Blog

Humanistic Relics: the vision of Jannis Kounellis

During my residency at the Morgan as a postdoctoral fellow at the Drawing Institute, I was particularly struck by a drawing in the collection. Made by the Greek-born Italian artist Jannis Kounellis (1936–2017), it was acquired in 2016 thanks to the generosity of the Morgan’s Modern & Contemporary Collectors Committee. The drawing related directly to my research, which focused on Italian drawing in the 1960s and 1970s.

A Journey into the World of the Ballets Russes

This is a guest post by Alexis Rodda, a classically-trained soprano and a Five-Year Fellowship recipient and doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

The Ballets Russes was a ballet company that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe, but particularly in Paris. The company was innovative in its collaborations with contemporary composers and its daring, often sensual performances. The more I immersed myself in this world through a CUNY Graduate Center/Morgan fellowship, the more I became fascinated not only with the artistic aspects of the Ballet Russes.

Beautiful Youths: Portraits from a Persian Album

In 1911, Pierpont Morgan purchased fifty-seven leaves of Persian and Mughal miniatures and calligraphy. Orchestrated largely through the efforts of Belle Da Costa Greene, Morgan’s librarian, the acquisition marked a turning point in the history of the Islamic collections at the Morgan. A core set of these leaves once formed part of a magnificent album compiled for Husain Khan Shamlu (r. 1598–1618), governor of Herat (Afghanistan) and one of the most powerful rulers in Persia in the early seventeenth century.

Theater of a Book: The Macrocosm of Extra-illustrated Memoirs of the life of John Philip Kemble, esq.

This is a guest post by Cen Liu, a PhD student in Theatre and Performance at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

This fall, I worked with the Department of Printed Books and Bindings to catalog the additional materials in an extra-illustrated version of James Boaden’s Memoirs of the life of John Philip Kemble, esq. (London, 1825; PML 9522-25). My own research is focused on the intersection of theater history and the history of visuality. I investigate how theater, as a concept and an artifact, exhibits and constructs the shifting paradigms of the relation between optical perception and knowledge.

Uncovering a Hidden John Ruskin at the Morgan

This is a guest post by Jarrett Moran, a doctoral candidate in History at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Bring up the nineteenth century British critic of art and society John Ruskin and there are a few stock stories that get repeated: an art history student might think of J. M. Whistler suing him for libel after Ruskin described his Nocturne in Black and Gold as “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face,” while a literature student might think of the “pathetic fallacy,” Ruskin’s term for poetic writing that attributes human emotions to the natural world.

A Millennium of Music at the Morgan, Part II

Let’s continue our tour of the music collections at the Morgan that we began in Part I. While the Morgan’s reputation for literary manuscripts, rare books, and master drawings is well established, a recent survey showed that only a quarter of our visitors expect to see a music exhibition when they come to the Morgan. In this two-part series, I aim to raise that number by taking you on a tour of highlights from our wonderful music collections, which span over a millennium of musical creativity.

Hired in 1936, Retired in 2002: Ruth Kraemer's Extraordinary Career

When I joined the Morgan’s Department of Drawings and Prints as a graduate intern in 1993, one of my tasks was to aid Ruth Kraemer (1908–2005), the department’s indefatigable researcher who assisted curator Cara Dufour Denison with cataloging the French drawings.

From "Near East" to "Western Asia": A Brief History of Archaeology and Colonialism

For peoples of ancient Western Asia, things did not exist until they were named. Names were believed to derive from the intrinsic qualities of things, resonating in perfect harmony with their past, present, and future. At the same time, naming reflected humans' inclination to give an order to the plethora of things, both animate and inanimate, that surrounded them. Being able to name things, then, also denoted control, authority, sovereignty.

Art, Literature, and Bearing Witness: Richard Doyle’s Letters and Walt Whitman's War Diary

This is a guest post by Michael Healy, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

As a student of the various strands of modernism in the early twentieth century, I found that an early version of one such strand was most prominent among the many nineteenth-century manuscripts I read through and cataloged in the summer of 2018 in the Reading Room at the Morgan: the sense that art and literature grow out of the vivid witness and keen observation of events happening around us all the time, some recorded in official histories and others not.

Inside Story: Using X-ray Microtomography to See Hidden Features of a Manuscript Codex

The Morgan’s collection includes a significant number of Coptic Christian manuscripts made in Egypt and dating from the fifth through the eleventh centuries. The Coptic collection is notable for its texts and illuminations as well as for a large group of early covers and binding fragments important in the history of bookbinding.