Glencairn Museum’s Egyptian collection features several objects related to the weres, or headrest, an ancient Egyptian pillow made of wood. Headrests were believed to magically protect the sleeper at night, and also eternally after death. In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Egyptologist Dr. Jennifer Houser Wegner explains both the practical and magical functions of the ancient Egyptian headrest.
Whether we prefer to dream about the adventures of legendary medieval kings and queens, ponder the deeds of historical sovereigns, or invent rulers of fantasy worlds based on the medieval past, the art of the Middle Ages offers much to inspire our imaginations. In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, art historian Julia Perratore explores Glencairn’s collection in pursuit of the images fueling modern visions of medieval monarchs.
A series of historic photos taken at the June 8, 1934 wedding reception of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn’s eldest daughter, Gabriele, offers a rare visual insight into the design process employed by the Bryn Athyn Studios. For this special June wedding full-scale plaster models as well as actual works of art created for Glencairn in stone, metal, and stained glass were transported from the construction site to the wedding reception venue and repurposed as “garden sculptures.”
Bryn Athyn artist and arts instructor Nishan Yardumian (1947-1986) taught painting in Bryn Athyn for many years. He was an artist as well as a teacher, and was passionate about both professions. According to Yardumian, “Painting aims at the universal with the hopes that each individual can find his identification with it. Teaching aims at the individual with the hope of developing the universal.”
There is so much artwork to appreciate at Glencairn that visitors often pass by a certain elaborately-carved oak chair on the first floor without giving it a second glance. The chair was inspired by a twelfth-century Norwegian chair that was rediscovered in the late nineteenth century in a church in the village of Tyldal. The nineteenth century saw a revival of interest in woodcarving influenced by Norwegian Viking art, which became known as “dragon style.” Glencairn’s chair, hand carved in the Bryn Athyn woodworking shop in the 1920s, is significant—not only for the high quality of its workmanship, but for the story it tells about the circumstances that led to its creation.
The Last Judgment, when the dead rise from their graves to be consigned either to salvation in Heaven or damnation in Hell, was arguably the most important theological concept for medieval Christians. In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Sean Lawing, Assistant Professor of History at Bryn Athyn College, considers the ways in which the human body held significance for medieval Christians in the theological framework of the Last Judgment, with special reference to art in Glencairn Museum’s medieval collection.
Glencairn Museum’s collection of ancient Egyptian jewelry, assembled by Raymond Pitcairn in the 1920s and early 1930s, includes strung beaded necklaces, amulets, and rings dating from at least as early as the First Intermediate Period (2130-1980 BCE) through the Greco-Roman Period (332 BCE- 323 CE). Individual elements include figures of gods, goddesses, and other magical and protective images, providing ample opportunity to study ancient Egyptian religious beliefs and magical practices.
During the holiday season a life-size oil painting by Bryn Athyn artist Edwin Herder depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds (Luke 2:15-20) hangs above the fireplace in Glencairn’s Upper Hall. The painting is based on an illustration in The Christ Child, a 1931 children’s book by Maud and Miska Petersham.
This year Glencairn Museum is featuring two exhibitions during the holiday season. Our ninth annual World Nativities exhibition presents 40 three-dimensional Nativity scenes, collected from 20 countries around the world. Another exhibition, Do You See What I See? Imagery in Nativity Scenes, explores the origins of the various elements that make up a Nativity scene. And Glencairn’s guided “Christmas in the Castle” tour answers the question, “How do you celebrate Christmas in a 20th-century castle?”
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Michael Cothren, Glencairn’s Consultative Curator of Medieval Stained Glass, traces the history of our 13th-century “Visitation” panel, which depicts the visit of Mary (pregnant with Jesus) with Elizabeth (pregnant with John the Baptist). This stained glass panel is from the church of Sainte-Radegonde outside the city of Poitiers, France—the church that inspired the creation of the remarkable Christmas window in Glencairn’s chapel.
Recently Glencairn Museum News interviewed Jason Klein of Historical Glassworks, located in Manheim, Pennsylvania. We asked Jason about the history of glassblowing in Bryn Athyn and his ongoing effort to recreate the famous “striated ruby” glass, made in Bryn Athyn’s glassworks for Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn.
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Jack Hinton, Associate Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, traces the early history and importance of Raymond Pitcairn’s loans of medieval objects to the PMA, which “have allowed the visiting public to gain a more complete understanding of the spiritual and devotional purpose surrounding their creation.”
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Egyptologist Dr. Jennifer Houser Wegner examines the remarkable ancient Egyptian libation bowl in Glencairn’s Bird Room. According to Dr. Wegner, “liquid offerings were an essential part of Egyptian cult practices, both in tomb and temple settings.” Purchased by Raymond Pitcairn in the 1920s, the bowl was originally installed in the entrance hall of Cairnwood. In 1939 it became the only Egyptian object permanently installed inside Glencairn.
This issue of Glencairn Museum News explores the work of five artists who were influenced by the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Glencairn’s New Church (Swedenborgian) art collection includes examples of works produced by some of the most prominent artists known to have been inspired by Swedenborg’s writings, as well as a number by lesser-known artists. Swedenborgian themes, such as heaven and hell, the spiritual relationship of married couples, and the nature of the human soul, have become the subject matter of many of their paintings and sculptures.
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, art historian Dr. Julia Perratore explores evidence of protective imagery in a group of sculptures from Glencairn’s medieval collection. These images of fierce beasts originally decorated buildings, particularly churches, built in the Romanesque style of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
This issue of Glencairn Museum News explores the Pitcairn family chapels at Cairnwood and Glencairn. Cairnwood, the Beaux Arts-style home built by John and Gertrude Pitcairn (completed 1895), and Glencairn, the castle-like home built next door by the Pitcairns’ son Raymond and his wife Mildred (completed 1939), were both designed with impressive chapels to accommodate their tradition of family worship.
Recently Glencairn Museum News interviewed Crispin Paine, a leading authority on the interpretation of religious objects in museums, about a new book he has co-edited: Religion in Museums: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2017). The book includes an essay about Glencairn Museum.
Powwowing in Pennsylvania: Healing Rituals of the Dutch Country features artifacts, documents and photographs illustrating a wide range of expression within the ritual tradition of over three centuries of Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture. The full text of the exhibition catalog is available online (in both html and pdf formats). The catalog essay is titled, “The Heavens are My Cap and the Earth is My Shoes: The Religious Origins of Powwowing and the Ritual Traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch.”
Epiphany, sometimes known as Three Kings’ Day (January 6), celebrates the arrival of the Magi—also known as the Wise Men—in Bethlehem to see the Christ Child. In this issue of Glencairn Museum News we examine how artisans from around the world have represented the Magi in Glencairn’s World Nativities exhibition.
The tradition of the Presepio, which has been called "the translation of the Bible into Neapolitan dialect,” represents daily life in 18th-century Naples, a bustling port city. The figures and structures in this Presepio were collected over a period of more than thirty years by the late Elizabeth Anne Evans of Bucks County during her annual trips to Naples.
Perhaps the most frequently repeated motif in Glencairn is the grouping of ram, ewe, and lambs, symbolizing the importance of family. This issue of Glencairn Museum News explores the representation of sheep and lambs in the interior and exterior decoration of Glencairn.
In this essay Eva Miller, PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, considers the five Assyrian reliefs in Glencairn’s Ancient Near East gallery. Collected by Raymond Pitcairn during the 1920s, these reliefs are “an exceptionally well-chosen group, representing diverse aspects of the religion, ideology, and artistry of the Assyrian Empire and typifying the development of the genre over time.” Miller examines the meaning of the images in these reliefs and how they have been received in both ancient and modern times.
Many first-time visitors to Glencairn Museum experience the building’s dramatic exterior before ever venturing inside. Glencairn’s grounds and gardens, together with those of Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Cairnwood Estate, are a favorite strolling destination for local residents. On Glencairn’s southwest corner, a graceful portico leads from the expansive lawn and carefully tended gardens to a magnificent cloister. This issue of Glencairn Museum News explores the cloister and the inspirations behind its design—including the capitals of the arcade with twelve species of birds, the twin-arched window providing a view toward the valley, and the special bench featuring a ram and ewe, carved from granite for Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn.
Glencairn Museum’s large book of plainchant (75cm tall) was made in 16th-century Spain, most likely for the monastic Order of Calatrava. Like a modern hymnal, it contains the music needed for religious services, including 116 hymns as well as antiphons, responsories, and other music.
Recently Glencairn Museum News interviewed Jens Langlotz, Master Stone Carver at Bryn Athyn Cathedral, about the history of stone carving in Bryn Athyn and about ongoing preservation efforts at the Cathedral and Glencairn. Then we climbed the scaffold above the Cathedral’s south entry to watch Jens and his assistant, Grayson Zuber, in action as they replaced several badly worn limestone finials with exact copies.
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explores the world of the medieval sculptor, who mastered “a craft that was challenging and at times back-breaking, requiring flexibility and ingenuity.”
The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the official incorporation of Bryn Athyn as a borough in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A Hill of Unity: The Founding of Bryn Athyn Borough (Friday, April 15 - Sunday, October 16, 2016) presents artifacts, maps, photographs and documents illustrating the early development of this community, leading up to the year of incorporation in 1916.
In 1982, as Glencairn was in the process of being transformed from a family home into a museum, an unusual work of ancient art was discovered in one of the family bedrooms—being used as a doorstop! In this essay, David and Irene Romano discuss Glencairn’s Syro-Hittite siren cauldron attachment and compare it to other known examples from the ancient Greek and Near Eastern worlds.
For the first time in decades, Glencairn Museum is exhibiting three Easter scenes made in the 1920s for the Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn family. The scenes were designed by Winfred S. Hyatt, the principal stained-glass artist and designer for Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn.