Object of the Day

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barberi
Drawing on the Past
This drawing by Giuseppe Barberi is a design for a church. But almost nothing about the structure is typical of 18th-century European churches. The briskly sketched cross that tops the dome announces the Christian nature of the building, but nearly everything below it is of pre-Christian design. The squat, round dome supported by a colonnade...
1952-161-198
Fanning the Flame of Love
This brisé fan (one consisting of rigid sticks joined with a ribbon) illustrates a story from ancient Greek mythology. Dionysus, the god of wine, finds Ariadne on the Island of Naxos. Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos of Crete, has fled away with Theseus, slayer of the Minotaur, and been deserted by him on the...
Blue-purple toned long cylindrical shaft, with knurled grip section, topped by narrow tulip-shaped head with clear lens. Removeable circular cap at end unscrews to reveal battery housing; spare bulb stored in cap.
Mini-Maglite
Although now familiar tools used during power outages and camping trips, personal flashlights were revolutionary in the early twentieth century. The invention of the dry cell battery in 1896 enabled the first non-combustible lighting devices, allowing for safer handheld options than kerosene and oil lamps, candles, and torches, or other instruments previously powered by liquid...
95882_53ef5bbb427ba0de_b[1]
Walking Beam Sidewheeler
One of the earliest areas where you see a social influence on wallpaper are designs with innovations in mobility. As people began exploring America’s scenic wonders in the 1820s, many Americans satisfied their wanderlust with river excursions, and the Hudson valley became a major destination. It was around this time manufacturers started printing designs that...
hensel
A Woman Uncovered
Researching a work in the collection can lead a curator to some very interesting places other than libraries. I was fortunate to have been in Berlin on May 14, 2015 which was the anniversary of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s death in 1847. I had corresponded previously with Thomas Lackmann, a descendant of Fanny Hensel’s and board...
1996-83-1
Textile by Testa
Although the name may be unfamiliar to some, American textile designer Angelo Testa (American, 1921–1984) made an important contribution to 20th century textile design. As the very first graduate of the Institute of Design in Chicago, Testa was at the vanguard of the “New Bauhaus”, alongside Lazlo Moholy Nagy, Marli Ehrman and George Fred Keck....
2013-9-1
Psyche’s Offering to Venus
Cooper Hewitt has a full set of the Loves of Psyche scenic wallpaper first produced in 1816. The museum’s edition was printed in the early twentieth century using the original woodblocks. This scenic paper is unique on two fronts: it is the only scenic not designed to be continuous, and it is the only scenic...
2015-5-6_7
The Modern Spirit
Introduced at the 1928 Pittsburgh Glass and Pottery Exhibit, designer Reuben Haley’s Ruba Rombic forms epitomize the geometric style and ideals of American Art Deco. The Art Deco style, popularized by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, which likely also inspired Haley, is often characterized by jagged lines and...
ceiling
Groundwork for a ceiling
Have we fallen down? What is going on here? The perspective in this late 17th-century Italian drawing is so strange because it is meant to be viewed from below. This drawing was done in preparation for a painted ceiling, a frequent feature of the sumptuous palaces and grand churches built in Italy in the 16th-19th...