Something Old, Something New

The AJ Drexel Picture Gallery is located on the third floor of the Main Building. This room includes a grand piano, the most expensive clock in the world, and walls filled with paintings. Many paintings are from the Drexel family collection, and some painted by AJ Drexel's father. However, my current favorite painting is by Jules L. Stewart, entitled "A Parisian Wedding - 1880," a large oil painting of a wedding sendoff (the director of the Picture Gallery shared that there is a rumor that this painting was acquired by the Drexel family because the bride and groom were their relatives). Not only am I drawn to this painting for its ultrarealistic rendering of the dress fabric or the twilight sky with a faint moon, but I am also drawn to it because of the shoes flying through the air. Yes, if you look closely, people are throwing shoes at the bride and groom sitting in the open carriage.

A Parisian Wedding

I wanted to know more about why they were throwing shoes at these people and I confirmed through some internet investigation that throwing shoes at a wedding was indeed a tradition, much like throwing rice. The gesture was a way to wish luck to the new couple. However, James E. Crombie, who wrote an article entitled "Shoe-Throwing at Weddings" in 1895, could not dig up the origin of this tradition. Though Crombie starts the article with "Pelting a bride and bridegroom with old shoes when they start on their honeymoon is a custom we are all familiar with, and in which many of us have participated," even he seems to find the practice odd.

Whatever the reason, the painting is a hilarious glimpse into a forgotten tradition. The Picture Gallery is another example of the juxtaposition of the historic with the contemporary around Drexel's campus. Learning something new from something old. We always look to the future, but have strong connections to our past. So get out there and explore some of the historical items and buildings on our campus, including the AJ Drexel Picture Gallery. Which painting is your favorite?