Object of the Day

Discover a different object from the Museum’s collection every day of the week!

Museum curators, conservators, and educators, as well as design enthusiasts like our teen Design Scholars, docents, and Master’s students, are sharing their favorite objects from Cooper-Hewitt’s incredible collection.

Many of these objects will be featured in the expanded collection galleries when Cooper-Hewitt reopens in 2014. Until then, “Object of the Day” is your uniquely-curated corner of the Museum!

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The spirit of the age

Posted by Rebecca Gross, on Wednesday February 19, 2014

In 2011, Italian designer Michele de Lucchi (b. 1951) reflected in an interview, “design is truly a kind of witness to history. Design documents the spirit of the age.” [1]  His 1981 drawing of Two Designs for Tables (and Three Designs for Tables) is an example of how design records its historical and cultural context, and reflects the nature of that time.

Michele de Lucchi, furniture design, table, drawing, Postmodernism, Memphis, Studio Alchimia

Window Shade

Posted by Gregory Herringshaw, on Tuesday February 18, 2014

Window shades and curtain papers are one of the lesser known collecting areas of the Wallcoverings Department. This shade depicting a lace panel suspended from a carved wood cornice is a beautiful example of late-19th century window shades. The shade in printed on a heavy paper that has a chalky blue ground color applied to both sides making it very opaque.

Window shade, spring roller, lace, bouquet, tassel, trompe l'oeil

Ahab, Tickle Those Ivories

Posted by Nick Golebiewski, on Monday February 17, 2014

At the peak of the golden age of whaling, 1825-1865, more than 700 whaling vessels sailed the seas. As a reference point, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was published in 1851. Sailors didn’t hunt whales at night, sightings could be few and far between, and whaling voyages were often 3 years in length. In the downtime, and there was lots of it, many sailors occupied themselves with scrimshaw, and a delicately lined and boldly imagined example is in our collection.

scrimshaw, scrimshander, Captain Ahab, whale tooth, india ink, lamp black, American Flag, filiing, sandling, carving

Raw Elegance

Posted by Matilda McQuaid, on Sunday February 16, 2014

Claudy Jongstra is a contemporary textile designer who practices the ancient technique of felting. Jongstra’s fabrics have a raw elegance that comes from her use of materials such as wild silk, wild linen, and wild cashmere, as well as the special (and proprietary) techniques she has developed in her felting. Jongstra even goes so far as to raise her own sheep in the Dutch countryside and currently has a herd of 200 including the rare species of long-haired Drenthe Heath, whose shorn locks she felts along with the straw and lanolin that accumulates on their hair.

Claudy Jongstra, felting, sheep, Drenthe Heath, heat, pressure

Sparkie, the little boy with big ambitions

Posted by Gregory Herringshaw, on Saturday February 15, 2014

I first came across this wallpaper when I was looking for children’s wallpapers for an exhibition I worked on a number of years ago. Sparkie was a puppet who believed he was a real boy, and he played the central figure in Big Jon and Sparkie, a children’s radio show that aired on Saturday mornings from 1950-1958. Big Jon and Sparkie was a serial with adaptations of classic books or original adventures adapted from Arthur's neighborhood.

wallpaper, Big Jon, Sparkie, puppet, American history, radio

The Valentine as Art

Posted by Rebecca McNamara, on Friday February 14, 2014

A valentine from graphic designer Marian Bantjes is more than just a valentine—it is an artwork, to be cherished and displayed year-round. These unique cards are coveted by design enthusiasts; by lovers of ornament, who believe that at least sometimes, more is more; by the curious, the whimsical, and those who, like Bantjes, wonder. Each year, she creates new valentines, and hopefuls check their mailboxes to see if they were lucky enough to receive one.

Marian Bantjes, laser cut, heart, valentine, love, card, correspondence, Christmas, Holiday

An Operatic Movie Poster

Posted by Erin Gillis, on Thursday February 13, 2014

To the western reader, graphic design of the early Soviet period carries a mysterious and even hyperactive aggressive effect. This feeling can certainly be attributed to the foreignness of the Cyrillic script, with its thick strokes, bold outlines, staggered and almost rudimentary spacing. When it’s illegible, the Russian alphabet bares some similarities to the Roman one, yet its curious backward glyphs and symbols make it just strange enough to see the makings of more eastern alphabets, like the Chinese character.

poster, graphic design

A Little Nightcap

Posted by Steve Burges, on Wednesday February 12, 2014

This embroidered nightcap represents a type of hat worn by English men beginning around 1550. It was appropriate for any time of day despite its name, and men wore it informally at home but not while sleeping. A man would have rarely worn an embroidered nightcap in public, yet some appeared in elite portraiture. Headwear was important because keeping the head covered and warm was thought to be part of a healthy lifestyle, even though most men wore their natural hair at the time. This hat’s lavish decoration also indicated the wealth and social status of its wearer.

men’s fashion, hats, embroidery, Queen Elizabeth

Maintaining a Pleasant Atmosphere

Posted by Steve Burges, on Tuesday February 11, 2014

This coat, called an habit, embodies aristocratic extravagance before the French Revolution. The habit was worn as part of the habit à la française, an early three-piece suit which also included a waistcoat (vest) and breeches. The embroidery is dense with large-scale flowers, scalloped ribbons, and tassels on a silk fabric woven with a pattern of blue and black chevrons and stylized floral designs.

men’s fashion, deportment

Portraiture on Wallpaper with George Washington

Posted by Gregory Herringshaw, on Monday February 10, 2014

This wallpaper panel contains a block-printed portrait of George Washington rendered about half-life size. It is unusual to have portraits featured on wallpaper but is seen more often on panels as opposed to repeating designs. The portrait is printed in a monochrome colorway of tans and brown imitating statuary, on a combed ground simulating oak wood grain. Washington is shown dressed in military attire standing on a plinth with a cannon and shot at his feet.

wallpaper, George Washington, American Revolution, War of 1812, statuary, monochrome