Looking into the Wishing Well. By Matthew Gengler, Access Services and… | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Oct, 2022

Looking into the Wishing Well. By Matthew Gengler, Access Services and… | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Oct, 2022

By Matthew Gengler, Access Services and Reference Librarian

In a pivotal scene from The Child from Cleveland, actors George Brent and a young Russ Tamblyn stand above the Cleveland Museum of Art’s wishing well. Tamblyn, actively playing the kid, is invited to make a want Johnny. The film, set in 1949, is a family melodrama that follows a young boy with a difficult household everyday living who is served by his favourite baseball group. Though the movie may perhaps not be worth looking at for the plot, the mid-century footage of the museum’s first galleries is a handle. The scene with the wishing well is even showcased on the poster for the movie. Then museum director William Milliken, a devoted baseball enthusiast, would have enthusiastically authorized filming in the galleries.

Well Head, 1400s. Italy, almost certainly Verona. Pink limestone (called “Verona marble”). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1943.69

The actual star of the scene, the museum’s beloved pink limestone wishing well — currently set up in the Susan M. Kaesgen Education and learning Gallery and Lobby — has a fairly exciting background. Officially called a Very well Head, the wishing perfectly first arrived at the museum in 1929, obtaining been despatched by the supplier on instruction (and guarantee of payment) of the museum’s European consultant, Harold Woodbury Parsons. At the time, Parsons liked independence in gathering for the museum, and with ample motive. More than his occupation working as consultant of the Cleveland Museum of Art, as very well as the then Nelson Museum in Kansas Metropolis, Parsons manufactured critical acquisitions that shaped the CMA’s assortment of European artwork. Amid the treasures he obtained for the museum is The Holy Household with the Infant Saint John and Saint Margaret by Filippino Lippi, a masterpiece of Italian painting.

Regrettably, this time Parsons had overstepped his authority, a point built general public by Milliken in his autobiography, Born Under the Signal of Libra, in which he criticizes Parsons for getting “more rash than vigilant.” Maybe Parsons could be forgiven for his mistake, looking at the leeway delivered him by the museum. Somewhere else in the identical volume, Milliken refers to him as “an indefatigable intermediary” and praises how significantly cash he saves the museum as a result of his deft acquisitions. Nonetheless, in this moment, he misjudged his client’s pursuits and the wishing well arrived, albeit unwelcome.

This did not prevent its exhibition, however. The earliest pictures of the wishing very well from 1931 exhibit it mounted in the inside yard court docket of the museum. With its caged songbirds and exotic plants, the setting presented a room of silent repose for the fatigued museum customer to pause and mirror. The wishing effectively served to total the illusion until the museum approached an critical milestone.

Silver Jubilee wishing nicely in the museum’s rotunda, 1941

In anticipation of the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in 1941, the director determined that the properly should be utilized for a silver coin assortment to gain museum acquisitions, calling it the Silver Jubilee Treasure Pool. The wishing perfectly was mounted in the rotunda, where by the marble statue of Terpsichore Lyran (the muse of lyric poetry) by Antonio Canova now stands (at the time, the Canova had not entered the collection, and resided at Exbury House in Hampshire, United kingdom, in the collection of Lionel de Rothschild).

In his unpublished heritage of the collection, Milliken describes museum benefactor Elisabeth Severance Prentiss, a statuesque muse in her have appropriate, at the party as a “grand dame, with her magnificence, heightened by her amazing evening robe and her stunning jewels, tossing silver bucks from throughout the Rotunda.” The treasure pool was a terrific results with donations topping $4,000 in the jubilee yr.

The first operates bought for the collection with donations from the well were May perhaps Exhibit entries which includes Harvest by Katherine Greuner Lange and Backward Glance, a unusual watercolor operate by John Paul Miller. This commenced a very long custom of applying the Silver Jubilee Treasure Fund, renamed the Wishing Very well Fund in 1961, to obtain objects by regional artists. From 1944 to 1993, the museum bought practically 200 objects with the fund, largely from the once-a-year May possibly Display. In a lot of techniques, donations to the Wishing Well had been donations to the inventive legacy of Cleveland.

Producing a want, 1943

Right after practically 14 years of service to the institution, the very well head that Mr. Parsons transported without approval entered the selection, in 1943. This object proceeds to keep the fascination of site visitors who peer down into the depths, toss a coin, and make a desire. Museum readers who have contributed their coins to the wishing properly can justifiably point to the artwork in the galleries bearing the Silver Jubilee or Wishing Nicely fund attribution and say that they had a part in creating the acquisition achievable.

Building a want, 1990s

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