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.
This square panel of medieval stained glass—portraying the Holy Family journeying to Egypt to escape the massacre ordered by King Herod (Matthew 2:13-15)—may be the most famous work of art in Glencairn Museum.
This year Glencairn Museum is featuring two exhibitions during the holiday season. Christmas Traditions in Many Lands reveals how Christmas was celebrated in a variety of European countries during the 19th and 20th centuries. It features objects and images from the collection of the National Christmas Center and Museum. Our seventh annual World Nativities exhibition presents 45 three-dimensional Nativity scenes, collected from around the world.
This year Glencairn is featuring two exhibitions during the holiday season. As part of the seventh annual World Nativities exhibition, Glencairn is presenting a unique creation by Navidad Nativities of Bucks County, PA. This custom Nativity setting, with stunning interior lighting, was inspired by the art and architecture of Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn. The human and animal figures were hand carved in wood and dressed in starched fabric by Original Heide, a family business in the Italian Alps. The second exhibition, Christmas Traditions in Many Lands, reveals how Christmas was celebrated in a variety of European countries during the 19th and 20th centuries, and features objects and images from the collection of the National Christmas Center and Museum in Lancaster, PA.
The construction of Bryn Athyn Cathedral began in 1913. With many masons and sculptors hard at work, its rising walls soon began to dominate the local skyline. At this time Raymond Pitcairn, who was supervising the building’s design and construction, turned his attention to the stained glass windows he hoped would illuminate the Cathedral’s interior. Pitcairn, who had loved medieval architecture since childhood, was determined to match the textures and brilliant colors of the stained glass windows in the walls of the great European cathedrals built during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains a remarkable twelfth-century capital in Glencairn’s Medieval Gallery that most people pass by without a second glance. At first, this limestone sculpture seems to represent a mere tangle of vines and other vegetation. However, as Dr. Perratore observes, “often a seemingly straightforward work of art yields real surprises, turning the simple act of looking into an adventure.”
The Egyptian collection at Glencairn Museum, established in 1878, was assembled primarily by four men: the Reverend William Henry Benade (a Christian pastor, and later a bishop), John Pitcairn and his son Raymond (industrialists and philanthropists), and Rodolfo Vittorio Lanzone (an Italian Egyptologist and collector of antiquities). Benade and Pitcairn had earlier been instrumental in founding the Academy of the New Church, then located on Cherry Street in Philadelphia. Benade and Pitcairn were not present to witness the long-anticipated opening of the Academy in September of 1877, as the previous June they had boarded the White Star Liner Germanic, bound for an extended tour of Europe, Egypt and the Holy Land.
Since Glencairn Museum News is published on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, as well as via email, we decided it was high time to publish an article about cats! Glencairn’s Egyptian collection includes images of cats in bronze, stone, faience and other materials. In this essay, Dr. Jennifer Houser Wegner, Associate Curator in the Egyptian Section of the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania), explains the role of "cats, lions, and fabulous felines" in ancient Egyptian life.
Photo: A bronze votive statuette of a seated cat in Glencairn Museum’s Egyptian collection.
Miss America 1967, Jayne Jayroe, visited Glencairn, where she was photographed with one of the Pitcairn family’s most beloved works of medieval sculpture: a tall, well-dressed woman of royal status who once surely rivaled her in style and elegance. This meeting of beauty queens, separated in time by 800 years, brought together two women representing the ideals of grace and refinement of their eras. Yet while shows like Mad Men have kept the styles of the 1960s current today, those of the 1160s can be more difficult to grasp. In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains the twelfth-century ideals this remarkable sculpture represents.
Recently Warren Holzman, a nationally-renowned blacksmith, was interviewed by Rebecca Gyllenhaal, student-editor of Bryn Athyn College’s Pythia: A Journal of Arts, Literature, and Spirituality(The interview below is an expanded version of the one that appears in Pythia.) Warren teaches metal forging at Bryn Athyn College, and has designed and created new metalwork for Glencairn Museum and Bryn Athyn Cathedral. He has called the metalwork and other craftwork in these buildings, “the wonderful gift that Bryn Athyn has given to the world.”
Marc Chagall (1887–1985) has been called the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century, and one of the foremost visual interpreters of the Bible. He was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, into a traditional Hasidic Jewish family. According to Chagall, “Since my early youth I have been fascinated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me and it seems to me still that it is the greatest source of poetry of all time. Since then I have sought this reflection in life and in art. The Bible is like an echo of nature and this secret I have tried to transmit.”
In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explains the unique historical connections between Glencairn Museum and the Cloisters Museum in New York City. According to Dr. Perratore, “the designs for both Glencairn and the Met’s Cloisters embraced a combined approach that emulated and approximated medieval architectural styles using modern building materials, on the one hand, and made use of actual medieval materials whenever possible, on the other. As a result, both Glencairn and the Cloisters’ buildings incorporate tall, Romanesque-inspired towers, chapels, halls and cloister spaces, and there are actual medieval pieces inserted into the walls throughout.”
Molas are hand-stitched reverse appliqué panels made for the front and back of blouses worn by Cuna women, who live on the San Blas Islands along the coast of Panama. Each mola in this exhibition illustrates a story from the Bible—from the Garden of Eden to the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven.
This holiday season Glencairn Museum and the National Christmas Center and Museum have collaborated on a Christmas exhibition at Glencairn: A Century of Santa: Images of Santa Claus in the 1800s (Figure 1). A Century of Santa was co-curated by Glencairn’s curator, Ed Gyllenhaal, and the National Christmas Center’s founder and curator, Jim Morrison. Almost all of the objects are on loan from the Center, many originating from Jim’s personal collection. The two museums are hoping to collaborate on more exhibitions in the future, and plans are being made for A Century of Santa to travel to other venues after it leaves Glencairn. The editors of Glencairn Museum News thought our readers might like to know more about Jim (a.k.a. Santa, Jr.) and the National Christmas Center and Museum—his brainchild—which is located in Paradise, Pennsylvania, just outside of Lancaster.
eginning this holiday season, visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center may see the Nativity scenes made in Bryn Athyn for the Eisenhower White House. In 1954 Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn commissioned Winfred S. Hyatt to make a single Nativity scene for President and Mrs. Eisenhower. It was displayed in the East Room of the White House that same year, next to the Christmas tree. Two more scenes were added in 1957. Pictured: Christmas 1955. From left to right, David Eisenhower, John Eisenhower, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, President Dwight Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower, Barbara Eisenhower, and Anne Eisenhower.
For the second year in a row, Glencairn is privileged to debut the work of Karen Loccisano and R. Michael Palan, a husband-and-wife team of professional artists from Westchester County, New York. Visitors to Glencairn’s World Nativities exhibition in 2013 may remember their highly detailed American Presepio Nativity scene, which was unveiled in November of that year. They are now working on a Flemish Nativity. According to Michael, “When we first saw the painting, The Census at Bethlehem, by the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel, we were intrigued by the image of Mary and Joseph in a snowy, 16th-century Flemish village. After studying paintings of other Flemish masters, the one thing that struck us was that we had not come across any three-dimensional images of the Flemish Nativity. This work, along with our other Nativity projects, are things that we live with and work on over the period of years.”
This limestone capital depicting the martyrdom of Andrew the Apostle, also known as Saint Andrew, is on exhibit in Glencairn’s Medieval Gallery (09.SP.3). In this essay for Glencairn Museum News, Dr. Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recounts the story of St. Andrew and places this sculpture within the context of religion and art. According to Dr. Perratore, “the Glencairn capital is an unusual example of a saint’s martyrdom commemorated in stone, and the sculptor very capably handled what may have been an unfamiliar subject. ”
Glencairn Museum’s ancient Egyptian collection includes more than four dozen magical amulets of the hippopotamus-shaped goddess Taweret (literally “The Great [Female] One”). Taweret was a key figure in the religious life of ancient Egyptian families, and images of her appear on a variety of magical artifacts. Pregnant and nursing women used amulets of Taweret to protect themselves and their babies from evil spirits. The goddess is fearsome in appearance, combining the physical attributes of the hippopotamus, crocodile, and lion. Taweret sometimes also carried a knife to help her ward off evil.
In this essay, Dr. Jennifer Houser Wegner, Associate Curator in the Egyptian Section of the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania), explains the role of this important domestic goddess in ancient Egyptian family life.
Henry Chapman Mercer and Raymond Pitcairn shared interests in architecture, collecting, and the revival of the production of bygone crafts. Both men were self-taught architects from well-to-do families who used their financial means to build “castles” in neighboring Pennsylvania counties (Bucks and Montgomery). Fonthill (see photo above; 1908-1912), an eclectic mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles, was Mercer’s private residence. He built the Mercer Museum (1913-1916), his other Doylestown castle, to exhibit his large collection of tiles, tools, and artifacts of pre-industrial life. Pitcairn built Glencairn, a Romanesque-style home for his large family and his renowned collection of medieval art, between 1928 and 1939.
This past June, Andrew Tallon, Associate Professor of Art at Vassar College, traveled to Bryn Athyn with a Leica Geosystems C10 laser scanner and conducted a laser survey of both Bryn Athyn Cathedral and the first floor of Glencairn. The resulting three-dimensional spatial maps will allow us to study these buildings in a new way, by creating ‘slices’ through the structures in the form of plans, sections, elevations, and perspective views. His goal was to study the "refinements," or subtle curves in plan and elevation, which were incorporated into the designs of both buildings. The use of a laser scanner was essential because, according to Dr. Tallon, "Though relatively well documented in the textual sources, the refinements applied at Bryn Athyn Cathedral are in most cases subtle enough to escape detection by the eye." In this essay, he presents the results of his Bryn Athyn laser scans for the first time. He also attempts to answer a question that has perplexed many of those who study these remarkable buildings: "Who is the architect of Bryn Athyn Cathedral?"