Object of the Day

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Sampler, Baltimore, Maryland, 1823, embroidered silk in cross stitch on linen plain weave foundation, Bequest of Gertrude M. Oppenheimer, 1981-28-78.
A Baltimore Sampler
French-speaking Catholics, fleeing the bloody revolutions in France and the Caribbean, settled in large numbers in the Baltimore area. In 1791, priests from the Parisian Society of Saint Suplice established a seminary in west Baltimore conducting religious services in French, and it soon became the center of a rapidly-growing French community. Among the émigrés, both...
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The Coolest Spot in New England
Seeking a way to beat the heat of summer while still looking cool? This 1870 print after a drawing by Winslow Homer suggests that more comfortable climes may require a bit of a climb. In this scene, a group of well-dressed urban men and women take in the views at the summit of Mount Washington,...
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Botanica
The honey-colored Botanica VI vase (Nepenthes Villosa) is composed of bois durci (sycamore wood and egg albumen), dewaxed shellac (a resin extracted from insect secretion), and beeswax. Part of the Botanica series, it represents a collection of vessels made from pre-industrial plastic that were created by Studio Formafantasma, a conceptual design practice known for its...
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Bad for your Garden, Good for your Walls
When I first saw this wallpaper I had to stop and do a double-take. It is very unusual for an insect to take prominence on a wallpaper design, let along be the only motif. The design consists of a rose chafer beetle, greatly magnified and repeated in diagonal rows; think polka dots with six legs....
Fragment, 1292–1190 BC (19th Dynasty), Egypt, painted gesso on linen, Gift of Robert de Rustafjaell Bey, 1915-24-1-a.
Adorned for the Afterlife
This colorful piece from ancient Egypt is actually only a fragment of what would have been a larger funerary mask, meant to adorn a mummy in preparation for the afterlife. The fragment depicts typical funerary iconography and adornment, including chest pectorals and a type of broad necklace called a wesekh collar (meaning ‘breadth’ or ‘width’),...
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View from the Stairs
Charles Salagnad made this drawing in 1872, during a phase of renovations at the now-famous Newport mansion, Château-sur-Mer.  The house was built two decades earlier for the wealthy China trader William Shepard Wetmore (1801-1862). Wetmore’s newly married son, George Peabody Wetmore, commissioned one of Gilded Age society’s preferred architects, Richard Morris Hunt, to transform his late...
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From Paper to Porcelain
For the Paper Porcelain tableware series, designers Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings sought to translate paper models—an integral part of their design process—into porcelain. First, they sketched the forms, geometry, and color of the cups and saucers. The two-page concept drawing below, in Cooper Hewitt’s collection, was cut from the designers’ Moleskine sketchbook and dates...
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To Your Health
An interesting trend appearing on wallpapers in the 1950s are designs with groups of like objects arranged as if on display. These patterns all seem to contain objects deemed collectible as they include buttons, luggage stickers, or liquor labels, all neatly lined up. And while not a collectible there are also similar designs with produce....
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A Camera Worth A Thousand Words: Eastman Kodak’s Baby Brownie and the Rise of Popular Photography
When the Eastman Kodak Company first began manufacturing its line of Brownie cameras in 1900, photography was still the domain of trained operators who charged considerable fees for formal portraits and commemorative images of formal occasions. Within the next ten years, however, snapshots became increasingly popular in American culture: holidays, birthdays, and even the everyday...