Historic Art Curation
How did I find myself seated in a historic plantation home’s gorgeous paneled room dating from the eighteenth century, before the American Revolution, and working on a collection of fine art? I had been called into service as an art historian, or more particularly as a curator of historic frames.
Never mind that I possessed no experience. They had recruited me for free, imagining that I had the brainpower to figure it out, that it fell somewhat close to the archaeology of standing buildings. They would not be disappointed.
It was really a fun project. Here was a historic home in need of help. The organization that owned the property staffed it with volunteers who needed to review the extensive collections of art, furnishings and hundreds of other “collectibles” shall we say, in order to be kind, that had been amassed over the centuries. Not to mention the mini-mansion, itself, where true experts were analyzing paint chips, chair rails and so much more, in an effort to restore it to its earlier glory.
I decided to take my work crew. Surely the family could spare a few hours one morning a month. Out to the country we headed, flanked by cedar-lined drives more than a mile long. I compiled a complete glossary, differentiating for instance between Baroque and Colonial frames, embossed and gilded frames. Some of the terms were straightforward enough, some of them very detailed.
I worked in the historic home with my sons as they hoisted frame after frame on our non-period viewing table. They measured and I noted, listed and categorized each picture.
Benedetto worked with our daughters in the attic of another building. They coughed and sneezed their way through the collection there.
We completed 16 items in two hours’ time; they completed 43. Hmmm….
Taking a look at their work afterwards, I understood the brevity of their effort. Just to protect the family name, since they were all technically working under my aegis, I brought the sheets home to rework at our leisure. We needed to be thoroughly professional, that’s why they had hired me as a high-priced volunteer, after all.
Watch out, antique auction houses. There’s a new family in town.
—————-Tags: archaeology of standing buildings, categorizing fine picture frames, frames worth more than their art, historic art collections, historic art frames, historic plantation home collections, organizing an historic home, volunteering for historic societies