Tag Archives: portraits

The Great Art Move, or, How Few Can Really Be More

This week marked the final chapter of the Rubenstein Library relocation project of 2013, when the Library’s portrait collection was relocated from the Gothic Reading Room to the Rubenstein Library’s temporary space on the third floor of Perkins.   It was a poignant and, at moments, spirited end to a process that began many months ago.

GothicBlog

The portrait collection has been with the Gothic since the very beginning. Upon the library’s opening in 1930, the well-known artist Douglas Chandor was commissioned to paint portraits of The Duke Endowment trustees, Mary Duke Biddle and Nanaline Duke, and the architect and builder of the campus, Horace Trumbauer. These portraits were completed between 1930 and 1932 and hung in the Gothic, then functioning as the library’s general reference room.  Over the years, portraits of the University’s founders and presidents were added, along with those of other notable figures in the University’s history.  By the time of our move, 32 auspicious figures awaited the careful attention of the professional art handlers we brought in for this assignment.

Because of the scale of the room, scaffolding was needed to even reach the pictures.  After that came rebacking the canvases, vacuuming the gilded frames, and replacing the hanging hardware.  Finally, the portraits were ready for their voyage across the library and to their new spots, all purposefully selected to allow for their safe storage during the time of the Gothic’s renovation. 

While most of them are now in staff-only spaces, visitors who wish to see a particular portrait can do so by contacting the Rubenstein Library to make an appointment. Portraits of Washington, James B., and Benjamin N. Duke are hanging outside the Rubenstein classroom, and are viewable during regular Rubenstein hours without an appointment.

FewBlog

One painting, however, did not go so quietly to storage—a life-size, full-body portrait of President Few. It took scaffolding, ladders, and five people to remove him from his long-time rest, and once on the ground it became immediately clear that the portrait is nearly a half foot taller than the ceilings on the third floor of Perkins, where he was headed.  An alternative spot was needed and quick!  Thanks to the University Librarian, a suitable location was soon found.  President Few now greets guests on the main floor of the Library, immediately behind the Perkins reference desk.  It is perhaps fitting that the visage of the man who presided over the Gothic Room’s opening in 1930 was the last and most dramatic to take his leave from this room.

Post contributed by Kat Stefko, Head of Technical Services, Rubenstein Library.

New Acquisitions Week, Day Two: Self-Portraits in Image and Word

We’re celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year with a week’s worth of new acquisitions from the first half of 2012.  Two newly acquired selections will be featured in a post every day this week.  All of these amazing resources will be available for today’s scholars, and for future generations of researchers in the Rubenstein Library!

  • Quintilian, Institutiones Oratoriae: This 1482 incunable (or book printed in Europe before 1501) printed in Tarvisio, Italy, is a rare edition of one of the great Renaissance guides to rhetoric.  The remarkable copy now at Duke is unique, bearing the extensive handwritten annotations of a 16th-century scholar, Augustino Pistoia (or Agostino da Pistoia).  In addition, Pistoia drew two self-portraits at the end of the text, and noted the date on which he finished reading the work: “On the 20th of October [?] 1583 I Augostino Pistoia have read this book by Quintiliano under the teaching of mag. Pompeo Gilante my master/ 1583 1584.”
Self-portrait by Augustino Pistoia, in Quintilian, Institutiones Orationae (1482).
  • Edith Ella Baldwin Papers: Born in 1870 in Worcester, Massachusetts, Ms. Baldwin was an artist, craftswoman, and author.  Frustrated in her early attempts to publish her writings, Baldwin decided instead to keep one copy of each of her works for posterity, making a binding for each herself.  The collection consists of 38 unpublished volumes of stories, novels, poetry, lecture notes, and family history, including a novel about sex education for women, diary excerpts describing her visits with painter Mary Cassatt in 1890s Paris, and copies of letters from her aunt, Ellen Frances Baldwin, dating from 1848 to 1854. Edith Baldwin’s writings tend to cover timeless themes of religion and love, although many compositions feature contemporary issues such as automobiles, labor strikes, and women’s rights. The Baldwin Papers add to the rich body of materials documenting women’s literary expression in the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

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