Rare Display of Items Related to Pierpont Morgan’s Life
New York, NY, May 6, 2013—The Morgan Library & Museum will continue its popular Treasures from the Vault exhibition series this spring with the presentation of thirty diverse works in its iconic 1906 McKim building. The great library was commissioned by museum founder Pierpont Morgan and completed in 1906, just seven years prior to his death in 1913. To commemorate Morgan’s life as one of America’s best known financiers and philanthropists, a selection of items will be exhibited in the library’s marbled rotunda. Included in the display will be Morgan’s high school essay on Napoleon Bonaparte (he considered Bonaparte’s tragic flaw to be placing “personal ambition” ahead of “the future welfare of his country”); a stock certificate from the United States Steel Corporation—an enormous undertaking which gave Morgan control of almost half the nation’s steelmaking capacity—signed by the company’s first president, Charles Schwab; the last surviving letter from Belle da Costa Greene, Morgan’s dynamic librarian, sent to her “Big Chief” shortly before his death; and the iconic portrait of Morgan by legendary photographer Edward Steichen.
Additional highlights from this season’s Treasures include Colm Tóibín’s manuscript of the short novel The Testament of Mary, the basis for his play that debuted in New York in April; a mid-fifteenth-century English cookery scroll containing nearly two hundred recipes in Middle English; autograph music manuscripts by Wagner, Verdi, and Britten; the first book printed in the English language; and writings by Jane Austen and Albert Einstein. The objects will be on view May 7-October 6, 2013.
Originally conceived as a monologue for an actress, Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary was published as a novel in 2011. The story takes place after the Crucifixion; as two of Jesus’s followers begin shaping the narrative of his life for their gospels, Mary gives her personal account of her son’s experience. Tóibín’s hand-written first draft of the novel—which he subsequently rewrote for the New York stage production—will be shown.
A mid-fifteenth-century cookery scroll—measuring over twenty feet long and featuring nearly two hundred recipes in Middle English—speaks to medieval tastes. Among the recipes on view will be two for “conynges” (coneys or rabbits), one in syrup, the other in clear broth. The first recipe instructs the cook to “Take conynges and seethe them well in good broth. Take Greek wine & add a portion of vinegar & flour of cinnamon, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, and other good spices with raisins, currants, and ginger….”
Although Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) did not attend the premier of his Aida in Cairo in 1871, he took a hands-on approach to the opera’s Italian premiere at La Scala in February 1872. In the annotated libretto on view, Verdi sketched out his staging for the first three acts, specifying the singers’ placement, movement, and even gestures.
Guests at a 1930 fundraising dinner organized by the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies were treated to a filmed speech by Albert Einstein on Jüdische Wohlthätigkeit (Jewish Charity). When Einstein recorded his message extolling Jewish moral values, such “talking pictures” incorporating synchronized audio were still in their infancy. The notes he drafted for the speech will be displayed.
The very first book printed in the English language was a collection (recuyell) of courtly romances related to the city of Troy. The book, printed by William Caxton in Belgium, was intended for the English communities on the continent and for export to England. By 1476 Caxton returned to England to build the country’s first printing press.
For over three hundred years, Books of Hours were a popular means of assisting the faithful with their devotions, teaching children to read, and recording family histories. Some small and precious Books of Hours, however, functioned less like a book and more like a piece of jewelry. The ornamental quality of the sixteenth-century manuscript on view—illuminated by Simon Bening, the last and greatest Flemish illuminator of that century—was enhanced two centuries later when its owner commissioned its elaborate, detachable gilt silver filigree binding.
Jane Austen’s letters to her sister, Cassandra, offer valuable and entertaining glimpses into her private life. In the 1815 letter on view—written while Jane was living at the London home of her elder brother—she tells Cassandra of the delivery of “a brace of pheasants,” continuing, “We shall live upon Pheasants; no bad Life!”
Cesare Negri’s Nuove inventioni di balli, printed in Milan in 1604, is the most comprehensive account of court and theatrical dance of the late Renaissance. In addition to descriptions of complex dances, it discusses proper deportment (for instance, a gentleman should hold the hilt of his sword with his left hand to prevent it from bouncing as he dances). Eager readers of Nuove inventioni could learn the steps for a total of forty-three choreographies.
For most of his life, William Blake earned his living as a commercial engraver. In 1793 he engraved sixteen plates based on the watercolors that accompanied John Stedman’s account of fighting escaped African slaves in the Dutch colony of Suriname. Blake’s hand-colored engraving on view shows the Aboma snake being skinned alive, recalling some of the book’s more brutal imagery. Both Blake and Stedman shared sympathy for the rebel slaves, and this project may have influenced Blake’s anti-slavery stance in his Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793).
COMPLETE WORKS ON VIEW
Pierpont Morgan-Related Objects
- Librarian Belle da Costa Greene’s last surviving letter to Pierpont Morgan, February 11, 1913
- Udo J. Keppler’s “The Magnet,” an editorial cartoon depicting Pierpont Morgan for Puck magazine, June 21, 1911
- Baron Adolf de Meyer’s photographic portrait of Belle da Costa Greene, ca. 1910
- Pierpont Morgan’s autograph high school essay on Napoleon Bonaparte, 1854
- Edward Steichen’s photographic portrait of Pierpont Morgan, 1903
- Stock certificate of the United States Steel Corporation, 1901
Literary and Historical Manuscripts
- Jane Austen’s letter to her sister, Cassandra, November 24, 1815
- Leaf from Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White manuscript, 1859-1860
- Albert Einstein’s notes for Jüdische Wohlthätigkeit (Jewish Charity), a speech filmed in Germany, 1930
- George Sand’s letter to Gustave Flaubert, discussing writing and requesting a visit, February 11, 1869
- Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary manuscript, 2009
- Document containing the last known signature of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and Shakespeare’s patron, July 7, 1624
- Book of Hours and eighteenth-century gilt silver filigree binding; Belgium, 1531
- Illustrations for June and July, from a calendar; Italy, 1324-28
- Cookery Scroll, containing nearly two hundred recipes in Middle English; England, mid-fifteenth century
- St. Mark Riding His Lion, from the Mostyn Gospels; England, ca. 1130
- Historiated initial E, from a psalter; Belgium, 1255-65
- Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist from the “Sacramentary of Mont-Saint-Michel;” France, ca. 1060
- Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D major, op. 70, no. 1 (“Ghost” Trio), autograph manuscript, 1808
- Benjamin Britten’s Sketch for Billy Budd, Act 1, scene 3, autograph manuscript, 1950?
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s letter to Michael Puchberg, requesting a loan, June 25, 1791
- Cesare Negri’s Nuove inventioni di balli, printed in Milan, 1604
- Giuseppe Verdi’s first Italian edition of the Aida libretto, 1872
- Richard Wagner’s draft of Lohengrin, Act 3, scene 3, 1846
- William Blake’s hand-colored engraving of ‘The skinning of the Aboma Snake, shot by Cap. Stedman,’ from John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a five years’ expedition against the revolted negroes of Surinam, 1793
- Jacob Cats’s Maechden-Plight ofte Ampt der ionckvrov-vven, in eerbaer Liefde, aen-ghewesen door Sinne-Beelden, featuring a moralistic poetic dialogue between an older woman and a virgin, 1618
- Albrecht Dürer’s treatise on human proportions, De symmetria partium in rectis formis humanorum corporum, 1532
- First edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, 1920
- Raoul Lefèvre’s Recuyell of the historyes of Troye, printed by William Caxton, 1473-74
- Paul Verlaine’s Romances sans paroles: ariettes oubliées, paysages belges, birds in the night, aquarelles, bound by Paul Bonet, 1874
Economic Reflections: Liaquat Ahamed and Andrew Ross Sorkin
Wednesday, June 19, 6:30 pm
To coincide with the one-hundredth anniversary of the death of Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), Liaquat Ahamed (economist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World) and Andrew Ross Sorkin (New York Times financial columnist and co-anchor of CNBC’s Squawk Box) talk about historical periods of financial turmoil and the current global economy. Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 Library will be open at 5:30 pm for program attendees.
$15; $10 for Members; Free for students with valid ID
www.themorgan.org/programs; 212-685-0008 x560
Pierpont Morgan: A Life in Five Objects
Friday, June 21, 7pm
In commemoration of Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), curators explore the banker and collector’s life and accomplishments through a selection of iconic and personal objects on view in the McKim Building he commissioned. Free.
Programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
ABOUT THE MORGAN LIBRARY & MUSEUM
The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue, at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016-3405
Just a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station
Tuesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; extended Friday hours, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. The Morgan closes at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
$15 for adults; $10 for students, seniors (65 and over), and children (under 16); free to Members and children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Admission is free on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is not required to visit the Morgan Shop.