  The representation presented in The Modern Ancient Tablet was produced by Karel Van Lerberghe using the Leuven Light Dome, a hemispherical dome of 256 white LED lights with camera mount at center.[38]  This device allows for the rapid acquisition of photos with known light sources, which can be digitally combined and then create photometric stereo reconstructions of the object’s surface.[39]

The Leuven Light Dome system creates both photorealistic and non-photorealistic digitized versions, both of which are employed in The Modern Ancient Tablet.  The photorealistic version is presented in full color and allows for the movement of a digital light source across the object’s surface in order to accentuate the fine details of indentations inscribed onto it.  Non-photorealistic versions include a simplified line drawing of the object’s surface, modes of enhanced shading and enhanced surface curvature, and reconstructions of the object in 3D and an artificially colored representation of that reconstruction.[40]

Each of these digital objects presents a different way of seeing the original artifact.  In a pioneering work on the subject of ways of seeing Berger notes, “the way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe.”[41]   The digital representations employed in The Modern Ancient Tablet expand these ways of seeing by creating a more robust knowledge of both the visible and morphological aspects of ancient artifacts. This expanded knowledge is, importantly, an experiential knowledge; new interpretive tools allow viewers to make their own discoveries of an object and therefore to explore their own meanings within them.[42]  In some ways these representations seek to recreate the experience of viewing the artifact in hand, particularly the traditional mode of study that requires tilting the object to find ideal lighting and viewing angles to investigate each particular detail.[43]  Conceiving of the process of viewing itself as a method of study is a departure from norms that often emphasize the written word as the heart of scholarship.[44]  This visual aspect of the digital representation allows for study of the object in absentia, an important ability given the rarity, isolation, fragility, and tricky political situation that characterize much of the cuneiform record.  The non-photorealistic ways of seeing seek to enhance traditional methods of study and observation by creating portrayals that are metrically accurate, yet which extend beyond human capacities.  These enhancements seek to serve as “enabling technology” [45] that creates opportunity for new insight and investigation.

CUNES 52-11-031
CUNES 52-11-031 is a different type of ancient Mesopotamian artifact: a bulla rather than a cuneiform tablet.  Though it is on loan from the same collection as CUNES 51-01-001, the bulla comes from a different time period and, presumably, location.[46] Bullae represent the record keeping technology that preceded cuneiform tablets.[47]  Bullae are hollow clay envelopes used to seal counting tokens, which would in turn represent the number and type of object being recorded.[48]  These envelopes would be broken open at their final destination and the tokens accounted for.  Preservation of sealed bullae is a rare phenomenon, due to their fragility and their typically unfired clay composition.  The bulla included in The Modern Ancient Tablet has not yet been academically published, but is known to have been created sometime in the 4th millennium BCE.[49]  The rarity of intact, sealed bullae necessitates scientific ways of seeing to accurately view and measure the artifact’s contents without damaging the envelope.  The exterior of the objects can be scanned by a variety of methods, but the interiors were accessed through CT scanning.[50]  Cornell researchers, led by Dr. David Owen, created both interior and exterior scans of many objects from the University’s cuneiform collection.  These digital 3D scans were then printed by the ZCorp color 3D printing service.[51]

3D prints
The 3D prints included in The Modern Ancient Tablet represent both exterior and interior replicas of original objects.  The former comprise two 3D prints of the exterior of a cuneiform tablet and the latter consist of three 3D prints representing both the interior space of a sealed bulla and examples of tokens found inside that type of artifact.  3D models have become established as teaching aids and been shown to enhance learning experiences for general and special needs students.[52]  3D prints of cuneiform tablets and other archaeological artifacts can be particularly useful as teaching aids given the need to protect and conserve these classes of object and the great difficulty required for them to travel.[53]  Archaeological materials can also be interpreted or enhanced in this process, such as with changes in color, material and size.  The fully scanned tablet in The Modern Ancient Tablet, for example, is 3D printed at both original and double scale.  Interior scans can be printed in order to facilitate physical investigation and haptic experience of previously inaccessible artifacts or components thereof.

3D prints also straddle the line between physical object and digital representation like no other media.  The prints themselves exist in three dimensions, but the digital files from which they are produced can be transferred electronically across the globe instantly and at no cost.  Indeed, some scans of the collection utilized in The Modern Ancient Tablet are freely available through the Cornell Creative Machines Lab and can be reproduced by any interested party.  While the prints displayed in the intervention are all plastics (namely, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), expanding capabilities allow for reproduction in an ever-growing number of materials, including ceramic.  As this technology develops both the form and material of 3D prints will be increasingly more realistic and therefor of increasing utility to researchers and enthusiast of ancient artifacts.

Conclusion
The Modern Ancient Tablet brings together methods of seeing ranging from the 4th millennium BCE to the cutting edge of modern technology.  This range is not, however, unique to this intervention among museums displaying ancient artifacts.  Museumgoers must frequently negotiate a variety of methods of display, types of media, and degrees of knowledge.  By addressing these issues explicitly, The Modern Ancient Tablet attempts to facilitate critical engagement among viewers of a particular type of artifact—Mesopotamian recording technologies—with the complexities of the ways of seeing that museums create.  This critical engagement is also steeped in information on methods of investigation afforded to these objects and the ways in which different views create different experiences.  Ultimately, this intervention hopes to inspire reflection in a newly educated public; reflection that will itself lead to a greater appreciation of both cuneiform tablets and the myriad other treasures of an art museum.

Notes
[1] Wallenfels, Ronald, and Jack M. Sasson, eds. “Cuneiform.” In The Ancient Near East: An Encyclopedia for Students. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000), 19.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Willems, G., et al., “Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing”, in: M. Mudge, N. Ryan & R. Scopigno (eds.) The 6th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST 2005), Pisa 2005, 73.

[4]Hameeuw, Hendrik. & Geert Willems, “New Visualization Techniques for Cuneiform Texts and Sealings”, in: Akkadica 132/2, 2011, 163.

[5] The Modern Ancient Tablet is a curatorial intervention installed at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art, for which this essay serves as research basis and theoretical justification.

[6]So called for its creation prior to the reign of Sargon the Great, who conquered and consolidated the cities of Sumeria in the 23rd and 22nd centuries BC.

[7]Monaco, Salvatore. Archaic Bullae and Tablets in the Cornell University Collections.  Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2014.

[8] See: Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London; New York: British Broadcasting Corp., Penguin Books, 1977.; Colburn, Forest. “From Pre-Columbian Artifact to Pre-Columbian Art.” Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 64 (2005): 36–41.; Ramírez, Mari Carmen, “Brokering Identities: Art Curators and the Politics of Cultural Representation,” in Thinking About Exhibitions, ed. Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson and Sandy Nairne (London: Routledge, 1996), 21-38.; Berlo, Janet Catherine,  Ruth B. Phillips, Carol Duncan, Donald Preziosi, Danielle Rice, and Anne Rorimer. “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1.” The Art Bulletin 77, no. 1 (1995): 6–24.

[9]Alpers, Svetlana, “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991): 27.

[10]Alpers, “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” 27.

[11]Havemann S., V. Settgast, D. Fellner, G. Willems, L. Van Gool, G. Müller, M. Schneider, R. Klein, “The Presentation of Cultural Heritage Models in Epoch”, in: Proceedings of EPOCH Open Digital Cultural Heritage Systems Conference, Congresso Rospigliosi, Rome, 25-26, February 2008, Rome 2008. 1.

[12]Havemann et al., “The Presentation of Cultural Heritage Models in Epoch”, 1.

[13] Dearing, George. “The Future Of 3D Printing.” Forbes. Accessed April 28, 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/capitalonespark/2014/04/23/the-future-of-3d-printing/.

[14] Ibid.

[15]Havemann et al., “The Presentation of Cultural Heritage Models in Epoch”, 1.

[16] Hameeuw and Willems, “New Visualization Techniques for Cuneiform Texts and Sealings”, 163.

[17]Willems, G., et al., “Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing”, 1.

[18]Wallenfels and Sasson, The Ancient Near East, 20

[19] Hameeuw and Willems, “New Visualization Techniques for Cuneiform Texts and Sealings”, 173.

[20]Ibid., 175.

[21] Ibid., 176.

[22] Lerberghe, Karel van, Gabriela Voet, and Hendrik Hameeuw. A Late Old Babylonian Temple Archive from Dūr-Abiešuḫ. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2009, V.

[23] Felch, Jason. “Cornell to Return 10,000 Ancient Tablets to Iraq.” Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2013.

[24] Felch, “Cornell to Return 10,000 Ancient Tablets to Iraq.”

[25] Willems, G., et al., “Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing”, 1.

[26] Felch, “Cornell to Return 10,000 Ancient Tablets to Iraq.”

[27] Willems, G., et al., “Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing”, 1.

[28] Felch, “Cornell to Return 10,000 Ancient Tablets to Iraq.”

[29] Lerberghe, Voet, and Hameeuw. A Late Old Babylonian Temple Archive from Dūr-Abiešuḫ, 1.  The site is known to have been a fort that lied somewhere along the Tigris River in modern day Iraq, apparently near the ancient Mesopotamian city of Nippur.

[30] Lerberghe, Voet, and Hameeuw. A Late Old Babylonian Temple Archive from Dūr-Abiešuḫ, xi.

[31] Lerberghe, Voet, and Hameeuw. A Late Old Babylonian Temple Archive from Dūr-Abiešuḫ, 48.

[32] Ibid., 48.

[33] Ibid., 49.

[34] Ibid., 49.

[35]The digitized version exists as a .cun file, a specifically designed format for the display of cuneiform tablets.  At present the software to view these files is not compatible with Apple iPads of the type employed in the intervention.

[36]Willems, G., et al., “Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing”, 2.

[37]Ibid., 2.

[38]Ibid., 3.

[39]Ibid., 3.  Photometric stereo “allows the estimation of local surface orientation by using several images of the same surface taken from the same viewpoint but under illumination coming from different directions”.  With the established orientation of every surface on an artifact, representations can be analyzed in depth and altered based on highly accurate reconstructions.

[40]This last version, referred to as “normals”, exaggerates the slopes of indentations on the object by displaying them in bright colors.

[41] Berger. Ways of Seeing, 8.

[42] Dyke, Ruth M. Van. “Seeing the Past: Visual Media in Archaeology.” American Anthropologist 108, no. 2 (June 1, 2006): 373.

[43]Hameeuw and Willems, “New Visualization Techniques for Cuneiform Texts and Sealings”, 163.

[44] Yanow, Dvora.  “Methodological Ways of Seeing and Knowing”, Forthcoming in Part 3, ‘Visual Methodologies and Methods’, The Routledge Companion to Visual Organization Eds. Emma Bell, Samantha Warren, and Jonathan E. Schroeder.  Though Yanow speaks mostly of ‘organizational studies’, logocentrism is certainly present much more broadly in scholarship.

[45]Havemann et al., “The Presentation of Cultural Heritage Models in Epoch”, 1.

[46]Owing to the unclear origination of the collection the finds spot of the artifact is unknown.  However, the drastically different time range assures that the bulla and the tablet could not be directly related.

[47]Wallenfels, Ronald, and Jack M. Sasson, eds. “Clay Tablets.” In The Ancient Near East: An Encyclopedia for Students. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000), 1-3.

[48]Ibid., 2.

[49] Monaco, Salvatore. Archaic Bullae and Tablets in the Cornell University Collections. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2014.

[50]CT Scanning, or Computed Tomography, uses computer processed x-rays to build models of the interior of an object without opening it.

[51] Ju, Anne. “Researchers Replicate Rare Cuneiform Tablets Using 3-D Scanning and Printing.” Accessed April 19, 2014.

[52]Knapp M., Wolff R., Lipson H. (2008), “Developing printable content: A repository for printable teaching models”, Proceedings of the 19th Annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin TX, Aug 2008.

[53]Ibid.

Works Cited
Alpers, Svetlana, “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991): 25-32.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. London; New York: British Broadcasting Corp. ; Penguin Books, 1977.

Berlo, Janet Catherine,  Ruth B. Phillips, Carol Duncan, Donald Preziosi, Danielle Rice, and Anne Rorimer. “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1.” The Art Bulletin 77, no. 1 (1995): 6–24.

Dyke, Ruth M. Van. “Seeing the Past: Visual Media in Archaeology.” American Anthropologist 108, no. 2 (June 1, 2006): 370–75.

Felch, Jason. “Cornell to Return 10,000 Ancient Tablets to Iraq.” Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2013. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-iraq-tablets-cornell-university-20131103,0,630650,full.story#axzz2jslh0jno.

Forrest D. Colburn, “From Pre-Columbian Artifact to Pre-Columbian Art.” Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 64 (2005): 36–41.

Havemann S., V. Settgast, D. Fellner, G. Willems, L. Van Gool, G. Müller, M. Schneider, R. Klein, The Presentation of Cultural Heritage Models in Epoch, in: Proceedings of EPOCH Open Digital Cultural Heritage Systems Conference, Congresso Rospigliosi, Rome, 25-26, February 2008, Rome. 2008.

Hameeuw, Hendrik & Geert Willems, New Visualization Techniques for Cuneiform Texts and Sealings, in: Akkadica 132/2, 2011, 163-178.

Ju, Anne. “Researchers Replicate Rare Cuneiform Tablets Using 3-D Scanning and Printing.” Accessed April 19, 2014. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/05/3-d-printers-make-replicas-cuneiform-tablets.

Knapp M., Wolff R., and Lipson H., “Developing printable content: A repository for printable teaching models”, Proceedings of the 19th Annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin TX, Aug 2008.

Lerberghe, Karel van, Gabriela Voet, and Hendrik Hameeuw. A Late Old Babylonian Temple Archive from Dūr-Abiešuḫ. Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2009.

Monaco, Salvatore. Archaic Bullae and Tablets in the Cornell University Collections.  Bethesda, Md.: CDL Press, 2014.

Ramírez, Mari Carmen. “Brokering Identities: Art Curators and the Politics of Cultural Representation,” in Thinking About Exhibitions, ed. Reesa Greenberg, Bruce W. Ferguson and Sandy Nairne (London: Routledge, 1996), 21-38.

Wallenfels, Ronald, and Jack M. Sasson, eds. “Cuneiform.” In The Ancient Near East: An Encyclopedia for Students. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000), 19-23.

Wallenfels, Ronald, and Jack M. Sasson, eds. “Clay Tablets.” In The Ancient Near East: An Encyclopedia for Students. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000), 1-3.

Willems, G., F. Verbiest, W. Moreau, H. Hameeuw, K. Van Lerberghe & L. Van Gool, Easy and cost-effective cuneiform digitizing, in: M. Mudge, N. Ryan & R. Scopigno (eds.) The 6th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST 2005), Pisa 2005, 73-80.

Yanow, Dvora.  “Methodological Ways of Seeing and Knowing”, Forthcoming in Part 3, ‘Visual Methodologies and Methods’, The Routledge Companion to Visual

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Copies in Plaster: The Bust of Trajan and Other Works from the Johnson Museum

Billy Intervention

Copies in Plaster: The Bust of Trajan and Other Works from the Johnson Museum
A curatorial intervention by Billy Breitweiser, MA student, Archaeology

The Bust of Trajan is a plaster cast, or copy, of a marble original on display in the newly installed galleries for Greek, Roman, and European Art before 1800.  This piece in particular is incredibly important as the Roman original no longer exists.  Cornell University’s plaster Trajan bust, along with one other copy located at the Martin von Wagner Museum in Wurzburg, Germany, are the only surviving copies of that Roman original.  Since the original no longer exists, these copies help to preserve the piece for future generations to view and study. This exhibit explores why people over the centuries have made copies of works of art in plaster.  The history of plaster cast making is traced from Roman times to the present.  It touches on what these copies were used for during each time period, whether for the production of new works, for instructional purposes for artists, or for educational purposes for students and museum visitors.  The piece is connected to other works of art on display in the galleries of the Greek, Roman, and European Art before 1800.  These connections provide more details to situate the viewer in the space and to help the viewer understand how the different pieces work together to tell one story.

Plaster cast making has been an artistic trend since Roman times and its history is filled with rediscovery, devaluation, and invention.[1] It is an important history that has played a role in the creation of many artistic trends as well as the ways in which museums display art and disseminate information to visitors. The Bust of Trajan (Figure 1) from the Cornell Cast Collection provides an entry point for this museum intervention.

 Figure 1: The Bust of Trajan, Cornell Cast Collection


Figure 1: The Bust of Trajan, Cornell Cast Collection

By displaying this plaster bust in the gallery space among original archaeological materials as well as other examples of plaster making, the intervention calls the visitor’s attention to the surrounding space and allows the visitor to think more critically about the works. First, I will discuss the intervention and how The Bust of Trajan situates in the galleries of the Greek, Roman, and European Art before 1800. Then, by highlighting other works in the gallery, I will discuss three co-related issues dealing with plaster cast collecting that this intervention is meant to divulge to visitors. These aspects include the history of plaster cast collections of ancient sculpture in the United States and at Cornell University, the use of plaster casts in art academies and their influence on artists, and the opportunity to use plaster cast making in new ways with live models to aid in the creation of new works of art.

The Bust of Trajan and the Intervention
The goals of this intervention are to relate to visitors a history of plaster cast making. Further, the exhibit intends to provide the visitor with examples of how plaster casts were used and how artists took advantage of making copies to create new works. It draws on connections with other works that are in the Greek, Roman, and European Art before 1800 gallery. This history of plaster cast making is especially relevant as Cornell University had one of the largest collections of plaster casts in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Bust of Trajan is an excellent piece to use as the focal point of the intervention as it is a plaster cast that was made from another cast located at the Martin von Wagner in Wurzburg, Germany.[2] The German cast was made from an original Roman work, but that original no longer exists. Therefore, Cornell’s plaster cast is a copy, of a copy, of an original. This highlights one of the important qualities of the plaster casts as they can preserve an image of original works of art. In this case, the two casts, one at Cornell and one in Germany, are the only sources that scholars can use for study and that the public can see of that particular bust.

A second goal of the intervention stems from the debate of original versus copy, which plays a large role in the history of plaster cast collections. During the twentieth century, the casts became seen as fakes and as inauthentic, which I will discuss more in the section on the history of the cast collections in the United States. In many cases, this issue led to the destruction of plaster cast collections. As museums and other institutions began to attain more original works, the plaster casts were relegated to back rooms or storage areas. In general, copies were never intermixed in displays with original works of art. A distinction had to be made, by separate rooms most often, between what was original and what was a copy. By placing The Bust of Trajan in the Greek and Roman gallery among original works, the intervention intends to break down these barriers. Also, the plaster cast’s inclusion among original works calls to attention how these works came to Cornell. The original works were attained after the plaster cast collection had fallen out of grace with the University and its student body. It also provides an intriguing contrast with some of the other works in the gallery as it is a complete work, although a copy, among incomplete or broken works, which are originals.

A third goal of the intervention was to return the casts to a museum setting. Many of the casts from the collection are spread around campus in offices and hallways, stored in rooms on campus, or stored in an off-campus warehouse. These pieces were once collected together and placed on display in a campus museum. By returning this work to a museum setting, it is given more of an authority. In the hallways and classrooms of buildings, without labels, the plaster casts sometimes look more like decorative pieces rather than works of art. No context is provided as to what they are, how they came to be at Cornell University, or what their history is at the institution. The plaster casts have their own aesthetic value and artistic history that is worthy of a place in the museum. By placing the plaster casts in the museum, there is more of an opportunity to explain to visitors and students what the casts are and what their connection to Cornell is. The history of cast collecting is wrapped up in many other histories relating to the collecting policies of museums and the formation of artistic traditions in the United States. Therefore, displaying and reintegrating the casts into the museum allows for more of an open discussion about these histories.

Cast Collections in the United States
In the United States, plaster casts of antique sculpture were introduced to the colonies as early as 1728.[3] These casts, brought by the artist John Smibert, were used and displayed in his studio in Boston. The casts were praised for improving the cultural climate of the New England area and were also used practically in an art school for colonial artists. Prior to the Revolutionary War, wealthy colonialists and American statesmen traveled to Europe to visit collections and acquire plaster casts. If they could not travel to Europe, casts could be ordered from the great museums of Europe. George Washington sent an agent to Europe to obtain a plaster cast collection in this manner[4] After the Revolution, leaders and officials in America believed that the average Americans did not have time for the fine arts and that they were luxuries that could not be afforded.[5] The collection of casts in larger institutions like art academies and museums did not occur until decades later because of this thinking. Individual collection persisted, however. During the nineteenth century, these views changed. Again, the casts were seen as a way to improve the cultural intellect of the populace. Original works were unattainable, but the plaster casts were just as useful for art academies and art museums to display.[6] By the second half of the nineteenth century, several art academies were set up in the United States and cast collections were often the central feature in museum displays.[7] The plaster casts presented the ideals of classical civilization and aesthetically pleasing art forms. Ancient Greece and Rome were considered to embody the highest aims of art.[8] They were used to educate the public, raise cultural awareness, and to draw connections with the traditions of Europe. Displays of plaster casts did not come without problems, though. One specific problem was that of displaying the nude body. Many museums and institutions faced dilemmas when displaying the nude figure to the public.[9] Some felt that the casts should not be displayed. Fig leaves were sometimes created as attachments to cover the nude body. In other instances, men and women were not allowed to view the exhibitions at the same time. This controversy over the nude led to damage being done to some collections by visitors.[10] While this was occurring in the museums, the usefulness of plaster casts was declining in art academies as the live model became more prominent than the plaster cast. The nude model presented the artist with the challenge of drawing a real body, rather than an idealized form of the human body.[11] Decline in plaster casts in museums took a different route. At the turn of the twentieth century, wealthy entrepreneurs were funding trips to Europe to collect original archaeological materials that were beginning to be unearthed. Original artifacts were soon being sent consistently to the United States, which left less space for the museums to display plaster casts.[12] Scholars criticized the plaster casts, emphasizing that they were not authentic or original. Cultural aspirations could now be realized through this new authentic material. As the plaster casts fell out of favor in the museums, a similar trend followed in university collections.

At Cornell University, the first plaster casts were commissioned by Andrew Dickson White, the first president of the University.[13] The funds for the collection were provided by Henry Sage. Education was a primary motivator in the collection of the plaster casts. A.D. White intended the collection to be a teaching collection, utilized by various departments. As most students could not travel to Europe to see these works, he brought the works to the students. The collection shaped the intellectual landscape of the campus. More than five hundred casts were collected between the years 1891 and 1894, leading to the opening of the first campus museum in 1894 in McGraw Hall.[14] The original curator of the collection was Alfred Emerson, who created a catalogue of the plaster casts. Cornell’s collection was the most noteworthy in the country at the time, equaled only by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. More casts were acquired after this initial collection process and a new building was constructed to house the collection. The new museum, including a conservation studio, opened in Goldwin Smith Hall in 1906.[15] Classes were held in the galleries and students were encouraged to interact with the casts. Plaster casts included ancient works from Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near East, as well as casts of Baroque and Renaissance works. The cast collection was not only used in art classes. It was utilized by humanities classes as well in teaching classics. Beginning in the 1930s and 1940s, there was movement of the cast collection and a redistribution of the museum space.[16] The space was turned into classrooms and a cafe over the next decades. Little by little, casts were removed from the building and spread around the campus. More recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in the plaster casts, their preservation, and their restoration. This intervention plays a role in this new wave of interest.

Plaster Casts in Art Academies
The practice of drawing from plaster casts can be seen in the piece Student Drawing from a Cast (Figure 2) by Frederick Bloemaert in the Johnson Museum collection.

Student Drawing from a cast, Frederick Bloemaert, Johnson Museum of Art Permanent Collection

Figure 2: Student Drawing from a cast, Frederick Bloemaert, Johnson Museum of Art Permanent Collection

It is exhibited in the same gallery space as The Bust of Trajan. This piece was created around 1656 and depicts a student drawing from a plaster cast of a sculpture while surrounded by plaster heads, torsos, and limbs. It is an engraving and chiaroscuro woodcut. The piece is the title page of the Tekenboek, the drawing manual of Frederick’s father, Abraham Bloemaert, a well known Dutch painter and printmaker in etching and engraving.[17] Bloemaert was a master artist and took on many pupils, including his four sons, who achieved great success from his teachings.

During and after the Renaissance, young men were sent by their parents to work with a master artist as his pupil. The master provided study materials for his pupils, including books, prints, drawings, and plaster casts.[18] Pupils, who often lived with their masters, intended to learn certain skills in the art of painting so that they could become as good as their masters. The core of a painter’s training in Europe was drawing.[19] Master painters not only provided study material, but they also made corrections on their pupil’s drawings. Beginners first copied prints and drawings as it was important for pupils to understand how to draw a three-dimensional subject onto a flat surface.[20] The most important structure that pupils could learn to draw at this stage was the human body. Drawing manuals, similar to that created by Bloemaert, provided examples of the basic structures of anatomy in prints and drawings from which pupils could copy. Composition was also taught to beginners as they sometimes copied whole paintings by notable artists. During the second phase of study, the pupils were allowed to copy three-dimensional forms.[21] Plaster casts were an essential study material. Casts included Greek and Roman copies as well as copies of more modern works. Casts of limbs and body parts, as seen in Student Drawing from a Cast, were also popular in the studios of master artists. After mastering the casts, the pupil moved on to live models.[22]

The first formal art academies were founded in the sixteenth century in Europe, with more being founded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Academies were more formal institutions with set programs, unlike the master-pupil arrangement. The progression of a young artist’s career followed very similar phases, however. Again, the plaster casts, especially those of Greek and Roman sculpture, were a middle phase between copying two-dimensional prints and drawing from live models. After the Renaissance, classical iconography was a major influence for artists.[23] The Renaissance provided a rebirth of the classical canon and a reevaluation of its aesthetics. Many travelled to Rome to study from the actual original works after their studies from casts in the academies. Artists could not draw from live models until they were approved based on their work with the plaster casts. Outside of Europe, plaster casts were also introduced into art academies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These art academies, which were formed mainly in colonial contexts, were far removed from the artistic traditions of Europe and the Renaissance. In order to train artists in the European and classical tradition, leaders of these new institutions commissioned collections of plaster casts of some of the greatest works of ancient sculpture. Often, museums were set up along with these art academies so that the public could visit and appreciate these works that they would not have otherwise been exposed to.

A particular example of this situation is the art academy that was founded in Mexico City in 1781, the Academia de San Carlos. This art academy was fundamental in training many generations of Mexican artists. It was founded by Spanish artists and was modeled after the art academy in Madrid, Spain.[24] A large collection of Greek and Roman art, as well as Renaissance and Baroque works, were commissioned by the academy’s first director. With these casts and the creation of a museum for the casts, the institution became a true art academy.[25] The plaster casts were employed by instructors as teaching tools in training students in the classical canon of European art. Approaches to studying the casts and utilizing the casts in classes and teaching varied greatly over time. Drawings from the initial phase at the academy highlight the functionality of casts in teaching. Rather than drawing the cast straight on, like would be done when copying a print, the casts were drawn from all angles.[26] One significant trope during this period was placing sculpted figures into natural contexts through the representation of a landscape background.[27] During the second phase of the academy, the plaster casts were less frequently used in classroom teaching. More focus on the shadowing of the sculpture can be seen in these drawings and there is less interest in placing the work within a background scene. Live models were often used as a parallel study to the plaster casts during this phase.[28] In the third stage, beginning in the twentieth century, plaster casts were represented in two new ways. First, drawings were created where the forms were barely defined. Second, there was an emphasis on contrasting light and shade in the pieces. During this phase, the plaster casts were being depicted through drawing in a way that displayed a lack of respect for the once honored works.[29] Broken pieces were often chosen to be drawn and casts were drawn in subversive positions. It was during this phase, that Diego Rivera drew the Venus de Milo laying on the ground on her back, making the piece unrecognizable.[30] From the twentieth century onwards, instructors focused less on classical art, becoming more interested in drawing from live models as well as from works of indigenous American peoples. Slowly, the drawing from casts disappeared from the institution, with only several casts remaining at the school to be used occasionally by the artistic community.[31]

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is another institution with a long and ongoing history with plaster casts. Founded in 1805, it is the oldest art museum and art academy in the United States. Before it was established, a collection of plaster casts was commissioned by Charles Willson Peale, one of the founders of the institution.[32] This collection included casts of the traditional classical canon as well as more modern sculptures. At the academy, casts were displayed with other works of original art.[33] Students drew from the casts in the galleries and their original works were influenced by their work with the plaster casts. In 1845, a fire at the academy destroyed most of the plaster cast collection, but more were acquired over time.[34] By 1880, many of the casts were removed from the galleries and used solely in the art studios. It was at this time that museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art were acquiring their own, elaborate cast collections.[35] Other factors involved in moving the casts to the studios included the increasing size of the permanent collection of the academy as well as the dislike for cast drawing by one of the professors, Thomas Eakins.[36] After this, students and professors began drawing the casts in new ways, experimenting with their skills. Today, the casts are still used in classes by professors and students and the academy retained its hall of casts. All first-year art students continue to enroll in cast drawing.[37]

In Europe, the situation was different. Europeans had far more access to original works of antique sculpture than artists from the colonies. For instance, the French Academy in Rome provided French artists with direct access to original works of art from antiquity and the Renaissance which could be copied and used for inspiration. However, this did not stop art academy’s, like the master artists, from acquiring their own plaster cast collections. For instance, the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts has a collection, today, of over eight hundred sculptures, most of which are plaster casts.[38] The collection began to be acquired during the eighteenth century after the architect, Nicodemus Tessin, had visited the cast collection of the French King in 1687. Casts in this collection are still utilized today in teaching.

Plaster Casts after Live Models
Jean-Antoine Houdon was one artist during the eighteenth century who was extremely influenced by the Greek and Roman sculptures that were unearthed and collected during the Renaissance. Houdon studied antique and Renaissance sculpture at the Academie de France in Rome from 1764-1768.[39] Here, he created works that were highly influenced from the plaster casts in the Academie’s studios. Based on his works, he became an official member of the Academie in 1777.[40] His reputation as a great sculptor became firmly established through his sculptures of portrait busts.[41] The portrait sculptures were so good that critics said that they were almost life-like. Rather than being an anonymous bust, his portraits stood out from others of that time. Houdon used a system of measurements to ensure that his portrait busts would come as close as possible to the anatomy of his subject.[42] The life-like portraits were enhanced by Houdon’s close attention to the eyes of his subject. He simulated the liveliness of an eye through shadows, light play, and the creation of pupils in the sculpture.[43] This is a marked difference from the influential Roman busts which he had studied in Rome. The eyes in Roman portraiture are not carved, thus appearing more lifeless. His attention to detail transgressed beyond the eyes into other features such as the hair and the lips.[44] In addition, Houdon played with the form of his sculpture, allowing the head to face in multiple directions. Similarly, he sometimes extended arms from the shoulders and created portraits with more of a complete torso rather than just the upper portion of the body. Again, this is different from the Roman busts, as many did not depict much of the torso and sometimes did not depict the width of the shoulders and chest. In some cases, Houdon created multiples of his sculptures in marble. Marble, however, is an expensive material to produce sculpture so he sometimes made copies in terracotta and plaster for mass production and sales.[45] Although he made copies of some of his works, Houdon was always concerned with the ownership of his work and with imitations of his works. He was the only portraitist among his colleagues from the Academie to create a red wax seal with his name and title that was used to authenticate his sculptures.[46]

One technique that Houdon used in the eighteenth century was to take impressions from the faces of the living as well as the dead.[47] This technique can be traced back to antiquity. In book 35 chapter 44 of The Natural History, Pliny the Elder discusses the use of plaster by a particular sculptor. He writes, “the first person who expressed the human features by fitting a mold of plaster upon the face, and then improving it by pouring melted wax into the cast, was Lysistratus of Sicyon.”[48] Pliny goes on to say that Lysistratus is the first sculptor to create accurate likenesses of his subjects. This practice was not widespread in the eighteenth century and Houdon is credited as one of the first portraitists to apply this technique as a form of measurement. The importance of the ancient sculpture collection in Rome for Houdon and his interest in plaster as a medium can be connected here. He used the plaster copies as guides for his own work as well as informed others about the importance of plaster casts. Houdon advised many collectors on what casts were best to collect and why.[49] In his own teaching, he used plaster casts frequently and diligently. He believed that concentrating on the study of anatomy, on making copies after antique sculptures, and on sculpting from live models were the knowledge that students needed.[50]

The Life Mask of the Marquis de Lafayette (Figure 3) is a plaster impression made from Lafayette while still alive. Lafayette, a nobleman from France, is heralded as a hero of the American Revolution.

Figure 3: Life Mask of of the Marquis de Lafayette, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Johnson Museum of Art Permanent Collection

Figure 3: Life Mask of of the Marquis de Lafayette, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Johnson Museum of Art Permanent Collection

He joined in the fighting in the colonies in 1777 and was appointed to George Washington’s staff. There he formed an alliance with Washington. In 1778, he returned to France and convinced the king to send reinforcements to America. Two years later, French forces arrived in America and Lafayette led successful battles, culminating in the victory of Cornwallis in 1781. In gratitude to Lafayette, the Virginia Legislature proposed that a portrait bust be rendered so that he can be remembered for all time. Houdon was selected for this commission and in 1785, the life mask was created by Houdon. Using this life mask as a model, Houdon completed this work in the summer and fall of 1785.[51] He created two busts, one for the city of Paris and another for the capitol building in Richmond, Virginia. By creating a life mask, Houdon was able to capture specific qualities of Lafayette’s face and transfer them to his own sculptures. Another bust was acquired by Thomas Jefferson, who had also gained a relationship with Lafayette during the course of the American Revolution. This bust, however, was plaster and painted a terracotta color.[52] Once more, in 1790, Houdon was commissioned to create a bust of Lafayette. This time, the marble portrait was commissioned by the National Guard in Paris.[53] In this portrait, signs of aging are visible as he is depicted as his natural self. Houdon followed the same technique when he set out to sculpt a marble bust of George Washington. The plaster life mask of George Washington can be seen at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.[54] This example shows how plaster could be used in a variety of ways in the creation of artworks. Not only could plaster copies inspire and influence works, they could directly serve as a guide for new works.

Conclusion
This intervention deals with the history of plaster cast collecting, the functions of plaster casts in the creation of art, and the debates revolving around the use of plaster casts in museum displays today. The cast collections functioned in specific ways in the first museums. They were meant to be a symbol of high culture and a symbol of elite status. In some cases they were meant only to be displayed to an elite audience. When they were shown the greater public, the casts were meant to educate and elevate the status of the public. In this way, these early collections created a museum which disseminated information to visitors and a museum which taught uneducated visitors. Issues regarding the way museums present information to visitors and display works of art for visitors still persist today. The casts played a role in the hierarchical structures of the museum. As the casts fell out of favor and lost their value, however, museums discarded them in favor of new works. Rather than being stored away, the collections can be put to use in the museums of today. There are several ways that the plaster casts can be employed within the museum space that can break down some of the debates surrounding the casts as well as highlight the collecting policies of museums and what materials museums deem to be valuable. First, integrating casts in with original works allows museums, especially university museums, to fill in gaps in their collections. Smaller museums, unlike museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, do not have the breadth of a collection which can encompass all mediums of ancient art. The casts can provide art forms that work in conjunction with other works already in place in the museum. Second, providing a history of plaster casts is a valuable exhibition on its own. It is an important history for museums to tell as these collections once made up the majority of art works in most museums. These collecting policies can also bring to the surface some of these facts about casts as elite objects and their placement in the hierarchical structure of the museum. With the recent resurgence of interest in plaster casts, this intervention is meant to be a starting point at Cornell University for the museum to reconsider the value of displaying and studying these plaster casts.

[1] Rune Frederiksen and Eckart Marchand, Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010).

[2] Walter Hatto Gross and Deutsches Archaologisches Institut, Bildnisse Trajans (Berlin: Gebr. Mann., 1940).

[3] James K. McNutt, “Plaster Casts after Antique Sculpture: Their Role in the Elevation of Public Taste and in American Art Instruction,” Studies in Art Education 31, no. 3 (1990): 159.

[4] Ibid.,160.

[5] Suzanne LaFollete, Art in America from Colonial Times to the Present Day (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1929).

[6] Pamela Born, “The Canon is Cast: Plaster Casts in American Museum and University Collections,” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 21, no. 2 (2002): 9.

[7] Betsy Fahlman, “A Plaster of Paris Antiquity: Nineteenth-Century Cast Collections,” Southeastern College Art Conference Review 12, no.1 (1991): 1-9; Alan Wallach, “The American Cast Museum: An Episode in the History of the Institutional Definitions of Art,” Exhibiting Contradiction: Essays on the American Art Museum in the United States, ed. Alan Wallach (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998).

[8] Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).

[9] McNutt, “Plaster Casts after Antique Sculpture,” 161.

[10] Ibid., 164.

[11] Ibid., 165.

[12] Born, “The Canon is Cast,”, 9.

[13] Peter Kuniholm et al., A Guide to the Classical Collections at Cornell University (Ithaca: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2003): 11.

[14] Ibid., 11.

[15] Ibid., 13.

[16] Ibid., 13.

[17] J. Bolten and Abraham Bloemaert, Abraham Bloemaert, c. 1565-1651: The Drawings (Netherlands: J. Bolten, 2007).

[18] John Walsh, Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996): 46.

[19] Ibid., 48.

[20] Ibid., 50.

[21] Ibid., 51.

[22] Ibid., 55.

[23] Kathleen Christian, Empire without End: Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010); G.W. Clarke, Rediscovering Hellenism: The Hellenic Inheritance and the English Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Richard Hingley, Images of Rome: Perceptions of Ancient Rome in Europe and the United States in the Modern Age (Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2001); Eckart Marchand, “Plaster and Plaster Casts in Renaissance Italy,” in Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010): 49-79.

[24] Elizabeth Fuentes Rojas, “Art and Pedagogy in the Plaster Cast Collection of the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City,” in Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010): 229.

[25] Ibid., 232.

[26] Ibid., 236.

[27] Ibid., 237.

[28] Ibid., 239.

[29] Ibid., 240.

[30] Ibid., 240.

[31] Ibid., 247.

[32] Cheryl Leibold, “The Historic Cast Collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,” Antiques and Fine Art, Spring (2010): 187.

[33] Ibid., 187.

[34] Ibid., 188.

[35] Ibid., 189.

[36] Ibid., 190.

[37] Ibid., 187.

[38] Eva-Lena Bengtsson, “The Plaster Casts of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts,” Translated by Tomas Tranaeus, http://www.konstakademien.se/sv/Ovrigt/Plaster/.

[39] Chalres Janoray and Jean-Loup Champion, Antiquity Revisited: The Classical Tradition in Sculpture from Houdon to Guillaume, Exhibition October 12 – November 15, 2000 (New York: Charles Janoray LLC, 2000): 6.

[40] Ibid., 6.

[41] Anne L. Poulet et al., Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment (Washington: The National Gallery of Art in association with the University of Chicago Press, 2003): 20.

[42] Ibid., 20.

[43] Ibid., 21.

[44] Ibid., 21.

[45] Ibid., 22.

[46] Ibid., 23.

[47] Ibid., 20.

[48] Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Translated by John Bostock (London: Taylor and Francis, 1855): 35.44.

[49] Poulet, Jean-Antoine Houdon, 33.

[50] Ibid., 35.

[51] Ibid., 259.

[52] Ibid., 260.

[53] Ibid., 260.

[54] Poulet, Jean-Antoine Houdon, 263-268. “George Washington Life Mask,” http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/gwlifemask.asp.

Bibliography
Bengtsson, Eva-Lena. “The Plaster Casts of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.” Translated by Tomas Tranaeus. http://www.konstakademien.se/sv/Ovrigt/Plaster/.

Bolten, J. and Abraham Bloemaert. Abraham Bloemaert, c. 1565-1651: The Drawings. Netherlands: J. Bolten, 2007.

Born, Pamela. “The Canon is Cast: Plaster Casts in American Museum and University Collections.” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 21, no. 2 (2002): 8-13.

Christian, Kathleen. Empire without End: Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Clarke, G.W. Rediscovering Hellenism: The Hellenic Inheritance and the English Imagination. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Fahlman, Betsy. “A Plaster of Paris Antiquity: Nineteenth-Century Cast Collections.” Southeastern College Art Conference Review 12, no.1 (1991): 1-9.

Frederiksen, Rune and Eckart Marchand. Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

Fuentes Rojas, Elizabeth. “Art and Pedagogy in the Plaster Cast Collection of the Academia de San Carlos in Mexico City.” In Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present, edited by Rune Fredericksen and Eckard Marchand, 229-247. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

Gross, Walter H., and Deutsches Archaologisches Institut. Bildnisse Trajans. Berlin: Gebr. Mann., 1940.

Hingley, Richard. Images of Rome: Perceptions of Ancient Rome in Europe and the United States in the Modern Age. Portsmouth: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2001.

Francis Haskell, Francis and Nicholas Penny. Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.

Janoray, Charles, and Jean-Loup Champion. Antiquity Revisited: The Classical Tradition in Sculpture from Houdon to Guillaume, Exhibition October 12 – November 15, 2000. New York: Charles Janoray LLC, 2000.

Kuniholm, Peter et al., A Guide to the Classical Collections at Cornell University. Ithaca: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2003.

LaFollete, Suzanne. Art in America from Colonial Times to the Present Day. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1929.

Leibold, Cheryl. “The Historic Cast Collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.” Antiques and Fine Art, Spring (2010): 186-191.

Lucian. Jupiter Tragoedus. Translated by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, Chapter 33. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1905.

Marchand, Eckart. “Plaster and Plaster Casts in Renaissance Italy.” In Plaster Casts: Making, Collecting, and Displaying from Classical Antiquity to the Present, edited by Rune Frederiksen and Eckart Marchand, 49-79. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

McNutt, James K. “Plaster Casts after Antique Sculpture: Their Role in the Elevation of Public Taste and the American Art Institution.” Studies in Art Education 31, no. 3 (1990): 158-167.

Mills, John W. The Technique of Casting for Sculpture. London: Batsford, 1967.

The Morgan Library and Museum. “George Washington Life Mask.” Accessed April 28, 2014.    http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/gwlifemask.asp.

Pliny the Elder. The Natural History. Translated by John Bostock, Book 35, Chapter 44. London: Taylor and Francis, 1855.

Poulet, Anne L., Guilhem Scherf, Ulrike D. Mathies, Christoph Frank, Claude Vandalle, Dean Walker, and Monique Barbier. Jean-Antoine Houdon: Sculptor of the Enlightenment. Washington: The National Gallery of Art in association with the University of Chicago     Press, 2003.

Wallach, Alan. “The American Cast Museum: An Episode in the History of the Institutional Definitions of Art.” In Exhibiting Contradiction: Essays on the American Art Museum in the United States, ed. Alan Wallach. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.

Walsh, John. Jan Steen: The Drawing Lesson. Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996.

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‘What Isn’t Visible in the Visible Storage Gallery?’

Louisa N InterventionWhat Isn’t Visible in the Visible Storage Gallery?
A curatorial intervention by Louisa Nash, MA student, Archaeology

This exhibit investigates the complex reasons why certain types of objects are inappropriate for public display in permanent and visible storage galleries at museums. Guests will be invited to explore challenging questions such as: What is sacred? Who should have access to certain religiously significant objects? Who is responsible for the interpretation and display of objects? These questions will be explored in relation to Native American cultural objects that originated from the Hopi Tribe and the Pueblo of Zuni. These objects, a Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask and Zuni stone fetishes, are currently stored in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art’s Visible Storage Gallery and in the Native North American Permanent Collection respectively. While the Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask is displayed, the Zuni fetishes cannot be viewed and are represented in this exhibit by an empty stand. Insight can be gained concerning how the Zuni fetishes demonstrate some of the legal and religious reasons why particular objects are not able to be displayed. Guests can also learn how the Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask reveals the ways that religious objects can cause museums to enter into productive dialogues with Native American communities concerning the ownership, display, and storage of important cultural and sacred objects.

Presently, many museums create and maintain visible storage galleries in addition to permanent galleries. The former facilitates the display of additional materials from stored museum collections and thus enhances learning opportunities. However, certain items are not suitable for public display in visible storage or permanent galleries for legal, cultural, and religious reasons. Certain items protected under laws such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) are repatriated, or returned, to the Native American tribes and nations that are culturally affiliated with these objects. In particular instances, when Native American groups continue to allow their repatriated objects to be housed in museum collections, it is often requested that these items not be displayed. This request is often due to religious or cultural beliefs that emphasize that the disclosure of esoteric knowledge should be limited to only those who have been educated and initiated into Native religions.

When considering which items will be displayed in permanent and visible storage galleries at museums, important questions should be considered, such as, “What is sacred? What is ownership? Who owns what? What can be bought and sold?”[1] Further questions include, “Who has access to knowledge (even simply the knowledge gained from gazing upon an object of power): only those who have been initiated, or all who pass through the doors of a cultural institution? Who has the right to say what the objects mean, and whether or how they are displayed?”[2] These questions are particular to each culture and may differ between objects, yet they elicit important discussion about and awareness of a museum’s stored and displayed objects. These questions can be considered when contemplating the types of objects that remain invisible at museums and the reasons why an object’s concealment can be just as important as its visibility.

To illustrate how the Visible Storage Gallery at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (Johnson Museum) can raise dynamic questions and cross-cultural dialogues, two Native American objects have been selected for analysis: a set of Zuni fetishes and a Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask, both part of the Johnson Museum’s Native American art collection. The stored Zuni fetishes, presently represented by a blank stand in the Visible Storage Gallery, demonstrate some of the legal and religious reasons why particular objects are not able to be publically seen, and the Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask reveals how religious objects can cause museums to enter into productive dialogues with Native American communities concerning the ownership, display, and storage of important cultural objects. These objects also illustrate the importance of NAGPRA in relation to the display of important Native items and the law’s role in facilitating communication with communities.

Objects are very important in Native cultures because material culture is central to the recording, preservation, and dissemination of knowledge in the absence of written texts. When these significant cultural and religious objects are removed and kept in museums away from affiliated communities, political and sacred knowledge is lost and cannot be passed to subsequent generations.[3] NAGPRA, along with respect for religious traditions and privacy, affords Native Americans control over their heritage.

The set of Zuni animal fetishes that the Johnson Museum accessioned in 1972 are among the sacred items that cannot be displayed within the museum. A fetish “is an object, natural or manmade, in which a spirit is thought to reside”; these fetishes can be utilized for a multitude of purposes.[4] Much of the detailed information about the use and care of fetishes is reserved for members of the Zuni Pueblo, located primarily in New Mexico, who have undergone proper initiation ceremonies into the Zuni religion. This results in the discussion of fetish usage and care to be of a generalized nature.[5] While many fetishes are produced and subsequently sold by the Zuni, members of the Pueblo identify these as merely carvings; for the carved stone animal to obtain the status of a fetish, a Zuni religious leader must conduct an appropriate ceremony that bestows power upon the carving, rendering it a recognized fetish. These ceremonies are done “only by Zuni priests for other Zunis and only during the winter solstice.”[6]

Scholars believe that the use of fetishes dates to the 7th century A.D., as archaeologists have found evidence of early fetishes at excavated sites.[7] These early fetishes were natural concretions of stone that resembled humans and animals and were sometimes further adorned by sinew wrappings that affixed shells and stones.[8] These fetishes are regarded in traditional Zuni religious beliefs as the petrifactions of the animals that they resemble. According to religious traditions, the petrified bodies of animals are representative of the dangerous creatures that inhabited the Earth before humans first emerged from the Underworld.[9] The legendary Warrior Twins then shot lightning arrows that turned the animals into stone and provided the emerging humans with a safe environment. The spirits of these animals are believed to remain alive within these stone forms.[10]

The Zuni traditionally and presently use fetishes in relation to diagnosing and curing illnesses, as an aid in hunting and farming, assisting with fertility, promoting good weather, conducting witchcraft and defense against witchcraft, and punishment.[11] Because these fetishes are considered to be alive and to contain the spirit of an animal, the fetishes must be fed and protected. Fetishes are given offerings of turquoise, coral, shell, or projectile points.[12] These offerings are often seen tied as bundles onto the fetish; the offering bundles help to honor and nourish the animal spirit that resides within the stone.[13] Food, daily prayers, songs, or chants can also serve to strengthen and nourish the fetishes.[14] Fetishes among the Zuni are generally kept in a guarded location within a special pottery vessel, or within a kiva, which is an underground form of religious architecture that is utilized as both a place for religious ceremonies and as a secular place for community meetings.[15] However, those functional fetishes that have been blessed by a religious leader through the appropriate ceremony are rarely seen by non-Zuni people.[16]

If scholars or museums assign only an aesthetic value to these functional religious items, then the purpose of these objects is missed.[17] Many Native American artifacts and objects presently in museums are not intended to be art objects, and this classification may be explicitly rejected by the creators.[18] By viewing ceremonial items as simply art objects that can be acquired and displayed, the complex cultural meanings that are unique to a community are removed.[19] Many Native cultures find that only judging the aesthetic value of a piece “stifles the full expression of ideas and the proper performance of religious acts.”[20] Sacred objects like fetishes or masks were created to be utilized in religious ceremonies and private acts of reverence.

When considering Zuni religious items, two important elements must be taken into account: relatedness—or similarity, and the potency of secret knowledge.[21] The relatedness of a subject is often discerned through resemblance. Therefore, a fetish that resembles an animal is thought to contain that animal’s spirit and the attributes that animal possesses.[22] Animals are considered to be related to both deities and humans; they contain characteristics such as flight, speed, and strength that humans do not, and thusly they cannot fully be understood by humans. However, like humans, animals eventually die.[23] Although fetishes can take the form of any animal, the most important forms of fetishes are those that resemble animals that are perceived as ‘custodians of the hunt’ and those directional fetishes that guard specific areas.[24] These two religious elements of relatedness and secret knowledge are also core principles that are seen in kachina ceremonies and among other Pueblo groups, such as the Hopi Tribe, located in northeastern Arizona.

Another important aspect of Zuni religion is balance.[25] Balance or harmony can be achieved through proper treatment of religious items and through respect shown to the ancestors and gods. Harmony and balance are also ensured through group cooperation and by everyone in the pueblo working together.[26] These are important principles that are also needed between museums and the Zuni to engage in productive dialogue concerning traditional religious objects held by museums.

With the passage of certain laws, Native American sacred items, such as Zuni fetishes, became eligible for repatriation. According to the National Parks Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, “the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was enacted on November 16, 1990, to address the rights of lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations to Native American cultural items, including human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.”[27] Before this law was enacted, federal laws that covered the protection of gravesites and associated property did not extend to Native Americans.[28] NAGPRA was intended to “end the centuries-old practice of removing human remains and cultural items from Native American graves, lands and communities; treating them as collectibles to be stored, studied, and displayed in museums and repositories in the name of scientific study, education, and cultural preservation.”[29] NAGPRA is a central factor in the considerations and decisions of what can be made visible within the Visible Storage Gallery.

The importance of NAGPRA also becomes apparent when it is revealed that the majority of Native American objects in both private and public collections were acquired during the 1830s-1930s, a period of high colonialism.[30] Furthermore, the federal government passed laws during the 1890s-1930s to actively outlaw Native American dances and religious ceremonies. These types of discriminatory laws that precluded basic religious rights led to the enactment of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act in the 1970s.[31] However, this act was not enforceable in court, so during the 1980s-1990s more policies were put forth to protect sacred and burial sites as well as ceremonial objects.[32]

After the Supreme Court case, Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Associations, whose ruling further precluded Native religious practitioners from protecting their sacred sites through the First Amendment, work was done to create laws mandating repatriation and to afford protection to Native American sites, objects, and remains. NAGPRA was produced from this effort.[33] Additionally, scholars have noted that one of the central purposes behind NAGPRA was to assist in repairing centuries of discrimination against and persecution of Native Americans.

NAGPRA applies in different areas, including: protecting human remains and cultural objects against trafficking; protecting these remains and objects on federal and tribal lands; and the repatriation of material and human remains from federal agencies and federally-funded museums.[34] All federally-funded museums and agencies in the United States had to create a comprehensive inventory of cultural items and human remains so that cultural affiliation could be established between these materials and Native American tribes in order for the process of repatriation to begin.[35]

Museums and federal agencies must now repatriate human remains and cultural items that include funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. Sacred objects are ceremonial in nature and are needed for present-day ceremonies. It falls upon Native religious leaders to determine which objects are to be considered sacred. Objects of cultural patrimony include “those objects that have ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself and were owned by the tribe…and could not be sold or given away by an individual.”[36]

With this knowledge of NAGPRA in mind, federal institutions and museums—such as the Johnson Museum—contacted culturally affiliated Native American groups concerning objects stored and displayed within the museum. In 1995 the Johnson Museum worked closely with Cornell’s American Indian Program and with members of the Zuni to determine the fate of three fetishes given to the Museum in 1972. Once contacted with information about their sacred objects, the Pueblo of Zuni provided general information concerning their position on repatriation. For the Pueblo of Zuni, as with many Native tribes and nations, repatriation is a complex process. This is often because different religious groups may be present within the tribe, and decisions affecting cultural, sacred, and funerary objects and remains must be deliberated on by the entire community. Tribal understanding of the term ‘ownership’ is often different than the English use; many objects that fall under NAGPRA jurisdiction are owned by the entire community or even by supernatural entities, and therefore decisions that are appropriate for the entire tribe regarding the transferal of objects from museums can be a difficult matter to finalize.

After the initial correspondence between the Johnson Museum and the Zuni, the tribe requested that these three fetishes be stored in a purpose-built box for perpetuity and not be exhibited. This concealment is important because, as the Pueblo of Zuni Heritage and Historic Preservation Office disclosed, it would be very inappropriate to release any esoteric or ritual knowledge of religious and ceremonial practices. The Johnson Museum agreed to these requests concerning the three fetishes. While many tribes have taken repatriated materials from museum collections back to tribal lands, there is a full spectrum of responses to NAGPRA from Native communities. Each Native American tribe or nation is able to apply the law as they see fit.[37] In certain cases, some Native American groups have selected museums as the “safeguards” of their repatriated materials, which will continue to reside in concealed permanent storage areas.[38]

While the Zuni requested that the three fetishes received by the Johnson Museum in 1972 be removed from display, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), a branch of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., includes photographs of a number of similar fetishes on their website. This is indicative of at least an implicit agreement for display of these or similar objects within a museum context. It is likely the nature or background of these fetishes that allows for their image to be posted online. Owing to the complicated process behind following the meaning and spirit of NAGPRA, as well as honoring and understanding shifting cultural values, concepts of appropriate and inappropriate use of cultural and sacred objects must be considered carefully, on a case-by-case basis. It is this variability of decision-making that allows the fetishes in the NMAI’s collection to be published as images on their website, but the three Zuni fetishes the Johnson Museum acquired in 1972 to be removed from circulation. If one looks on the LUNA image database online, there are photographs of four Zuni fetishes that the Johnson Museum accessioned in 2006. The continued accessibility and online viewing status of these objects has yet to be determined given the complex considerations surrounding sacred items.

NAGPRA creates an opportunity for both museums and Native American tribes, such as the Johnson Museum and the Pueblo of Zuni, to interact through consultation.[39] New relationships between museums and tribes are able to be forged through mutual respect and openness and the fostering of an intercultural perspective. These relationships can contribute to a deeper knowledge about Native objects, such as awareness of what makes an object sacred and what type of appropriate treatment a sacred object should receive.

This inter-cultural dialogue can further museums’ effectiveness as places for learning. Through the exposure of multiple viewpoints, different interpretations of objects can be cultivated. In learning that it is inappropriate to display Zuni fetishes and that secrecy is an important aspect of Pueblo religion, questions such as “Why keep knowledge a secret?” can be addressed in galleries where these objects would have typically been presented or visibly stored. Fresh, broader lines of inquiry can be created in galleries, such as the Visible Storage Gallery, where the stories of these concealed items can be contrasted against presented objects and knowledge.

The question “Why keep knowledge a secret?” has been a central consideration that scholars have pursued with regard to Pueblo religions.[40] Secrecy surrounding esoteric knowledge and religious performances is often attributed to the violence and repression that societies like the Hopi and Zuni have faced from the Spanish, Mexican, and United States governments and dominant cultures. Throughout much of the history of the United States, Native Americans were marginalized, discriminated against, and denied basic rights. They were demonized and had literal bounty prices placed upon their heads, enabling others to legally capture or execute them.[41] Tribes and nations were denied religious freedoms and traditional land holdings and were forced into programs that aimed to create assimilation to the dominant American culture.[42]

Many cultural items and human remains were taken from Native Americans when graves, temples, shrines, or villages were robbed in order to fill museums.[43] These items were also taken as souvenirs or to be sold for private collectors. These items and remains were often removed without the “free, prior, and informed consent” of Native American Nations, governments, communities, or individuals.[44] Salvage anthropology, which occurred during the nineteenth and part of the twentieth centuries when scholars erroneously believed that all Native cultures would become extinct, was also a central force behind the acquisition of objects into museum collections. It was believed that museums would be able to preserve aspects of these cultures once they vanished.[45] These instances of violent acquisition of funerary, sacred, and cultural objects prompted many tribes and nations to become more secretive in their ceremonial and cultural events to better protect their items and traditions.

Scholars have also noted that information regarding the sacred is not freely and widely distributed even within some Native American communities. Among the Pueblo cultures “knowledge is tightly controlled and judiciously disseminated—mediated through different levels of ritual authority.”[46] The amount and type of knowledge that a person is able to amass is prescribed to their earned status within a religion’s hierarchy.[47]

Many scholars have observed that secrecy has social functions, which include the formation of a student-mentor relationship and the continuance of valuing oral communication. Anthropologists have noted in their studies of Pueblo societies that knowledge is powerful because it is kept secret; however, traditional Pueblo religious leaders have responded by stating that knowledge is kept a secret because it is powerful.[48] When those who are not properly educated or initiated into Pueblo religions make use of knowledge that they cannot fully comprehend or control, the religious knowledge loses its potency. Through secrecy and control, knowledge is used properly and, it is believed, the order of the cosmos is maintained.[49] However, once sacred knowledge has been made profane, it may not be possible to make it sacred again.[50]

Among Pueblo communities, the Hopi, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Zuni, and the Pueblo of Zia have been termed the “four repatriating Pueblos.”[51] Seventeen other Pueblos support their efforts. When requesting items for repatriation, the Hopi Tribe or Pueblo of Acoma often lead in the reburial of remains. In addition, the Zuni Pueblo have been particularly active in requesting the repatriation of religiously powerful cultural objects.[52] Restricted access to religious objects and knowledge ensures cultural survival. As Zuni Octavius Seowtewa states, “It’s a way for us to keep our culture, by restricting it.”[53] NAGPRA assists in providing guidelines for consultations and collaborations between institutions and Native communities so that Native collections can be beneficial both to individuals and communities. Respect for Native beliefs, ethics, and rights can be achieved, and, in cases concerning religious objects, secrecy can be maintained.

Similar to the Pueblo of Zuni, secrecy is an important aspect of the Hopi Tribe’s traditional kachina, or katsina, religion. Due to the significance of secrecy, issues of concealment and display also figure prominently in discussions of Hopi sacred objects, including masks used in kachina ceremonies. According to Glenna Nielsen-Grimm, the Anthropology Collections Manager at the Natural History Museum of Utah, the kachinas “are believed to be the ancestral spirits who visit the pueblos in the year during kachina season, the masked dancers who perform the rituals, and the kachina dolls that are carved by uncles, brothers, and fathers to help children, especially girls, learn about them.”[54] Each of these three different meanings to the word kachina carries different connotations.

Hopi religion involves the belief that the world of the dead is not truly divided and disconnected from the world of the living. Masks play an integral role in the communion between these two worlds. Upon death, a white cotton mask is placed over the face of the deceased, and this symbolizes their birth into the lower world.[55] The spirits of the deceased can return to the upper world of the living by travelling in the form of a cloud and becoming kachinas. The rain is understood to be the spiritual essence of the kachinas. In this way, the kachinas are not just deity spirits but also the ancestral spirits that bring clouds and rain to their descendants. It is believed that these spirits reside in either the mountains or the lakes.[56]

Within the Hopi calendar, divisions are made in regard to lunar months and the duration of certain ceremonial seasons. The period of December to July is the Kachina season, in which masked ceremonies are performed to mark the arrival of the kachinas and the initiation of children into kachina societies.[57] Only boys and men are initiated into kachina societies, and they are the only members of the tribe who wear the costumes and masks of the kachina spirits.[58] The female kachinas are also impersonated by men. Hopi clans traditionally have been matrilineal, and women are recognized as the owners of farm lands, houses, and wells. Through the matrilineal kinship structures, property rights, and the ability to produce new life through the process of giving birth, Hopi women embody sacredness, while Hopi men express sacredness through the performance of ceremonies.[59]

There are over 200 different kachinas and many different classificatory categories.[60] Kachinas often represent themes or elements from the natural world. This association indicates the close relationship that the Hopi have with their land and environment.[61] The all-encompassing aspects of the kachina religion become more evident within the Hopi language; the Hopi have no word meaning “religion,” and it is argued that this is due to the understanding that “all aspects of their life have a sacred quality.”[62]

The kachinas are referred to as “our friends”; kachina masks are often called this as well, because it is the mask that defines each individual kachina and that is the essence of each personality and type of kachina.[63] Since masks are often referred to in this manner, the Hopi word meaning mask is rarely used.[64] As discussed by scholar Louis A. Hieb, this likely conforms to the belief that “uninitiated Hopis should not have knowledge or contact with the mask” because “the mask, is what defines the katsina.”[65] The designs of the kachina masks allow for the different kachina spirits and deities to be distinguished from one another.[66] As a ritual object, ceremonial kachina masks, similar to fetishes, must receive proper care through the acts of feeding and of performing both songs and prayers.[67] Often the masks are hidden from view in a protected place when they are stored.[68]

The kachina mask worn by performers is the most highly developed aspect of their costume.[69] There are several variations of the masks that are used during kachina ceremonies, such as the half mask, face mask, and helmet mask.[70] The half mask, made of heavy buckskin or rawhide, conceals the performer’s face from the hairline to the mouth. Affixed to the top of this mask is a fringe made of horsehair or goat hair.[71] Black horsehair and sometimes feathers are attached to the lower extremity of the mask and cover the performer’s mouth while still allowing for clear pronunciation of songs and prayers. Half masks are often representative of female kachinas.[72]

Face masks usually have molded or stylized features that sometimes appear exaggerated, similar to caricatures. Helmet masks encircle the performer’s entire head, completely concealing all aspects of the face and hair.[73] They are also made from buckskin, buffalo hide, or leather that has been buried in wet sand to soften it. The leather is then conformed to the size and contour of the performer’s head, who will wear the mask in ceremonies. The role of masks in kachina performances is of immense importance. Emory Sekaquaptewa, a kachina performer, discusses the role that he has observed masks to play during kachina ceremonies, stating: “I am certain that the use of the mask in the kachina ceremony has more than just an aesthetic purpose. I feel that what happens to a man when he is a performer is that if he understands the essence of the kachina, when he dons the mask he loses his identity and actually becomes what he is representing.”[74]

Hopi rituals employ masks and costumes in the performance of dances and religious ceremonies as the utilization of mimetic rituals whose efficacy lies in imitation. This is similar to the Zuni concepts of relatedness or similarity, and this imitation is believed to ensure that the rituals and ceremonies are effective in producing their desired result, such as producing rain.[75] As with the Pueblo of Zuni, secret knowledge is also important to the Hopi Tribe, as only the initiated men and boys of a certain age are allowed into kachina societies and to wear the costumes and masks of the kachina spirits.

As the Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask at the Johnson Museum is potentially a very important sacred object that is culturally affiliated with the Hopi Tribe, it is essential that contact between the museum and tribe occurs to thoughtfully ascertain the most appropriate and culturally sensitive practices regarding the future storage and display of this item. The Johnson Museum can enter into the process of consultation and repatriation as outlined by the National NAGPRA website.[76] Museums working with tribes can also consult the Bureau of Indian Affairs; federal, state, and local governmental agencies involved in Native American issues; and national, regional and local archives concerning matters of cultural affiliation. As with the Zuni fetishes, over which the Johnson Museum engaged in an active dialogue with the Zuni Pueblo, the Johnson Museum will work with the Hopi Tribe concerning the Ceremonial Half-Mask. This Hopi mask is an example of how certain objects lead museums and institutions to engage in productive dialogues with Native American communities. The ownership, display, and storage of this mask will be determined through these open, respectful, and multicultural dialogues.

Through the process of consultation and repatriation, federal institutions and museums, such as the Johnson Museum, have been able to consider not only their collections but also the living people and cultures from which the materials and knowledge originated. The process evokes important questions previously mentioned, including: What is sacred? Who should have access to knowledge—only the initiated of a specific religion, or the general public? Who is responsible for the interpretation and display of objects? Through cooperative efforts between Native communities and museums, these questions can be assessed from multiple viewpoints, and answers regarding particular objects can be reached.

The observance of NAGPRA and the start of these communications could potentially change the viewing status of the Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask. Given the importance of secrecy in the religious practices of the Hopi and the significance that masks carry, if this is a ceremonial piece used in secret dances, Hopi religious leaders may have the object removed from the museum or request that it is no longer displayed. Due to this type of closed storage, where access to these objects is limited, some scholars, particularly physical anthropologists, as well as certain archaeologists and some museum curators have voiced opposition to the repatriation of human remains and objects from museums and federal collections.[77] These scholars argue that our understanding of a universal human past and heritage is threatened when specific ethnic or cultural boundaries have exclusive control of artifacts and limit scientific study and inquiry. They claim that the law of NAGPRA weighs the traditions and beliefs of Native American tribes and nations more heavily than a universalist perspective and that the law puts these traditional religious beliefs on an equal standing with science.[78]

Tribes are able to remove culturally affiliated objects from museums, as items of cultural patrimony can include a wide variety of objects affiliated with tribes. This ability allows many items in a museum collection to fall under tribal authority; tribes can even rebury items if so desired.[79] Certain scholars argue that NAGPRA legislation, which delegates the control and fate of objects explicitly to particular racial or ethnic groups, endangers academic research opportunities. It has been claimed that, because of NAGPRA, “the worldview of western science is under serious and sustained assault.”[80] These opinions might have formed due to the value that Western societies place on an open system of information sharing.[81] Yet, many museums would “not return anything if NAGPRA was not in place.”[82] Despite protests against NAGPRA, it is an important piece of human rights legislation that affords Native Americans equal protection of their funerary, sacred, and cultural goods, as well as human remains. It forces scholars to consider other perspectives and religious beliefs outside of research interests, and it allows for face-to-face consultation and collaboration between scholars and Native communities.

Ultimately, as Elizabeth Sackler states,NAGPRA “demands that we confront our country’s history of conquest, genocide, and racism.”[83] The law, along with respect for Native religious and cultural viewpoints, allows new opportunities for Native and non-Native Americans to engage in productive dialogues. Often it is felt by tribes that the unwanted excavation and curation of both human remains and cultural objects by institutions has removed the voices of Native Americans and has resulted in their lack of power to control or to participate in determining the fate of their ancestors and cultural objects.[84] Many scholars now recognize the importance of multiculturalism and pluralism and welcome the opportunity to have diverse viewpoints concerning the research and display of Native objects.[85]

In addition to permanent galleries, visible storage galleries are vital and dynamic museum spaces that also enable visitors to consider the types of objects that are suitable for public display and the legal, cultural, and religious motives behind the concealment of items. The two selected Native American objects, a set of Zuni fetishes and a Hopi Ceremonial Half-Mask, both part of the Johnson Museum’s Native American art collection, exemplify the importance of secrecy and concealment as well as the ongoing need for museums to enter into productive dialogues with Native American communities. These dialogues and relationships, guided by federal laws like the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), can allow for culturally sensitive decisions to be reached regarding the ownership, display, and storage of significant cultural and sacred objects. As the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington allows for the representation of contemporary Native people,[86] the continual dialogue between museums and Native communities, as reflected in this project, also reveals how Native communities have the opportunity to actively control their material culture and the dissemination of their religious and traditional knowledge.

Notes
[1] Sackler, Elizabeth. “Chapter One: About the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation.” In Mending the Circle: A Native American Repatriation Guide, Understanding and Implementing NAGPRA and the Official Smithsonian and pother Repatriation Policies. editor Barbara Meister. (New York, New York: American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation, 1997), 70.

[2] Berlo, Janet Catherine, Ruth B. Phillips. “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” The Art Bulletin, 77, No. 1 (1995), pp. 6-23, p. 6.

[3] Berlo and Phillips, “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” p. 9.

[4] Rodee, Marian and James Ostler. The Fetish Carvers of the Zuni. Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, The University of New Mexico,1990, p. 15.

[5] Rodee, and Ostler. The Fetish Carvers of the Zuni. p. 30.

[6] Rodee, and Ostler. The Fetish Carvers of the Zuni. p. 30.

[7] Whittle, Kay. Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006, p. 30.

[8] Finkelstein, Harold. Zuni Fetish Carvings. Decatur, Georgia: South West Connection, 1994, p. 1.

[9] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[10] Finkelstein, Zuni Fetish Carvings, 1994, p. 1.

[11] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 14.

[12] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 14.

[13] Rodee, and Ostler. The Fetish Carvers of the Zuni. p. 15.

[14] Bennett, Hal Zina. Zuni Fetishes: Using Native American Objects for Meditation, Reflection, and Insight. (New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), p. 40.

[15] [15] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 14.

[16] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 14.

[17] Gill, Sam D. Native American Religious Action: A Performance Approach to Religion. Colombia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1987, p. 41.

[18] Gill, Native American Religious Action, 1987, p. 41.

[19] Gill, Native American Religious Action, 1987, p. 41.

[20] Gill, Native American Religious Action, 1987, p. 44.

[21] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[22] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[23] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[24] Finkelstein, Zuni Fetish Carvings, 1994, p. 7.

[25] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[26] Whittle, Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest, p. 13.

[27] http://www.nps.gov/nagpra/INDEX.HTM

[28] Chari, Sangita and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. “Introduction.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp. 7-18. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013, p. 7.

[29] Chari, and Lavallee. “Introduction.” p. 7.

[30] Berlo and Phillips, “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” p. 6.

[31] Trope, Jack F. “The Case for NAGPRA.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.19-54. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

[32] Trope, “The Case for NAGPRA.” p. 19.

[33] Trope, “The Case for NAGPRA.” p. 19.

[34] Trope, “The Case for NAGPRA.” p. 29.

[35] Trope, “The Case for NAGPRA.” p. 29.

[36] Trope, “The Case for NAGPRA.” p. 32.

[37] Watkins, Joe “Native Americans, Western Science, and NAGPRA” In Working Together: Native Americans and Archaeologists editors Dongoske, Kurt E., Mark Aldenderfer, and Karen Doehner. Washington D.C.: The Society for American Archaeology, 2000, p. 93.

[38] Capone, Patricia. “Amending Wonder: Museums and Twenty Years of the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.115-134. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013, p. 125.

[39] Hemenway, Eric. “Finding Our Way Home.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.83-98. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013, p. 88.

[40] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip. “Sketching Knowledge: Quandaries in the Mimetic Reproduction of Pueblo Ritual.” Journal of the American Ethnological Society 38 no.3 (2011): 451-467 Denver Museum of Nature and Science, p. 452.

[41] Bernstein, Jan I. “The Impact of NAGPRA on Communities.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.263-282. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013, p. 265.

[42] Bernstein, “The Impact of NAGPRA on Communities.” p. 265.

[43] O’Loughlin, Shannon Keller. “Moving Forward from the Last Twenty Years.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.221-236. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013, p. 234.

[44] O’Loughlin, “Moving Forward from the Last Twenty Years.” p. 234.

[45] Berlo and Phillips, “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” p. 6.

[46] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 452.

[47] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 452.

[48] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 453.

[49] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 453.

[50] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 453.

[51] Bernstein, “The Impact of NAGPRA on Communities.” p. 277.

[52] Bernstein, “The Impact of NAGPRA on Communities.” p. 277.

[53] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 459.

[54] Nielsen-Grimm, Glenna. “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” In Mesoamerican Influences in the Southwest: Kachinas, Macaws, and Feathered Serpents editor Glenna Nielsen-Grimm. pp. 1-20. Utah: Museum of Peoples and Cultures Popular Series #4, Brigham Young University, 2008, p. 2.

[55] Nielsen-Grimm, “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” p. 7.

[56] Nielsen-Grimm, “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” p. 7.

[57] Nielsen-Grimm,. “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” p. 9.

[58] Nielsen-Grimm,. “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” p. 9.

[59] Loftin John D. Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1991, p. 28.

[60] Nielsen-Grimm,. “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” p. 9.

[61] Eggan, Fred. “The Hopi Cosmology or World-View.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 7-16 Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994, p. 15.

[62] Eggan. “The Hopi Cosmology or World-View.” p. 15.

[63] Hieb, Louis A. “The Meaning of Katsina: Toward a Cultural Definition of “Person” in Hopi Religion.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 23-34 Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994, p. 27.

[64] Hieb, “The Meaning of Katsina” p. 27.

[65] Hieb, “The Meaning of Katsina” p. 27.

[66] Adams, E. Charles. “The Katsina Cult: A Western Pueblo Perspective.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 35-46 Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994, p. 37.

[67] Parsons, Elsie Worthington Clews Hopi and Zuni Ceremonialism. The American Anthropological Association, 1933, p. 40.

[68] Hieb, “The Meaning of Katsina” p. 28.

[69] Roediger, Virginia More. Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians: Their Evolution, Fabrication, and Significance in the Prayer Drama. Berkley: University of California Press, 1991, p. 159.

[70] Roediger, Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians, p. 159.

[71] Roediger, Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians, p. 161.

[72] Roediger, Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians, p. 161.

[73] Roediger, Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians, p. 163.

[74] Gill, Native American Religious Action, 1987, p. 43.

[75] James, Susan E. “Mimetic Rituals of Child Sacrifice in the Hopi Kachina Cult.” Journal of the Southwest, 44 no. 3 (2002): 337-356, p. 338.

[76] http://www.nps.gov/nagpra/INDEX.HTM

[77] Clark, G.A. “NAGPRA, the Conflict between Science and Religion, and the Political Consequences.” In Working Together: Native Americans and Archaeologists editors Dongoske, Kurt E., Mark Aldenderfer, and Karen Doehner. Washington D.C.: The Society for American Archaeology, 2000, p. 87.

[78] Clark, “NAGPRA, the Conflict between Science and Religion” p. 87.

[79] Clark, “NAGPRA, the Conflict between Science and Religion” p. 87.

[80] Clark, “NAGPRA, the Conflict between Science and Religion” p. 89.

[81] Colwell-Chanthaphonh, “Sketching Knowledge” p. 453.

[82] Hemenway, “Finding Our Way Home.” p. 89.

[83] Sackler, “Chapter One: About the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation,” 70.

[84] Watkins, “Native Americans, Western Science, and NAGPRA” p. 92.

[85] Berlo and Phillips, “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” p. 7.

[86] Rickard, Jolene. “Absorbing or Obscuring the Absence of a Critical Space in the Americas for Indigeneity: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 52, Museums: Crossing Boundaries (2007), pp. 85-92.

Bibliography
Adams, E. Charles. “The Katsina Cult: A Western Pueblo Perspective.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 35-46 (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).

Bennett, Hal Zina. Zuni Fetishes: Using Native American Objects for Meditation, Reflection, and Insight. (New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993).

Berlo, Janet Catherine, Ruth B. Phillips. “The Problematics of Collecting and Display, Part 1” The Art Bulletin, 77, No. 1 (1995), pp. 6-23.

Bernstein, Jan I. “The Impact of NAGPRA on Communities.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.263-282. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Capone, Patricia. “Amending Wonder: Museums and Twenty Years of the Native Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.115-134. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Chari, Sangita and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. “Introduction.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp. 7-18. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Clark, G.A. “NAGPRA, the Conflict between Science and Religion, and the Political Consequences.” In Working Together: Native Americans and Archaeologists editors Dongoske, Kurt E., Mark Aldenderfer, and Karen Doehner. Washington D.C.: The Society for American Archaeology, 2000.

Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Chip. “Sketching Knowledge: Quandaries in the Mimetic Reproduction of Pueblo Ritual.” Journal of the American Ethnological Society 38 no.3 (2011): 451-467 Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Eggan, Fred. “The Hopi Cosmology or World-View.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 7-16 (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).

Finkelstein, Harold. Zuni Fetish Carvings. Decatur, Georgia: South West Connection, 1994.

Gill, Sam D. Native American Religious Action: A Performance Approach to Religion. Colombia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Hemenway, Eric. “Finding Our Way Home.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.83-98. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Hieb, Louis A. “The Meaning of Katsina: Toward a Cultural Definition of “Person” in Hopi Religion.” In Kachinas in the Pueblo World editor Polly Schaafsma. pp. 23-34 (Albuquerque, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1994).

http://www.nps.gov/nagpra/INDEX.HTM “National NAGPRA” U.S. Department of the Interior.

James, Susan E. “Mimetic Rituals of Child Sacrifice in the Hopi Kachina Cult.” Journal of the Southwest, 44 no. 3 (2002): 337-356.

Loftin John D. Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century. Indianapolis, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Nielsen-Grimm, Glenna. “Southwest Cultures and the Kachina Cult.” In Mesoamerican Influences in the Southwest: Kachinas, Macaws, and Feathered Serpents editor Glenna Nielsen-Grimm. pp. 1-20. Utah: Museum of Peoples and Cultures Popular Series #4, Brigham Young University, 2008.

O’Loughlin, Shannon Keller. “Moving Forward from the Last Twenty Years.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.221-236. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Parsons, Elsie Worthington Clews Hopi and Zuni Ceremonialism. The American Anthropological Association, 1933.

Rickard, Jolene. “Absorbing or Obscuring the Absence of a Critical Space in the Americas for Indigeneity: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 52, Museums: Crossing Boundaries (2007), pp. 85-92.

Rodee, Marian and James Ostler. The Fetish Carvers of the Zuni. Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, The University of New Mexico,1990.

Roediger, Virginia More. Ceremonial Costumes of the Pueblo Indians: Their Evolution, Fabrication, and Significance in the Prayer Drama. Berkley: University of California Press, 1991.

Sackler, Elizabeth. “Chapter One: About the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation.” In Mending the Circle: A Native American Repatriation Guide, Understanding and Implementing NAGPRA and the Official Smithsonian and pother Repatriation Policies. editor Barbara Meister. New York, New York: American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation, 1997.

Trope, Jack F. “The Case for NAGPRA.” In Accomplishing NAGPRA : perspectives on the intent, impact, and future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act editors Sangita Chari and Jaime M.N. Lavallee. pp.19-54. Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

Watkins, Joe “Native Americans, Western Science, and NAGPRA” In Working Together: Native Americans and Archaeologists editors Dongoske, Kurt E., Mark Aldenderfer, and Karen Doehner. Washington D.C.: The Society for American Archaeology, 2000.

Whittle, Kay. Native American Fetishes: Carvings of the Southwest. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.

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Tracing the Foreign Channel and Influence: Cheong Soo Pieng and Modern Art in Singapore

Anissa InterventionTracing the Foreign Channel and Influence: Cheong Soo Pieng and Modern Art in Singapore
A curatorial intervention by Anissa Rahadiningtyas, Ph.D. student, History of Art

This project showcases a painting titled Malay Fishing Village (1957/8) by Cheong Soo Pieng in the Chinese Painting Gallery at the Johnson Museum, juxtaposing it with paintings of Chinese artists from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards. The presence of Malay Fishing Village amongst the selection of Chinese landscape paintings in the Chinese paintings gallery of the Johnson Museum will hopefully show the different trajectory as well as the continuity of the development of modern art in Singapore from the tradition of Chinese landscape painting. This project aims to reestablish the connection of the development modern art in Southeast Asia, tracing its genealogies and influence, not only from the Western modernism, but most importantly from the Chinese ink painting tradition, which disseminated with the wave of migration from Southern China to Southeast Asia.

Introduction
Cheong Soo Pieng is widely recognized by numerous art practitioners and art historians of Southeast Asia as the driving force behind the development of modern art in Singapore. Art historian T.K. Sabapathy regards his presence to be very significant in the formative period of Singaporean modern art.[1] Another prominent figure, Choy Weng Yang, a former curator at Singapore’s National Museum Art Gallery, describes Cheong Soo Pieng as the dynamic trendsetter with his persistent exploration and innovation in visual language in order to form and express the particularity of Southeast Asia through his paintings.[2] In a book and catalogue on Cheong Soo Pieng’s life and works, Seng Yu Jin claims that Cheong Soo Pieng’s depictions of Singapore and Southeast Asia through his use of both traditional Chinese ink painting and Western oil painting is considered to be a pioneer and never been explored before.[3]

Cheong Soo Pieng is not originally from Singapore or other parts of Southeast Asia. He is part of the continuing Chinese diaspora who has been migrating to Southeast Asia roughly since the second half of the first millennia. Cheong Soo Pieng left China and decided to settle in Singapore in 1946, a year after the destructive Sino-Japanese war ended. He was born in 1917 in Xiamen of Fujian province in China. Xiamen, also known as Amoy, is generally known as the ancestral home of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. The port of Xiamen is one of the most important ports in mainland China which served the thriving seaborne trade and shipment from China to Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Some of the earlier generations of overseas Chinese which date back at least prior to the tenth century departed from this port to engage in trade with kingdoms in Southeast Asia. Some of the travelers and merchants returned to China, but some of them stayed and established new settlements in various parts of Southeast China. The wave of migration was increased especially after the ban of private trading was imposed by the Ming dynasty in the fourteenth century, causing the private traders to emigrate out of China in order to continue their trade and avoid the severe punishment that was imposed by the government.[4]

Cheong Soo Pieng was raised in a family with an affinity to painting and calligraphy who fully supported his career and education in art. In 1933, Cheong Soo Pieng decided to enroll at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts and train under Lim Hak Tai, another important figure in the formative period of the modern art academy in Singapore. The Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts was established in 1923 by Huang Suibi, Yang Gengtang, and Lim Hak Tai, and according to Seng Yu Jin, was a product of the 1919 May Fourth Movement.[5] After he graduated in 1935, Cheong Soo Pieng moved to Shanghai and continued his study at the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts, one of the schools that incorporated Western art training beside the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, which was established by Liu Haisu. However, the advent of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 caused Cheong Soo Pieng’s artistic training to stop abruptly as the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts was destroyed by the Japanese air raids. The situation forced Soo Pieng to return to his hometown and teach at Yi Zhong School from 1939 to 1943.[6]

The constant social and political turbulence that swept across China did not stop even after the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. In addition, prior to the Sino-Japanese War, China was already engulfed in a civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and the Guomindang, which started in 1927 and continued until 1950.[7] This situation was one of the factors that drove Cheong Soo Pieng to emigrate out of mainland China in late 1945 in order to avoid being conscripted in a civil war for either side.[8] Another decisive factor in Soo Pieng’s decision was also the invitation from his former teacher at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts, Lim Hak Tai, to teach at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) – a newly established art academy in Singapore, which was founded in 1938. Lim Hak Tai, a native Fujian, was one of the founders of this school who migrated to Singapore early in 1937 at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War.

According to Redza Piyadasa, “Lim Hak Tai was the man who gave the Academy (NAFA) its direction. He always suggested to the staff and to the students that the subject matter in their works should reflect the reality of the South Seas. He emphasized that our work should depict the localness of the place we live in.”[9] Lim Hak Tai’s idea set the ground for the development of the Nanyang Style, an emphasis to depict the particularity of Southeast Asia in order to find a regional artistic identity that sets the style apart from the Chinese classical tradition. Having studied under Lim Hak Tai since his first year at the Xiamen Academy of Fine Arts, we could see the influence of Lim Hak Tai’s concept and principle in Cheong Soo Pieng’s artistic practice.

Most of the teachers who were recruited to teach at NAFA had a strong tie to Xiamen or Shanghai; most of them were graduates from either Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts or Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts. A year after Cheong Soo Pieng arrived in Singapore; he was recruited as teacher and was provided with lodgings and a studio at NAFA by Lim Hak Tai. In his first few years in Singapore, aside from teaching, Cheong Soo Pieng continued to produce artworks. Most of his early works were woodcut print and sketch drawings, capturing the new reality of everyday life he encountered in Southeast Asia, such as the hawkers, barbers, fishermen mending their nets; people in their leisure activities: resting, playing music; as well as the architecture of Singapore: the houses, buildings, and many others.

Throughout his career, as noted by Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, Cheong Soo Pieng continued to explore his training in both Chinese ink painting as well as Western technique and pictorial tradition.[10] In 1991, T.K. Sabapathy wrote an article on Cheong Soo Pieng in The Strait Times, highlighting Soo Pieng’s works that specifically amalgamated the long tradition of delicacy and craftsmanship of the East, the influence of the West, and most importantly, the locality of Southeast Asia, as seen in the work titled Malay Fishing Village, which is now in the collection of the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University (fig. 1). Sabapathy highly praised these works for Soo Pieng’s innovation, which started probably “in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when easel and scroll pictures were amalgamated to create both daring and remarkable pictorial structures.”[11]

Cheong Soo Pieng, “Malay Fishing Village” (1957/8) 22 1/2 x 43 in. (57.2 x 109.2 cm). Ink and colors on rice paper. Johnson Museum of Art, Accession number: 99.074.002

Figure 1: Cheong Soo Pieng, “Malay Fishing Village” (1957/8)
22 1/2 x 43 in. (57.2 x 109.2 cm). Ink and colors on rice paper. Johnson Museum of Art, Accession number: 99.074.002

It is this arresting visual representation as well as its unusual technique and method that attracted me almost instantly to Malay Fishing Village, painted by Soo Pieng in the late 1950s. The museum puts the dates on this painting in 1957 or 1958. If we compare it to other Soo Pieng’s paintings which employ similar techniques and media as in the painting titled Untitled (Kelong Scene) (1961) (fig. 2), which is more developed and well executed, Malay Fishing Village seems to show Soo Pieng’s early experimentation and incorporation of Southeast Asian particularities into his previous trainings and influences.

Cheong Soo Pieng, “Untitled (Kelong Scene)” (1961) 91,9 x 44,6 cm. Ink and colors on paper. Collection of NHB (Source: Cheong Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia, plate 242).

Figure 2: Cheong Soo Pieng, Untitled (Kelong Scene) (1961)
91,9 x 44,6 cm. Ink and colors on paper.
Collection of NHB
(Source: Cheong Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia, plate 242).

Malay Fishing Village was painted with ink and colors on a 57.2 x 109.2 cm rice paper with horizontal format. It is surrounded by a light-colored wooden frame. Overall, the composition of this painting emphasizes its horizontality with a long thin brush line signifying a river in the foreground of the painting, rows of stilted houses in the middle ground, and a horizon in the background. Cheong Soo Pieng utilized the structure of the houses, the electric tower, the lamp post, the trees, and the cloth hanger to balance his composition. He drew his figures in a simplistic outline with no discernible face. Although his depiction of the clothes, the songkok or the hat that the men use, and the shape of the women’s hair that resembles a bun as well as their sarong, seem like a simplification or generalization of the realities of Malay people, all of these inform the viewer of the supposed identity of his subject matter.

His brushstrokes are almost sketch-like and rough. It has an unfinished and raw quality, especially from the dry brush technique and ink washes inside his thick and thin outlines. Interestingly in several spots, we can see the colored squares in red, blue, and grey juxtaposed strategically within the painting, providing an interesting contrast and cubistic nuances to the typical monochromatic Chinese ink landscapes. Besides those few colored squares; most of the squares were black and white, some of them were just outlines. His visual strategy made the transition from the Chinese landscape painting into cubist painting seems to flow naturally. As a result, the cubistic elements in this painting look both prominent yet subtle at the same time.

By juxtaposing this painting in the Chinese Paintings Gallery at the Herbert Johnson Museum with the collection of Chinese landscape paintings displayed, I intend to compare these paintings and unpack the differences and similarities based on the visual representation and trace the visual traditions and influences that shape their practice. I am also interested in looking at the movement of ideas as well as tradition from one place to another. As mentioned earlier, this painting reveals several historicities: traces of Chinese landscape and ink painting tradition; the encounter and absorption of Western technique and colors in mainland China, especially in Shanghai in the mid-twentieth century; and the movement and migration of the artist from mainland China to Southeast Asia and his fascination towards the South Seas.

Furthermore, I intend to look and explore several issues on the development of modern art in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore, and its particular close connection with the development of modern art in mainland China, especially southern Chinese cities such as Xiamen and Shanghai where most of the Chinese population in Southeast Asia comes from. However, I would like to emphasize that the Chinese connection and influence did not occur at the same degree in any other Southeast Asian nations, especially if we compare it to modern art in Indonesia, Thailand and Philippine. In the case of Indonesia, although Chinese artistic influence and practices were evident, they were mostly confined within the Chinese diasporic group. The divisive policy enforced by the Dutch to separate the Chinese as ‘Foreign Orientals’ above the native in the racial hierarchy resulted in a lasting perception of the Chinese as ‘Other’[12] and their exclusion from Indonesian modern history. Furthermore, the artistic practices and influence in Indonesia, as well as in Philippine and Thailand, were shaped mainly by Western modernism brought by their colonizers (except for Thailand since it was never subjected to foreign powers). Modern art in Singapore represents a particular historical process different than the other Southeast Asian nations and, therefore, it is crucial to see the determinant forces behind it.

Cheong Soo Pieng: Between Chinese Landscape Paintings, Cubism, and the Nanyang Style
The presence of Cheong Soo Pieng’s painting, “Malay Fishing Village,” amongst the selection of Chinese landscape paintings in the Chinese paintings gallery of the Johnson Museum will hopefully show a different trajectory as well as continuity of the development of modern art in Singapore from the tradition of Chinese landscape painting. Landscape painting is one of the most important themes in Chinese painting tradition. Many literati painters – painters who devoted their life in the search of true knowledge through aesthetic creation and contemplation – chose landscape painting to represent an ideal way of life of a scholar, to escape hardship and turbulent times, to convey politically subversive messages in a subtle way, and to symbolically represent the internal struggles of the mind and the soul.

Figure 3: Cheng Shisui, “River Crossing in Winter” (17th century) 81 3/4 x 37 5/8 in. (207.6 x 95.5 cm). Hanging scroll: Ink and white pigment on silk. Herbert F. Johnson Museum Collection Accession number: 2002.173.001

Figure 3: Cheng Shisui, “River Crossing in Winter” (17th century)
81 3/4 x 37 5/8 in. (207.6 x 95.5 cm). Hanging scroll: Ink/white pigment on silk.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum Collection
Accession number: 2002.173.001

Most of the paintings on display in this gallery are landscape painting, from a hanging scroll painting by Yang Xun who died in the sixteenth century, a hand scroll painting by Xiao Yincong who lived at the turn of the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, Chang Shisui’s hanging scroll which is dated from the seventeenth century, to hanging scrolls and paintings produced in the twentieth century by Liu Haisu, Zhang Daqian, and Xubing. Earlier paintings by Yang Xun titled “Woodcutter in Winter Mountains”, Xiao Yincong’s “Rivers and Mountains”, and Chang Shisui’s “River Crossing in Winter” (Fig. 3), show the early predilection of landscape painting. All of the paintings are painted from a bird eye point of view in order to capture even the farthest details on the horizon. As we can see from the hanging scroll paintings, the painters use a river or a pathway as a passage for the viewer to engage into the painters’ journey and longing for an ideal landscape from the bottom of the painting. The visual elements of the paintings invite our gaze and imagination to walk through the woods, passing the sequence of trees and secluded dwellings, up to the mountain before vanishing into a horizon in the upper part of the painting. Handscroll painting also employ similar visual strategies with slightly different method. Instead from the bottom to the upper part of the painting, we are directed to peruse the paintings from the left to the right. As we open the scroll slowly and move our eyes from left to right, we will engage with the painting as if we were flowing with the river passing the houses with a family inside that we encounter along the way, as well as the deep forest, the bridges, the big trees, the mountains, and the waterfalls.

If we move to the paintings produced in the twentieth century, such as Liu Haisu’s Landscape (Fig. 4) painted in 1927, Zhang Daqian’s Landscape with Rocks and Willows (Fig. 5) which was painted ca. 1950, and Xubing’s A Great River woodblock print produced in 1986, we can see a difference in how the painters depicted and approached the landscape. Zhang Daqian’s hanging scroll painting still bears a similitude to the older paintings. But note that the distance is getting closer and the complexity of the details of the landscape (the dwellings and the trees) are more simplified except for the awkward protruding rock that dominates the central area of the composition. It suggests that the landscape is not based on a real landscape but perhaps from an imagined landscape, which functions a symbolic way to express his anxiety of having to leave China after the victory of the Communist Party in 1950.

Figure 4: Liu Haisu, “Landscape” (1927) 37 1/4 x 17 1/2 in. (94.6 x 44.5 cm). Hanging scroll: Ink on paper. Herbert F. Johnson Museum Collection Accession number: 2000.136.003

Figure 4: Liu Haisu, “Landscape” (1927)
37 1/4 x 17 1/2 in. (94.6 x 44.5 cm). Hanging scroll: Ink on paper.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum Collection
Accession number: 2000.136.003

anissa5

Figure 5: Zhang Daqian, “Landscape with rocks and willows” (ca. 1950) 40 x 15 5/8 in. (101.6 x 39.7 cm). Hanging scroll: Ink and colors on paper. Herbert F. Johnson Museum Collection Accession number: 81.112.00

Liu Haisu painted his Landscape during one of his sojourns in Japan. After China’s defeat in the first Sino-Japanese War of 1894, many Chinese intellectuals began to look toward Japan as a better role model of a modern art instead of the West although Japan also derived its development from Western modern art influence.[13] However, there were also wave of students who decided to study overseas in Europe and the U.S during this period. Consequently, the stream of young artists returning back to China from Japan or the West brought fundamental effect upon cities, school and institutions because they “constituted a crucial force for historic innovation.”[14] This effect can be seen in the invention of the term ‘fine arts’ or ‘meishu’ in China which was borrowed from the Japanese term, ‘bijutsu.’[15] In addition, these new stream of artists also changed the way people in China looked at Western art and painting as starting from the early twentieth century, “people saw pictures painted by Chinese artists, using Western expressive language, that were more directly relevant and accessible to their understanding.”[16] Xubing represents the most recent generation of Chinese artists who still keep his connection to the tradition of landscape painting. His woodcut print is a further abstraction of the traditional elements in Chinese landscape painting; a river, trees and hills. The artwork is focused in capturing the essence of a great river by dividing his composition only into the flowing river and the landmass in the upper and lower part of the river. Liu Haisu also painted his landscape in a closer distance with the trees framing the foreground with the small rocks, the river, the scholar depicted in the middle ground with thin brush line, and the houses in the back. We can also trace the use of perspective in this painting, indicating the painter’s knowledge of the Western technique. All of these paintings, despite their departure from the traditional landscape painting, still show the continued affinity of the subject matter.

The May Fourth Movement which took place in 1919,[17] according to several scholars, is also important in promoting Western thoughts and Western art practice in China. Many art schools established in China were based on the spirit of the movement by including Western painting together with Chinese ink painting in their main curriculum, as practiced by the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts and the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai. Shanghai constitutes to be an important ground for hybrid culture between the Chinese and the West since its opening as an international port after the Nanjing Treaty of 1842. Its characteristic as a port city shaped the artistic practice in Shanghai where advance of commercialization and urbanization had changed the live of the literati painters as new painters’ groups and cultural associations that promoted the professionalization of painters began to flourish.[18] In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, subject matter of Chinese paintings in Shanghai began to evolve into a more true-to-life reportorial pictures, using Western perspective and coloring techniques.

One of the noteworthy similarities between Zhang Daqian, Liu Haisu and Cheong Soo Pieng, who embraced Western ideas and artistic practices, is also their connection to Shanghai at some points of their life and career before they embarked on their overseas journey. Aside from Zhang Daqian who studied calligraphy and traditional ink painting in Shanghai in 1919 under Zeng Xi and Li Ruiqing, both Liu Haisu and Cheong Soo Pieng are the products of the modern art academy which focused on the teaching of Western art painting.[19] However, if Liu Haisu’s works are inspired by impressionism and post-impressionism, Cheong Soo Pieng’s paintings, as we can see from the “Malay Fishing Village” are leaning toward cubism and fauvism from his training at the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts.

Furthermore, similar to Zhang Daqian, Liu Haisu, and Xubing, Cheong Soo Pieng’s “Malay Fishing Village” still keeps its connection to the traditional elements often depicted in the traditional Chinese landscape painting and the Western artistic influence that swept across China. The river is painted at the bottom of the composition with several figures – men and women – engaging in various activities at the bank of the river. The rows of dwelling are painted in the middle ground, and the trees and the horizon fill the upper part of the painting. The colors and the cubistic nuances are the evidence of Soo Pieng’s knowledge and exploration in Western artistic practice. However, Soo Pieng’s embracement into the themes and images of the life and landscape of Southeast Asia shows a significant change and departure compared to the paintings by Liu Haisu, Zhang Daqian, or Xubing.

Commenting on Soo Pieng’s paintings which employ cubism, Choy Weng Yang, a former curator at Singapore’s National Museum Art Gallery, remarks “Cubism in Soo Pieng’s works existed only in spirit. For they were sharply different from the works of Picasso, Braque or the other prominent exponent of Cubism. His new works convey not the startling intellectualism of the Cubists but his own exhilaration, of his own exciting and fresh responses to the exuberance of the tropical Singaporean habitat in contrast to Amoy and even Shanghai.”[20] According to Seng Yu Jin, Soo Pieng’s experimentation in Cubism intensified after his arrival in Singapore in 1946 as an effort to “resolve the artistic problem of representing space on a two-dimensional flat plane.”[21] His initial experiment manifested in the distortion of figurative forms, as evident in his Malay Woman (1950) (Fig. 6), and the creation of ambiguous spaces from multiple viewpoints in his landscape before he moved toward the experimentation of pictorial formats of Chinese ink paintings, such as the hanging and the handscroll formats.

Figure 6. Cheong Soo Pieng, “Malay Woman” (1950) 49 x 39 cm. Pencil on paper. Collection of NHB (Source: http://www.nationalartgallery.sg/exhibition-events/csp/the-exhibition/highlights/)

Figure 6. Cheong Soo Pieng, “Malay Woman” (1950)
49 x 39 cm. Pencil on paper.
Collection of NHB
(Source: http://www.nationalartgallery.sg/exhibition-events/csp/the-exhibition/highlights/)

It is these particular experimentations which produce works such as Malay Fishing Village. In this experimentation, Soo Pieng challenged the Chinese handscroll pictorial format, which is meant to be viewed slowly as one unrolls the scroll from right to left by allowing the viewer to see the entire painting at once, eliminating both the starting and the ending point of the traditional format.[22] To highlight the significance of this experimentation in Soo Pieng’s artistic oeuvre, Yu Jin writes, “The combination of the Chinese hanging scroll format (and handscroll) and Euro-American notions of color theory and composition in the grid to denote space, and applied on local subject – the kelong – marks an important aspect of Soo Pieng’s contribution to the Nanyang Style.”[23]

Chinese Migration and Networks in the Formation of Modern Singapore
The history of modern art in Singapore is generally shaped by regional and global forces, namely the diaspora community, especially from China, and the British colonial occupation. The Chinese population in Singapore constitutes the largest diasporic group of more than 70% of the population, while Malay (14%), Indian and Tamil (8%) peoplesmake up the rest of the population.[24] Singapore is the only country in Southeast Asia where the Chinese population essentially dominates the land. It is hard to say that there were indigenous groups who inhabited the island before. The history of pre-colonial Singapore is not very clear since there is only limited documentation produced mostly by travelling Chinese merchants and European seafarers. Abshire writes that some evidence referencing Singapore is from the seventh century when the area of Straits of Melaka was controlled by Srivijaya kingdom, which was centered in Palembang on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Singapore is referenced as Temasek, an island which was primarily used as a meeting point for traders, rather than as a port.[25] Its strategic location in the Straits of Malaka within the trade route from China to India and beyond makes Temasek or Singapore a perfect transit point.

In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a strategic new port city that accommodated the flow of free trade and shipments in Southeast Asia under the authority of the British colonial government who occupied most of the Malaya Peninsula. The Chinese who already settled for generations in Singapore – known as the Straits Chinese – played a significant role as intermediaries between the British/European traders with other Chinese merchants from the mainland China as well as with other indigenous archipelago traders, such as the Bugis and the Malay. They also professed political loyalty to the British Crown and were culturally influenced by British, Malay, and Chinese traditions.[26] The Chinese in Singapore and Malaya also kept their close connection and network with their friends and families in mainland, and often encouraged them to join the settlement in Singapore. The close connection and interdependency of the mainland Chinese and the Straits Chinese is evident in the cultural arena as well. During the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War and prior to the World War II, prominent Chinese artists including Xu Beihong, the Lingnan artists He Xiangni, Gao Jianfu, Yang Shanshen, and Liu Haisu visited Singapore to raise funds for China to support the war through selling their artworks in Singapore.[27] Their visit and exhibitions in Singapore must present a significant influence over the development of modern art in Singapore.

The Emergence of Modern Art Initiatives and Collectives in Singapore, 1900 – 1960s
The emergence of modern art in Singapore initially is made possible both by the Straits Chinese and the Chinese immigrants who established several artists’ groups and associations. Even though there were British artists who worked in lived in Singapore at that time, such as Richard Walker, their significance is overshadowed by the Chinese artists. These artists’ groups and associations, although they had different characteristics, were very important in developing ideas and art practices prior to the establishment of the art academy. This situation is eminent also in Indonesia where the artists’ group PERSAGI (Persatuan Guru Gambar Indonesia – The Association of Art Teachers of Indonesia) is considered to be the first association that promoted the essence of modern art. The establishment of the Amateur Drawing Association in 1909 is considered to be the starting point in the writing of art history of modern art in Singapore although its activities then became diluted with the expansion of gymnastics and social activities. The Amateur Drawing Association suggests a social network of art enthusiasts who were associated with the Straits Chinese and British Elite.[28]

Meanwhile, The United Artists Malaysia, an art society established in 1929 by mostly Chinese immigrants, had a vision to promote Chinese ink painting and calligraphy as an embodiment of Chinese culture to a migrant society “that was thought to be lacking in cultural enrichment.”[29] The first generation of Chinese migrants usually came from a merchant family or lower economic class who did not possess or could not care less for a cultural refinement. During the period of the 1920s and 1930s, however, art activities in Singapore were flourishing as numbers of art associations were established and active during this period, such as Nan Sing Arts Association, Nanyang Journalistic Caricature Association, and The Society of Chinese Artists.

The Society of Chinese Artists, which was established in 1935 and marked the beginning of art institutions in Singapore, constituted another aesthetic orientation that was different compared to the United Artists Malaysia. Its members were more influenced by the idioms and expression of Western art and driven by the 1919 May Fourth Movement in mainland China. Most of its members were alumni of Shanghainese art academies: The Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University of Art and Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts. According to Kwok Kian Chow, this association and its new aesthetic would form the foundation of art in Singapore in the 1930s and 1940s, “the preamble to the Nanyang School of the 1950s.”[30] Another pillar of the development of Singapore art in the 1930s is the establishment of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 1938 which was founded by Lim Hak Tai. Lim Hak Tai designed the curriculum after the Chinese art academies in Shanghai, incorporating Western painting tradition (Academic Realism and the School of Paris in its Post-impressionist, Symbolist and Fauvist aspects) and the traditional Chinese ink painting.

Initially, the formative period of modern art in Singapore was subjected to the tension between Chinese nationalism and Nanyang regionalism – the conception of the identity of Nanyang or Southeast Asia as a different entity from mainland China[31] It was after the arrival of later Chinese émigré artists including Cheong Soo Pieng and his contemporaries; Liu Kang (graduated from the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts, continued to study in Paris between 1928 and 1933 and was president for the Society of Chinese Artists from 1946-58), Chen Chong Swee (graduated from the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts in 1931, arrived in Singapore in 1946), and Chen Wen Hsi (graduated from both the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts and Xinhua Academy of Fine Art in the late 1920s and early 1930s, arrived in Singapore in 1947, met Liu Kang and Chen Chong Swee at Xinhua), that the formulation of the Nanyang Style began to take shape.

Cheong Soo Pieng’s experimentation with both Chinese and Western pictorial tradition and the integration of the kelong-scapes, in the case of Malay Fishing Village, “reflected conscious attempts made . . . to produce artistic forms reflective of a multi-ethnic cultural milieu and also, to the larger Southeast Asian contexts.”[32] His methods of representation and pictorial structures proved to be consequential for other artists, as noted by Michael Sullivan, a lecturer at the University of Singapore in the 1950s, that “Soo Pieng’s influence on the younger painters of Singapore has been powerful and direct.”[33] In his tribute to Cheong Soo Pieng after his death in 1983, Sabapathy also remarked that “In a narrative encompassing modern artists in Asia, he will secure a formative stature.”[34]

Conclusion
Malay Fishing Village” was painted by Cheong Soo Pieng in 1957/8, eleven or twelve years after he migrated from China and settled in Singapore. It represents his early stage of exploration and experimentation which incorporates his challenge to traditional Chinese ink painting tradition and pictorial format, his engagement with the new aesthetic of the West, and his embracement of the Nanyang locality. His innovation places him as one of the most important figures in the history of modern art in Singapore, especially in the formation period of the Nanyang Style, which shapes the artistic practice of modern art in Singapore.

Modern art in Singapore, however, cannot be sterilized from foreign channels and influence as Singapore itself is made up by migrants, mostly from mainland China. Because of the social and political turbulence that swept across China until the mid-twentieth century, many intellectuals and artists began to emigrate out of the country and settled in Singapore and Southeast Asia in general. Traditions and new ideas between mainland China and Singapore are closely linked and they travel with the network and movement of the people. The connection of origin and shared ideas, as shown in Cheong Soo Pieng’s close link with Lim Hak Tai and with other graduates and alumni from Xiamen and Shanghai, plays a significant part in determining the trajectory of modern art in Singapore.

Notes
[1] Yeo Wei Wei, Cheong Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia. (Singapore: The National Art Gallery, 2010), 16.

[2] Yeo Wei Wei, ibid.

[3] Seng Yu Jin, “The Life of the Artist,” in Cheng Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia, ed. Yeo Wei Wei et al. (Singapore: The National Art Gallery, 2010), 16.

[4] Wang Gung Wu, “Ming Foreign Relation,” in China and Souheast Asia, ed Geoff Wade et al. (New York: Routledge, 2009), 245-254.

[5] Seng Yu Jin, The Life of the Artist,” 20.

[6] Seng Yu Jin, ibid, 23.

[7] Graham Hutchings, “Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change,” (Cambridge, Massachusets: Harvard University Press, 2001).

[8] Seng Yu jin and Grace Tng, “Bridging Worlds,” in Cheng Soo Pieng: Visions of Southeast Asia, ed. Yeo Wei Wei et al. (Singapore: The National Art Gallery, 2010), 58.

[9] Seng Yu jin and Grace Tng, “Bridging Worlds,” 57.

[10] Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, ibid, 79.

[11] T.K. Sabapathy, “Breaking All the Rules,” The Straits Times, September 26, 1991, 19.

[12] Anthony Reid, “Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and Political Identity in Southeast Asia,” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 49.

[13] According to Zhang Zhidong, the Western countries are not as good for overseas study as Japan for several reasons. First, “the trip to Japan is shorter and costs are lower, so more students can be sent. Secondly, Japan is nearer, so it is easier to monitor the students. Thirdly, the Japanese written language is closer to Chinese and so more comprehensible. Fourthly, there is profusion of western books, and what is not to the point in western studies has already been omitted or judiciously amended by the Japanese. China and Japan are close in their social conditions and customs, so it is easy to do as they do. To get the maximum results with the minimum effort, there is no better choice.” (Lü Peng and Bruce G. Doar, “A Pocket History of 20th Century Chinese Art,” (New York: Charta), 2010, 108)

[14] Lü Peng and Bruce G. Doar, “A History of 20th Century Chinese Art,” 116

[15] Lü Peng and Bruce G. Doar, ibid, 125.

[16] Lü Peng and Bruce G. Doar, op.cit.

[17] Many Chinese scholars equate the May Fourth Movement and the New Cultural Movement – the Chinese cultural Renaissance, the reforming of Chinese cultural practices in accordance to Western model in order to bring Chinese ideas and thought into direct contact with the contemporary thought of the world. Several scholars, such as Joseph Chen, however argues that the New Cultural Movement had initiated in 1915 and by 1919, it was already in the making. Therefore, Chen refuses the conception of the May Fourth Movement as synonymous to the New Cultural Movement. Chen argues that the May Fourth Movement is essentially a “patriotic protest movement of the Chinese people for direct political action, and in its collaboration with the new cultural ‘thought’ movement, rendered an invaluable service to the final dissolution of old Chinese tradition and the birth of a true Chinese nation.” (Chen, Joseph T. “The May Fourth Movement Redefined.” Modern Asian Studies 4, no. 1 (January 1, 1970): 63–81.)

[18] “After 1919, ink artists faced a totally different social and cultural atmosphere. The momentum of the new cultural movement determined that the Shanghai School’s manner of painting, with its subtle touches of newness, would lose its power and influence and seemingly become a cultural aberration. The Shanghai School’s manner was basically a phenomenon of free play which only became possible as agricultural society began its gradual collapse. The most famous Shanghai painters had not really entered into modern society, in terms of thinking. . . The relative weight of literati taste and urbanite interests depended on each painter’s cultivation and character. Due to the velocity that came with steamships and guns, literati landscapes disappeared rapidly” (Lü Peng and Bruce G. Doar, “A History of 20th Century Chinese Art,” 96)

[19] Liu Haisu went to Shanghai when he was 14 years old to study Western painting. In 1912, together with Wu Shiguang, Wang Yachen, and Ding Song, Liu Haisu founded the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, the first art academy which emphasized the importance of Western art training methods. He promoted the Western method of painting nudes which drew controversy in China. He also emphasized the importance of painting directly from the nature.

[20] Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, “Bridging Worlds,” 114.

[21] Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, ibid, 113.

[22] In this experimentation, Soo Pieng also challenges the hanging scroll format which emphasizes a space continuum between the foreground, middle ground and background by using the near and far sides as a horizontal axis to frame the picture, allowing the middle ground to hold the entire composition using mainly grid-like lines, as shown in his painting titled “Untitled (Water Kampung Night)” (Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, ibid, 120-3).

[23] Seng Yu Jin and Grace Tng, ibid, 123.

[24] Jean Abshire, “The History of Singapore,” (Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood, 2011), 3.

[25] Jean Abshire, ibid, 16-17.

[26] Kwok Kian Chow, ”Channels and Confluence: A History of Singapore Art,” (Singapore: National Heritage Board, Singapore Art Museum), 13.

[27] These artists were often hosted by the eminent architect and artist Ho Kwong Yew whose house in Tanjong Pagar became a focal point of art activities in Singapore during the 1920s and 1930s (Kwok Kian Chow, “Channels and Confluences: A History of Singapore Art,” 27).

[28] Kwok Kian Chow, ibid, 13.

[29] Because the pioneering Chinese migrants who came to Southeast Asia were mostly merchants and mine labors, “In the social-cultural fabric of the Southeast Asian Chinese immigrant society, there was the conspicuous absence of gentry class – the bearer of traditional aesthetic value and the class from which artist would come. This social circumstance brought about a weak presence of traditional Chinese high culture” (Kwok Kian Chow, ibid, 15).

[30] Kwok Kian Chow, ibid, 16.

[31] Kwok Kian Chow, ibid, 8.

[32] Seng Yu jin and Grace Tng, “Bridging Worlds,” 88.

[33] T.K. Sabapathy and K.C. Low, “New Styles from a Turbulent Era,” The Straits Time, August 2, 1983, 1. (http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19830802.2.152.2.1.aspx, accessed in February 2, 2014, 5:14 pm).

[34] T.K. Sabapathy and K.C. Low, ibid.

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