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Curator Pick of the Month

March 2014

Title: George III Silver Nine-Basket Epergne
Artist: Thomas Pitts
Creation Date: 1765
Origin: England
Medium: Silver

In 1893 Anthony J. Drexel gave the Drexel Institute a solid silver epergne, made in 1763 by a London silversmith named Thomas Pitts. Epergnes became fashionable in the 1730’s when large dining halls were popular for ornate dinner parties. It was used to hold fruit, condiments, and relishes for early courses and sweets for dessert. A lot of these delicacies were shipped from the Far East so they were very expensive; epergnes became popular so guests could take as much as they wanted without wasting the food by preparing these luxuries in the main dish. The Drexel epergne serves as a stunning example of Chinese influence in England during the 1700’s as the Chinese pagoda shape is combined with floral motifs.

February 2014

Title: Portrait of Amanda Fell Cassat
Artist: Jean Charles P. de Chabannes la Palice
Creation Date: 1910
Origin: France
Medium: oil on canvas

With New York Fashion Week in full swing, I thought it would be a perfect time to highlight one of The Drexel Collection’s best-dressed portraits. Amanda Fell Cassatt was the Daughter of Sarah Drexel, and granddaughter of Anthony J. Drexel. The portrait depicts this statuesque beauty in a fur-trimmed red velvet overdress concealing a light-colored delicate lace and fringed evening gown. A small blue bow fastens the overdress in the front, adding a flare of contrasting color and a bit of winsomeness to the ensemble. To complete the look, Mrs. Cassatt’s headdress is a fashionable black wrap jeweled at the center with a large black plume. This portrait can be found in the Anthony J. Drexel Picture Gallery.

January 2014

Title: New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige
Creation Date: 1857
Origin: Japan
Medium: Woodblock print

Happy New Year! This woodblock print is part of a large collection of Japanese prints donated to The Drexel Collection by James W. Paul Jr., Anthony J. Drexel’s son-in-law. In Japanese folklore, it is believed that on New Year’s Eve all of the foxes of the surrounding provinces would gather at a particular tree near the Oji Inari shrine, headquarters of the god Inari. The animals would emit distinctive flames by which local farmers were able to predict the crops of the coming year. This print was most recently part of Drexel’s celebratory exhibition A Legacy of Art, Science and Industry: Highlights from the Collections, Drexel University, Spring 2012.