A Different Type of Daguerreotype

Posted by on Aug 01 2012 | Exhibitions, Other, Photography

We recently acquired a shell covered Lighthouse. Yes, a shell covered lighthouse. This delicate construction is of particular interest to us because it contains a daguerreotype inset at the bottom of the tower. The daguerreotype displays three women and a young girl – we believe the image to be circa 1850, while the lighthouse was likely built in the 1920′s.

Alison Nordström our senior curator of photographs explains,

“we welcome the opportunity to exhibit a piece with such visual appeal. The Lighthouse is an example of how we can provide an accessible point of entry for a more serious consideration of our daguerreotype holdings. It also adds value to our collection of similar objects, such as the Ansel Adams coffee tin and the deer leg lamp with photographic lampshade.”

This interesting and admittedly, different piece was carefully examined and cleaned and can be seen currently in the Ideas in Things exhibit.

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The Martinetti Mystery

Posted by on Jul 27 2012 | Other

The Mystery
Recently, Assistant Curator of Photographs Jamie M. Allen and I (Archivist, Joe R. Struble) transported a large oil painting (roughly 4-feet by 3-feet) by the Florentine artist Giacomo Martinetti to the Art Conservation Department at Buffalo State University. The fragile piece had been expertly packaged by Eastman House’s Exhibitions Preparator Nick Marshall.

The painting of three girls is of significant interest and was signed by the artist and dated 1877. Its provenance is unknown, just one of the many mysteries about it.
Its relevance to our collection of photographs rests in the painted renderings of two framed Cabinet Card photographs on the table next to the sisters (if they are sisters) and has led to speculation that these girls are orphans and the painting a sort of memento-mori. (The jury – made up of Photo Collection staff – is definitely out on that, however).

During a visit to Eastman House, students from Buffalo State were taken by the condition of the damaged painting and its needs for treatment (as we had rather hoped).
We were fortunate in getting this object evaluated for treatment by the Art Conservation Department, which will then assign the work to a student, Megan Salazar-Walsh in the Graduate program at Buffalo State.
But the question remains, who are these girls – and who are the man and woman in the Cabinet Card?

The Tour
Founded in 1970, Buffalo State’s Art Conservation Department is one of the leading programs of its kind in North America. Accepting only 10 students a year, the competitive three-year graduate program trains conservators of fine- art and material-cultural heritage. The program’s director and associate professor is Patrick C. Ravines, well-known to Jamie and Joe and others at Eastman House since he was one of the students in our museum’s Advanced Residency Program in Photographic Conservation. He took us on a spellbinding tour of the facility, including the “under construction” third floor, scheduled to open this August. This addition will double the space of the current facility, housed in the building that was previously occupied by Burchfield Penney Art Center. As we went from room to room in the current treatment labs, we were enlightened as to the program’s mission and scope.

A large painting lay carefully supported face down on a table while part of its elaborately carved and gilded wooded frame was being repaired. In another room, a section of a stained glass window, a portrait of a young and unknown (to us) bishop-saint from one of Buffalo’s many glorious, but now unused, Catholic churches was in a state of repair. Evidently, a museum of religious art is in the works for Buffalo, which will preserve and display these treasures.
We were not prepared, however, for the specimen in the next room — a taxidermied juvenile female orangutan, standing and staring glassy-eyed as we entered. She had once been a living resident of the famous Buffalo Zoo, and then stuffed and mounted at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Moth-eaten and coming apart at the seams, she had been rescued by one of the Buffalo conservation students and returned to her red-furred glory, ready to be admired again.

All-in-all, our experience in Buffalo was a wonderful “snapshot” of the varieties of material objects that relate to the field of conservation and an opportunity to make a connection with colleagues in a related endeavor, all on a lovely summer day.

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