On May 1st, we had the pleasure of visiting the Worcester Art Museum with the members of our Beacon Hill Seminar series! Director Emeritus Jim Welu kindly met us for lunch and took us on a personal, post-lunch tour of the museum.
Since Jim gave two lectures during the seminar, we were familiar with some of the work at the museum, however, it's Jim's stories and the history of the works that really make the museum come alive!
We loved hearing all the stories Jim has collected over the years about the pieces. Whether it was a piece he helped bring to the museum or a work that has an illustrious history, such as the stolen Rembrandt, Jim knows the museum so well that in fact he is in the process of writing a book about its history.
The story behind the acquisition of 'Saint John the Baptist' by Andrea del Sarto is one of our group's most favorite.
One of only a few Sarto paintings in America, it was brought here in the mid-nineteenth century. Once it arrived, it spent time on loan at the Worcester Art Museum, it then traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While the painting was on loan at the MFA, its owner passed away and the piece was returned to his children. They decided to donate the piece to a church in Worcester the owner had attended.
Over time the piece was forgotten at the church -- until 1977 when the museum was contacted to take a look at some works that were being sold to raise funds. Jim went over to the church and discovered the Sarto on the floor behind a few other things. Though it was dirty -- Jim could almost immediately tell what it was! He brought it back to the museum and the excellent conservators were able to bring it back to its full glory.
In addition to all the beautiful works and rotating exhibitions that Worcester has to offer, the museum has renowned art classes and a vigorous conservation program.
In an effort to get fresh contemporary work on view, the museum started The Wall at WAM -- a rotating series that brings artists into the museum to create a site specific work for the Renaissance Court's second story wall. The 17 x 67-foot expanse overlooks the 6th-century Antioch Roman mosaics, including the Worcester Hunt. Part of the current project These Days of Maiuma, by husband & wife team Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, can be seen in the above right photo.
If you haven't been to the Worcester Art Museum yet -- it is a must! The museum has an amazing collection of American & European art and is a hidden gem just outside Boston. We are so thankful that Jim took the time to share his knowledge with us.
'Saint John the Baptist' photo courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum.