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I love archives…

Today I finally made the trip to I Tatti.

Last autumn, just after completing and sending off an article to a publisher, I ran across a reference to 15 letters in the Berenson archive that seemed promising.  Today the promise paid off but more on that anon

We arrived in Florence yesterday around noon after a series of flights through Newark and Brussels.  Family managed to power-through the day and though we went to sleep at a  decent hour it was still 11 before I managed to drag myself out of bed, get dressed, and wander downstairs to find a pastry and a cappucio before heading off to the mother-ship.

Caught a cab in Piazza Santa Croce, and I’m awfully glad I did because a) it’s hot here  and b) I’ve never been terribly good with public transport in Italy.   Wasn’t a straight shot as the nice lady cab driver and I got side tracked by the Villino I Tatti.  Arrived at I Tatti just before noon and had the place virtually to myself.  A nice receptionist located a librarian who found the appropriate file that had been left for me.  I pulled out the trusty first generation iPad and my bluetooth keyboard and got to work.

There is a story Erwin Panofsky told about himself that I am fond of paraphrasing and it goes something like this: when he was born the fairies that brought good looks, wealth, and wisdom weren’t able to attend his christening but the fairy that did show up was the one that gifted him with the ability to open a book to whatever passage he needed.

Well folks that  is the kind of day I had today.  Twelve of the letters were interesting but of no real use to me but three of the letters, oh joy oh bliss, three of the letters provided if not exactly what I was looking for something that was pretty darn close.  I may not have the smoking gun but I’ve got the gun and a bunch of smoke not too far away from the gun and for two hours work on a sunny day in June that’s good enough for me.   (Plus a bonus letter from Bernard Berenson in one of the files had a delightful comment about Panofsky.   I just love it when larger than life heroes from the history of art history weigh in upon one another).


Right back where I belong: Florence

Sorry no picture for now.  In Florence, arrived today, staying in a lovely rental apartment on Piazza Santa Croce.   Third floor windows have spectacular views of the Chiesa Santa Croce, and in the background San Miniato al Monte  shines like a jewel.   Arrived exhausted around noon today but little sleep to be had as govt. of Florence is in the process of erecting the field and spectator stands for the annual “Calcio” matches held to celebrate the feast of Saint John the Baptist on St. John’s Eve (June 24).   Tomorrow I-Tatti!

Have you seen this man? A little help from the field.

"Portrait of a Man"

“Portrait of a Man”

Around ten years ago I bought this small [ 9″x 11″] painting (probably watercolor and gouache) at a garage sale.   My guess is  this man is to be found staring out at us from the background of a late 15th/early 16th century fresco (Perugino?  Pinturrichio? Raphael?).   I’d appreciate it if friends in the field would forward this image/post to anyone who might be able to help in identifying the original source for this image.  My photograph is yellower than the original–blame the photographer not the camera–as the image is behind glass and firmly nailed into a frame which would need to be destroyed in order to get to the actual image.





You gotta love research: “Hogan-Wade: The Mini-Series”

Randall Wade (in top hat) - Proprietor of Hogan-Wade Jewelers (Cleveland, Ohio 1867-1869)

Randall Wade (in top hat) – Proprietor of Hogan-Wade Jewelers (Cleveland, Ohio 1867-1869) Randall Wade Papers, MS 3934, Western Reserve Historical Society,
Cleveland, Ohio.

I spend most of my research time these days in the 19th century.  Today I had an fantastic day in the archives of Western Reserve Historical Society.   I set Randall Wade’s travel journals aside.  I now have less than 88 pages to go to complete the transcription of the three volumes.   Randall had just started a long and tediously Victorian description of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster and I just didn’t feel like going along for the ride today.   Instead I dove into the historical records from Cleveland’s early newspapers indexed in a wonderful multi-volume set (thanks WPA) called the Annals of Cleveland.

Today’s search was to gather more information on Hogan-Wade Jewelers.   Randall like any good newly-wealthy Gilded Age American sat on any number of boards but he had a passion for jewelry (Randall’s son Jeptha would become a major patron of Louis Comfort Tiffany).  And so in 1867 he formed a partnership with Sylvester Hogan, a jeweler, and the men opened a store at 297 Superior Street, Cleveland.  The little blurbs in the Annals tell a great story.  There’s something for everyone:  blood, robberies, a chase scene, a jail-break, name-calling, and a court case… on….

  • The partnership is no sooner formed and the premises let then the drama beings.
  • June 22 – While installing plate glass window in the jewelry store owned by Hogan and Wade on Superior  a workman, Mr. Beilstein,  cut his hand severely.  It was thought amputation would be necessary. The three plates of glass one of which was the cause of the accident were imported from France at a cost of $500 each.
  • June 25 – Mr. Beilstein, who injured his hand severely June 22 when a plate glass window at Messrs. Hogan and Wade’s new store broke, is recovering.  (color me relieved, poor Mr. Beilstein)
  • July 8 – The large plate glass in Hogan and Wade’s show window was replaced at a cost of between $400 and $500.Dec. 7 – A small show case in front of Hogan and Wade’s store was broken open Dec. 5 and about ten dollars worth of merchandise was taken.


  • Feb 8 – Stranger enters the jewelry store, asks to see a tray of diamond rings, grabs tray and runs for the door.  Hogan follows yelling thief, thief.  Plan is foiled when Mr. Warner (of Burt’s Jewelry–the competition in the next block) tackles thief.  Thief in a last ditch effort attempts to toss the diamonds in the tray to confederates waiting in a buggy.    He misses – 56 diamond rings are sent flying into the snow in the street. Luckily Police Officer Ostermeyer, who is passing by, arrives and takes the thief to the jail.  Most (I say most) of the rings are recovered.
  • Feb 10 – Joe Hodge is arraigned for attempting to steal a tray of diamond rings from Hogan and Wade. 
  • Feb. 13 – Two more men, one named Richard Buckley, are arraigned in conjunction with the robbery at Hogan and Wade.
  • Feb 27 –  Eagle-eyed Sherrif Niccola wandering around outside the city jail discovers a broken hand saw blade on the ground immediately beneath the barred windows.  Richard Buckley and other inmates are thus frustrated in their attempt to break out of jail.
  • Sometime during 1869 a fracas occurs which is not mentioned in the newspapers.   Randall Wade gets in trouble for damaging the good name Rosa A. Benton, a clerks at Burt’s Jewelry (remember the competition down the street).  He refers to her as a “strumpet” and “camp-follower.”  (Oh Randall).
  • Rosa Benton sues Randall Wade
  • Oct 24 – 1869  Hogan and Wade closes their door.  Everything is sold at cost.
  • March/April – Jeptha Homer Wade suggests that Randall should absent himself for the duration of the trial.
  • June 1 – Randall packs up his mother, wife, son and daughter and in June they leave on an extended 15 month tour of Europe.
  • December– In a letter to Randall, Jeptha updates his son on the trial, which has concluded with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.  Rosa Benton has been awarded damages to the tune of $7000 by the jury.  Jeptha feels strongly that this is extortion rather than due process and informs his son that the attorneys have been directed to continue to pursue a new trial.   He vows to fight on even to the Supreme Court.
The annals are silent for the next few years.  Sylvester Hogan reopens as Hogan’s and continues to serve as a purveyor of fine jewelry and silver to the citizens of Cleveland.
There are, however, three more episodes to the mini-series that I wouldn’t want you to miss.

(Begin Flashback) The jewelry store of Hogan and Wade was robbed on Feb. 11, 1868, by two men.  In attempting a getaway, one of the men was tripped by a passerby and some of the diamonds he had stolen were scattered in the snow.   A young woman is seen scooping up three diamond rings.   She returns two of them.  (End Flashback)

Cut to Apr. 9, 1874

The young woman who kept back a diamond ring for herself in 1868 (one worth $160) has now married and lives on the Cleveland’s west side.  Hogan received a letter informing him of the guilty party.   She confesses and promises to make the loss good.  Later on the advice of her lawyer she refuses to make good.  On April 9 she is arrested on a charge of grand larceny.

(Begin Flashback)  Rosa Benton elated at the $7000 verdict in her favor is stunned to learn that, far from getting the money, she must wait to collect until the Wade’s attorneys are finished with legal maneuvers.  She waits.  And waits. (End Flashback)

Cut to Feb. 13, 1875

The suit at law between Rosa A. Benton and Randall P. Wade which was tried in the common pleas court of Cuyahoga county in 1870, came up in the same court on a a petition for a new trial.  At the time of the first trial Miss Benton was awarded $7000.  The case was taken to district court, where the verdict of the lower court was upheld.   It was then taken to the supreme court at Columbus, O., where it still remains awaiting decision on some important points.  The case, so far as a new trial is concerned, was dismissed, the petitioner to pay the costs.

So…this evening I still don’t know if Rosa A. Benton ever managed to collect from Randall and I don’t know what happened to her.  That’s a research project for another day.

I do know that 17 months perhaps it didn’t matter so much.


Here’s the entry from the journal of Randall’s 18 year old son, Jep Jr. for June 24, 1876.

June 24  Father died very quietly and peacefully of pneumonia at 4 oclock P.M. at home surrounded by friends and relatives.

Randall was 41.

Still pondering focus….

View of the Mountain


Random musings this morning.  January and February slipped past me like ice on a grill (and there is ice on my grill, by the way).  These first two months of 2013 have been less about new beginnings and more about tying up loose ends, getting plans in place for the rest of the year, and writing endless letters of recommendation for graduate students headed to fascinating programs as they begin their careers.

As I wrote in my last post a comment made by a colleague in a letter of recommendation for me was (and apparently still is) stuck in my craw. “A first glance at her resume might suggest that it lacks a clear focus…”

Thus I’ve been in kind of downward spiral for the past few weeeks.

(Tones of anguish begin)  MY RESUME LACKS A CLEAR FOCUS!    Why oh why didn’t someone tell me that the rectilinear path was the best option.

  • Step 1 – Get your Ph.D. in Art History
  • Step 2 –  Choose an academic or curatorial path
  • Step 3 – Become a curator
  • Step 4 – Become a chief curator
  • Step 5 – Become a museum director
  • Step 6 – Receive accolades (if I’ve done a great job)
  • Step 7 – Retire

I was on the right path and then somewhere after accomplishing Step 3 I veered off the path.  Now I’ll never make it to the top of the mountain. (Tones of anguish end)

I’ll never get to the top of the mountain primarily because my goal was not the top of the mountain.  This morning I started drafting my actual curriculum vitae (translation: the course of my life).  The focus of this document is the life lessons I’ve learned working with smart, funny, engaging individuals on interesting projects with lots of moving parts.  I’ve curated exhibitions, taught classes, written books and articles,  project-managed the creation of interactive galleries, databases, and websites.  I’ve been a wife and mother, a daughter and friend, a frenemie and possibly even a nemesis.   In short I’ve had a helluva good time.

Even so, my colleague is probably correct.  My current resume lacks a clear focus and, as a result, I may never make it to the top of THE mountain, or to the top of ANY mountain.   But I’m enjoying the journey, the views are fantastic, and I could not have wished for a finer group of traveling companions.

Focus or Foci

Giorgione books

An academic colleague of mine recently described my career as follows “A first glance at her resume might suggest that it lacks a clear focus,…” it doesn’t matter that the same colleague went on to say a lot of nice things about me and my work the sentence above is what’s ringing in my ears.

That sentence has had me taking a look at my career.  Has it really lacked focus?   Academically I’m supposed to be an art historian with a concentration in 15th century and early 16th century Italian painting–up to the 1527 Sack of Rome.   After that, I’m not much interested.

My shelf in Ingalls Library has a core set of texts on Giorgione which are even now glaring at me across the reading room, their bindings taught with anger, or slack with despair at my current inability to focus on the project at hand.   I used them last summer to complete an article for a Festschrift, celebrating the academic career of my dissertation adviser, Dr. Edward J. Olszewski, and there they continue to sit because my research uncovered enough for a book on the subject–a purported Giorgione painting in the permanent collection of the San Diego Museum of Art–but no time settle down and put together my outline.  If/when I get around to writing it the story has everything: reclusive collectors, shifty dealers, mysterious appearances, disappearances, and reappearances of the work in question, and conservators who have declined to speak on or off the record about the painting (what’s that about?).  I’ll get to it someday, or I won’t.  It’s as simple as that.  Meanwhile, there are other projects and subjects equally as compelling in the pipeline.

Somewhere the road diverged and I became something other than the academic scholar I had originally intended to become.  All in all, I think I’d rather have foci than focus.   A tapestry with only one color might be beautiful but would it be interesting?