FAH102 Week 7.docx

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15 Apr 2012

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Week 7 Collecting and Collections
Harold Osborne, “Museums and Their Functions,” Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 19, no. 2,
Special Issue: Art Museums and Education (Summer, 1985), pp. 41-51 (jstor)
o In antiquity a museum was an institution devoted to the encouragement of literature
learning and included a regular cult with priests and ritual for the worship of the Muses
Served as a center for scholars and poets, philosophers and scientists and until
emperor Caracalla, noted scholars and scientists were supported their by public
o The most famous museum in antiquity was the literary academy founded at Alexandria
o Prominent artists were employed to paint murals for municipal buildings and temples
The famous and popular artist Polygnotus received Athenian citizenship for
painting free of charge The Capture of Troy and The Battle of Marathon for the
Stoa Poikile
o Modern conception of museum or gallery devoted to the assembly and preservation of
famous works of the past intended primarily for the edification and delectation of the
general public was foreign to antiquity
o Private collecting is usually thought to be started when in the third century B.C the
Hellenistic rulers of Pergamum and Alexandria bought and commissioned works for the
beautification of their palaces
o During the Middle Ages artistic production was mainly subservient to the purposes of
the Church, both for self-glorification and for the edification of the populace
o Private collecting was renewed at the Renaissance, and the word museum came to
denote the study of the humanist scholar or prince, where he assembled objects of
historical or ethnological interest
Works began to be collected for aesthetic reasons as well during the 16th
century, first in Italy and later, about middle of the century also in the north
Later very many of these private collections devolved into public ownership and
became the nuclei of such historical and ethnological collections
The public collections today are a result of the spread of democratic ideas which
followed the French Revolution
In ancient Greece the flourishing city states were the prime patrons
In Hellenistic times wealthy princes and aristocrats took over
From the time of the Renaissance the influence of wealthy princes and
aristocrats was combined with that of the church, until the Academics
took into their hands the formalization of taste
The impressionists survived and flourished only because the owners of
private galleries found purchasers whose taste refused to be confined
within the restricted canons of the Academics
o Museums are publicly owned and financed
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The concern of the public who visit historical and ethnological museums is
knowledge: knowledge of the history and multiplicity of humankind’s cultural
The interest of those who use the aesthetic category of museums is
appreciation, not limited by time, place, or nationality, it embraces the present
and past
Ethnological collections, historical collections, collections of fine craftsmanship,
contain objects which invite and reward aesthetic attention
Art Collections and Museums
The history of “art” collections goes back to antiquity
o Booty was brought to private homes, gardens, and public places. Art and sculpture was
rented for social prestige
o In medieval times, especially during the crusades: booty, such as icons of all kinds,
paintings, manuscripts, and liturgical vessels from the East (Byzantium), disappeared in
treasure chambers (Schatzkammern), since they were without any established liturgical
function in the West
The three ingredients for success in showcasing a collector's panoramic
education and broad humanist learning were:
naturalia (products of nature),
arteficialia (or artefacta, the products of man),
scientifica (the testaments of man's ability to dominate nature, such as
astrolabes, clocks, and scientific instruments).
o In Italy, the space housing these objects was called a stanzino, studiolo, more often
museo, or sometimes galleria, a name mostly applied to collections of paintings and
works of art that could contain curiosities as well, such as the Medici galleria.
o North of the Alps, these predecessors of modern museums were called Kunst- und
Wunderkammern (cabinets of art and marvels) or Kuriositäten and Raritäten-Kabinett
or Kammer (cabinet or room of curiosities or rarities).
o The term Kunst- und Wunderkammer was apparently first employed by Count Froben
Christoph of Zimmern and Johannes Müller in their historical account Zimmerische
Chronik of 156466
o Cabinets of curiosities, or Wunderkammern, were collections of types of objects,
including items belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography,
archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art, including cabinet paintings, and
Thomas Barnett
Barnett had a passion for collectins oddities and curiosities. He retrofitted a former brewery
house to exhibit his collection. Although Barnett was aware of the efforts and collection
patterns of his North American contemporaries, his own approach bears an uncanny similarity
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