Recent Lectures: Nov. 5, 2017–April 5, 2018

Home to gorgeous gardens, spectacular art, and stunning rare books and manuscripts, The Huntington also offers an impressive slate of lectures and conferences on topics and themes related to its collections. Below are audio recordings of 24 recent lectures and conversations.

To the Edges of the Earth (April 5, 2018)
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Edward J. Larson discusses in his new book, To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration. Larson tells the story of three simultaneous and groundbreaking expeditions that pushed to the furthest reaches of the globe and brought within human reach a complete accounting of all the Earth’s surface.

 

Making Art/Discovering Science (March 14, 2018)
Steven Shapin, the Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, draws attention to the widely held view that artistic productions are “things made up” and scientific knowledge consists of “things found out.” How stable and coherent are such presumptions? Shapin discusses examples drawn from 19th-century biology and from 20th-century and contemporary art.

 

Conversion & Religions of the World in 18th-Century America (March 7, 2018)
Mark Valeri, the Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, describes how new ideas of moral virtue and political reasonableness shaped Protestant approaches to religious choice in colonial America.

 

In Search of Blue Boy’s True Colors (Feb. 28, 2018)
Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, art historian and journalist, reveals the scholarship and science behind Project Blue Boy, The Huntington’s two-year effort to conserve one of Western Art’s greatest masterpieces in this annual Founder’s Day lecture.

 

Chop Suey, USA: How Americans Discovered Chinese Food (Feb. 22, 2018)
Yong Chen, professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, discusses the historical forces that turned Chinese food, a cuisine once widely rejected by Americans, into one of the most popular ethnic foods in the U.S.

 

The Introduction of Japanese Plants into North America (Feb. 20, 2018)
Through the pioneering work of collectors and nurserymen, many new Japanese species were introduced to the American gardening public in the late 19th century. Peter Del Tredici, Senior Research Scientist, Emeritus, of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University, will examine the history behind these early introductions, some of which had a profound impact on both cultivated and wild landscapes across America.

 

Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (Feb. 15, 2018)
David Armitage, the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University, puts contemporary conflicts from Afghanistan to Syria into historical perspective and asks why it matters whether we call them “civil wars” instead of insurgencies, rebellions, or even revolutions.

 

Miraculous Things: The Culture of Consumerism in the Renaissance (Feb. 7, 2018)
Martha Howell, professor of history at Columbia University and the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellow, discusses the meaning attached to goods—both humble and luxurious—during the Renaissance. The era is considered by many to be the first age of commercial globalism.

 

Louis C. Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics (Feb. 1, 2018)
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Louis Comfort Tiffany directed an artistic empire in the design and creation of stained glass windows and lamps, blown glass vases, and other objects of luxury. But his innovations in glass mosaics represented perhaps his most expressive mastery of the medium. Kelly Conway, curator of American glass at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, discusses this understudied aspect of Tiffany’s virtuosity. This talk is part of the Wark Lecture Series at The Huntington.

 

Exhibition Talk: Live Free or Die (Jan. 27, 2018)
Artists Soyoung Shin and Juliana Wisdom, two of the seven artists whose work is featured in the current exhibition COLLECTION/S, will discuss the influence of 18th-century French history and decorative arts on their work. The discussion is moderated by Jenny Watts, curator of photography and visual culture at The Huntington, and Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art.

 

Decoding the Book: Printing & the Birth of Secrecy (Jan. 24, 2018)
Bill Sherman, director of the Warburg Institute in London, delivers the inaugural annual lecture honoring David Zeidberg, recently retired Avery Director of the Library. In his presentation, Sherman traces the modern field of cryptography back to the Renaissance and asks what role the invention of printing played in the keeping of secrets. This talk is part of the Zeidberg Lecture in the History of the Book Series at The Huntington.

 

Portland Japanese Garden: The Journey Continues (Jan. 23, 2018)
For more than 50 years, the Portland Japanese Garden has been a haven of serenity and an important center for Japanese culture. Join Sadafumi Uchiyama, Garden Curator of the Portland Japanese Garden, as he reflects on their recent expansion and newly founded institute for teaching garden history, design, construction, and maintenance. This talk is part of the East Asian Garden Lecture Series at The Huntington.

 

Frederick Hammersley’s Remarkable Account of his Painting Practice & Materials (Jan. 18, 2018)
Abstract artist Frederick Hammersley (1919-2009) kept meticulous documentation of his painting process and materials. His Painting Books, compiled over the course of nearly 40 years, describe in detail the creation of hundreds of individual works. Scientist Alan Phenix of the Getty Conservation Institute will survey the technical content of the Painting Books, with particular focus on matters that have significance for the care and conservation of Hammersley’s works.

 

Anton Roman: San Francisco’s Pioneering Bookseller & Publisher (Jan. 17, 2018)
John Crichton, proprietor of the Brick Row Book Shop in San Francisco, shares the story of pioneering entrepreneur Anton Roman (1828-1903), who came to California from Bavaria in 1849 to make his fortune in the gold fields, then converted his gold into books and became one of the most important booksellers in the West. This program is the Book Club of California’s inaugural Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture.

 

A Mormon Diarist in California, 1850-1858 (Jan. 10, 2018)
Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the 300th Anniversary University Professor of History at Harvard University, shares stories from the remarkable diary of Caroline Crosby. The wife of a Mormon missionary, Crosby reached California with her husband in 1850 en route to a posting in the South Pacific, and later lived among “saints and strangers” in San Jose, San Francisco, and San Bernardino. This talk is part of the Mormon History Lecture Series at The Huntington.

 

Conversation and Readings from the Podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (Dec. 21, 2017)
Vanessa Zoltan (co-host) and Ariana Nedelman (producer) of the celebrated podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, along with Huntington curator Vanessa Wilkie, discuss how media format shapes message. The podcast team discusses why they choose to do their program as a podcast (as opposed to a reading group, blog, or book), the opportunities of this media, as well as its limitations. This program was presented in conjunction with the exhibition “The Reformation: From the Word to the World.”

 

Cochineal in the History of Art and Global Trade (Dec. 10, 2017)
Alejandro de Ávila Blomberg of the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden and Oaxaca Textile Museum will explore the historical and cultural significance of this natural crimson dye. Used from antiquity, cochineal became Mexico’s second-most valued export after silver during the Spanish colonial period.

 

Christian Origins in Early Modern Europe: The Birth of a New Kind of History (Dec. 7, 2017)
In the 16th century, the unified Latin Christianity of the Middle Ages broke apart. New Protestant churches and a reformed Catholic church created new theologies, new liturgies, and new ways of imagining what early Christian life and worship were like. Anthony Grafton, professor of history at Princeton University, discusses how the new histories were ideological in inspiration and controversial in style, but nonetheless represented a vital set of innovations in western ways of thinking about and representing the past. This talk is part of the Crotty Lecture Series at The Huntington.

 

The Florentine Codex and the Herbal Tradition: Unknown versus Known? (Dec. 5, 2017)
The 16th-century ethnographic study known as the Florentine Codex included a richly detailed account of natural history of the New World. In this lecture, Alain Touwaide—historian of medicine, botany, and medicinal plants—compares the Codex and contemporary European herbal traditions. He suggests that they represent the opposition between unknown and known—a dynamic force that led to many discoveries in medicine through the centuries.

 

The Ecology of Eternity in a Song-Dynasty Buddhist Monastery (Nov. 21, 2017)
In his inaugural Huntington lecture, Phillip Bloom, The Huntington’s new director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies and curator of the Chinese Garden, examines the history of Shizhuanshan, a hilltop Buddhist sanctuary in southwestern China constructed in the late 11th century. Bloom argues that, at Shizhuanshan, architecture, image, and text work together to transform the natural environment itself into a site for the eternal performance of Buddhist ritual.

 

Did Early-Modern Schoolmasters Foment Sedition? (Nov. 15, 2017)
Markku Peltonen, professor of history at the University of Helsinki and the Fletcher Jones Foundation Distinguished Fellow, discusses why the famous philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) placed the blame for the English Civil War and Revolution of the 1640s at the door of schoolmasters. This talk is part of the Distinguished Fellow Lecture Series at The Huntington.

 

The Landscape Designs of Ralph Cornell (Nov. 12, 2017)
Among the first generation of landscape architects in Southern California, Ralph Cornell (1890–1972) is considered the most influential. His wide scope of projects included college campuses, city parks, and significant residential commissions. Noted architect Brian Tichenor discusses Cornell’s life and milieu while examining three of his highly significant landscape designs. The lecture is presented in collaboration with the California Garden and Landscape History Society.

 

The Lords Proprietors: Land and Power in 17th-Century America (Nov. 8, 2017)
If England’s King Charles II and his courtiers had had their way, most of eastern North America would have been the personal property of about a dozen men who dreamed of wielding virtually absolute power over their vast domains. Daniel K. Richter, professor of history and director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow, explores this neglected chapter in American history and why it still matters.

 

Rediscovered Botanical Treasures from the Smithsonian and the Hunt Institute (Nov. 5, 2017)
Lugene Bruno, curator of Carnegie Mellon’s Hunt Institute, and Alice Tangerini, curator of botanical art at the Smithsonian Institution, present an illustrated lecture on recently rediscovered artworks long forgotten in their archives. These botanical illustrations represent significant historical and scientific findings of an earlier era.

Find more audio recordings of Huntington lectures and conferences on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Fiber Arts

Weaving on a backstrap loom. Photo by Deborah Miller.

A group of Herb Garden docents gathered in the Botanical Center’s headhouse one recent morning to begin work on a textile installation piece they plan to display at the upcoming Fiber Arts Day, taking place on April 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in and around the Huntington’s Herb and Rose Gardens.

As most of the dozen or so docents were new to weaving, fiber arts teacher Anna Zinsmeister began the workshop with a lesson on using a backstrap and table loom. She demonstrated carding cotton (a process that disentangles and cleans fibers) and twisting fibers on the reproduction 18th-century spinning wheel she brought along. Terms such as “warp” and “weft” were bandied about, and spinning facts dispensed—such as that flax, once spun, becomes linen.

Lorynne Young, Herb Garden docent chair, weaves on a table loom in the Herb Garden. Photo by Deborah Miller.

The docents’ ambition to learn to weave and create a fiber arts installation piece was predicated on their desire to be more knowledgeable for Fiber Arts Day, a popular annual Huntington event that draws fiber and textile artisans from throughout the Los Angeles area to showcase their hand-weaving and textile-related craftsmanship. For the event four years ago, the docents learned to dye fibers using natural plant pigments culled from such Herb Garden plants as madder (Rubia tinctorum) and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria).

“It’s fascinating to see the end products of some of the plants,” said Leslie Rasmussen, a five-year docent who sees the docents’ collaboration as both an experiment and a chance to have a great time.

This year’s Fiber Arts Day may prove to be the biggest ever, said Herb Garden gardener Kelly Fernandez. Almost 50 craftspeople from local craft guilds are slated to set up their looms and spinning wheels and demonstrate many traditions of this ancient craft. Visitors can see various kinds of looms used for weaving techniques that range from inkle and Navajo to tapestry and free form. Huntington docents will present throughout the day to talk about relevant plants in the garden used by the weavers, spinners, and dyers.

Weaving on a table loom. Photo by Deborah Miller.

“What I love about fiber arts is that it’s an accessible art form,” said Fernandez. “Everyone is fascinated by the process. It’s for everyone, for beginners and advanced people.”

Because craft guilds—such as the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild, the Bobbinwinders Handweaving Guild, and the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild—have so enthusiastically embraced the event, as has the public, Fernandez is hopeful it will one day grow to include workshops and a symposium.

This year’s event will include the addition of Pasadena fine artist Valérie Daval, whose textile sculpture “Spindles 100: Hers” will be installed on a tree between the Huntington Art Gallery and the Library. Inspired by the shapes of tree seedpods, chrysalises, distaffs and spindles, Daval enlisted 50 women to use red paint to put their handprints on white, spindle-like cones of textiles that will hang from tree branches throughout the day. “Distaffs and spindles are old instruments used for spinning natural fibers,” she said. “They symbolize exclusively feminine work and are symbols of life and time.”

As the Herb Garden docents gamely focused on their own artistic creations, they were glad for the extra support from fellow docent Jane Leese, a retired arts teacher from a Pasadena private school who previously taught backstrap weaving to her fourth-grade students.

Fiber Arts Day takes place on Saturday, April 14, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m in The Huntington’s Herb Garden. Photo by Kelly Fernandez.

“Did you get your tension problems solved?” she asks a colleague who had been struggling with this loom issue. Docents were instructed to continue working on their weavings at home, then bring them back so that they could be assembled into the greater installation piece.

“I just love textiles and weaving,” said Leese. In fact, it was through attending a Fiber Arts Day that she decided to become an Herb Garden docent. “When I saw the cotton, flax, and madder growing, well, it just opened my eyes to what’s possible.”

Fiber Arts Day takes place on Saturday, April 14, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m in The Huntington’s Herb Garden. Skilled craftspeople will demonstrate the tools and techniques for carding and combing fibers such as cotton and linen, spinning the fibers into yarn or thread, weaving, and making natural dyes using herbs and other plant materials. General admission.

Manuela Gomez Rhine is a freelance journalist based in Pasadena, California.

The Queerness of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare’s image as it appeared on the title page of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, known as the First Folio, published in London in 1623. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets are enduringly popular. Many people recognize famous lines from the sequence or even know some of the sonnets by heart. Even though the first edition, published in 1609, was not reprinted in Shakespeare’s lifetime, the Sonnets are now among the most culturally valued and widely marketed of his productions. They outsell all of his other works. They are often read at weddings.   

Most sonnet sequences of Shakespeare’s time involve a man addressing a woman who is aloof and not interested in his advances. Her refusal is what keeps him writing poems as he tries to persuade her to love him in return. Shakespeare’s Sonnets buck this trend by being addressed to a young man—at least the first 80 percent of them are. This is unusual enough in itself. Still more unusual is the way the Sonnets begin, which is by urging the young man to marry and produce a child. The reason for this, the poet says, is that “From fairest creatures we desire increase” (Sonnet 1). The young man is beautiful, and the poet wants his name and beauty to live forever.

The title page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Equally unusual is the way the poet describes this business of making babies, which he compares with the business of making money. Specifically, he compares it with usury, the practice of charging interest on loans. In Sonnet 4, for example, the young man is accused of being a “Profitless usurer.” He is said to be guilty of abusing nature’s gifts by refusing to use them properly: he is not spending what nature lends him in order to make more. “Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee, / Which usèd lives th’executor to be.” In Sonnet 6, having children is encouragingly presented to the young man in terms of the kind of increase promised by capital investment: “That use is not forbidden usury / Which happies those that pay the willing loan; / That’s for thyself to breed another thee, / Or ten times happier, be it ten for one. / Ten times thyself were happier than thou art, / If ten of thine ten times refigured thee” (Sonnet 6).

This language strikes an odd note because making children might seem a natural process, while making money is an artificial one. For thousands of years, usury had been condemned as unnatural and immoral for just this reason. Money could not breed in the same way that living creatures can. In Shakespeare’s time, this view was beginning to change as lending at interest was becoming more widespread and increasingly acceptable, but there was still a lot of resistance to it. Many people still regarded usury as wrong.

It was this traditional thinking that Shakespeare was challenging when he suggested that having children and practicing usury were basically the same. At a much earlier stage in the history of money, Socrates had described interest metaphorically as human offspring (tokos in Greek). In the Sonnets, Shakespeare effectively turns this metaphor around by describing offspring as interest. He suggests that both are a good thing and an increase in either naturally more so.

Dedication page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

One of the things Shakespeare is doing here is encouraging us to think about what is natural and what is unnatural. The young man in the Sonnets is not being asked to sow wild oats, as it were. He is being asked to produce an heir—specifically a son—because this will ensure the continuity of his name down the generations and the proper transfer of property through the male line. However natural it might seem, therefore, the act of producing a child is entirely bound up with such artificial considerations as legitimacy and inheritance. What is “natural”, therefore, turns out to be a very particular way of organizing society that is made to look natural.

This explains Shakespeare’s weird take on the carpe diem motif. Usually, in love poetry, the poet invites the beloved to “seize the day” and make love to him without delay. Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593), for example, wrote a famous poem on this theme that begins “Come live with me and be my love.” In the Sonnets, however, Shakespeare does not proposition the young man directly in this way. Instead, he asks him to proposition someone else. He tells him there are plenty of women out there who would be happy to bear his child: “. . . where is she so fair whose unear’d womb / Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?” (Sonnet 3); “. . . many maiden gardens yet unset, / With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers” (Sonnet 16). For all the natural imagery, however, nothing could be less straightforward or direct. It is more a matter of “come live with me and be my love, but first go live with her and be hers.”   

By making his beloved a man, Shakespeare is suggesting that we should think twice about what seems “natural” and be a bit less hasty in treating it as something obvious and self-evident. He suggests that appealing to what is “natural” and legitimizing only that is actually appealing to a particular way of organizing society—and here, appealing to a particularly patriarchal and capitalist way, one that tries to pass itself off as “natural,” as just the way things are. We are urged to see that this is, in fact, a fundamentalist position. In describing a love between two men, Shakespeare’s Sonnets challenge the kind of society in which succession (the production of sons) is the only thing that counts as success. Here, the only thing that love begets is poetry—not sons, but sonnets.

Sonnets 3 and 4 in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 1609. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Looking for more Shakespeare? Come to The Huntington for Shakespeare Day on Saturday, April 7, from 11 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Performers from LA Opera and the Guild of St. George will perform scenes and songs from some of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays in locations throughout the grounds. General admission.

And, since April is National Poetry Month, why not attend the Claremont Graduate University’s 2018 Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Reading and Reception in The Huntington’s Haaga Hall on April 19? Hear Patricia Smithwinner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and Donika Kelly, winner of the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, read from their work. The reading is free and open to the public. Doors open at 7 p.m.; reading begins at 7:30 p.m. Reception and book sales to follow. Please RSVP via Eventbrite.

Catherine Bates is research professor at the University of Warwick. She specializes in English Renaissance poetry and is currently writing a book on Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Her recent books include On Not Defending Poetry (2017, Oxford University Press), currently nominated for the biennial Society of Renaissance Studies prize in Britain and the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize in the U.S.; and Masculinity and the Hunt (Oxford University Press, 2013), winner of the British Academy Rose Mary Crawshay Prize in 2015.

John Ogilby’s English Restoration Fantasy

Portrait of John Ogilby, signed by William Faithorne, from Ogilby’s 1663 translation of Virgil, Publii Virgilii Maronis opera per Johannem Ogilvium edita, et sculpturis aneis adornata (London, 1663). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

John Ogilby was born in Scotland in 1600, died in London in 1676, and was, at various points in between, a dancing master, a theatrical impresario, a translator of Virgil and Homer, and a widely read geographer.

He employed all his talents in April 1661, when King Charles II formally reclaimed the British throne after more than a decade of rule by Parliament and Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate. Ogilby took charge of “the Conduct of the Poetical part” of the restored king’s coronation procession through London. His “Speeches, Emblemes, Mottoes, and Inscriptions” graced four triumphal arches through which the procession passed. These constructions imitated, said Ogilby, those of “the antient Romanes, who at the Return of their Emperours, erected Arches of Marble.” True, his monuments were mere stage sets, probably constructed of wood and canvas, but they surpassed their ancient predecessors “in Number and stupendious Proportions.” They also reveal how Ogilby, and presumably many of those who witnessed his extravaganza, preferred to imagine England’s role on the eve of one of its greatest eras of colonial expansion.

The first page of Ogilby’s lavishly illustrated memorial of Charles II’s Coronation procession: The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in His Passage through the City of London to His Coronation (London, 1662). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Part of Ogilby’s genius as a promoter was to secure exclusive rights to publish accounts of the festivities he produced. The Huntington owns beautiful examples of the two volumes that resulted, most copies of which, Ogilby later lamented, perished in the 1666 Great Fire of London. The first, The Relation of His Majestie’s Entertainment Passing through the City of London, to His Coronation (1661) is a straightforward narrative of what the king and the crowds lining his way did and saw, quickly printed to prevent others from scooping the story. The far more elaborate second book, The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in His Passage through the City of London to His Coronation (1662), buries the original’s words beneath an unreadable mess of classical allusions, poetry, and other intellectual ostentations more elaborate than the ceremonies it describes.

The impenetrability of the 1662 volume’s prose only highlights the wonders of its lavish illustrations. Five double-page spreads by Wenceslaus Hollar detail in order every horse and rider in the coronation parade. Each of the four triumphal arches gets a one-fold-out plate engraved by David Loggan: the first shows chaotic images of “Rebellion” conquered by “Loyalty”; the third and fourth portray, respectively, “The Temple of Concord” and “the Garden of Plenty” promised by the restoration of the monarchy.

Charles II’s Coronation Procession, from John Ogilby, The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in His Passage through the City of London to His Coronation (London, 1662). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The image of the second arch, erected in Cornhill near the Royal Exchange, is perhaps the most fascinating. King Charles would have had to crane his neck to glimpse what those watching the parade from rooftops would see first: Atlas holding a globe topped by an enormous sailing ship. Beneath these tottering figures, a pair of “Celestial Hemi-spheres” flanked a quotation from the ancient Roman poet Juvenal about Alexander the Great: unus non sufficit [orbis], “one world is not enough.” Beneath this favorite slogan of globally ambitious early modern kings was an emblem with the motto of the royal Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense, “Shame on him who thinks ill of it.” Two other Latin inscriptions completed the homage to the restored king as lord of the waters: “For thee O Jove’s delight, the Seas engage / And muster’d winds, drawn up in Battle, Rage,” stated one. “British Neptune, Charles II, ruler of the seas, whether open or closed,” proclaimed the other.

Well-read viewers would recognize in this a reference to the debate between the Dutch legal theorist Hugo Grotius and his English critic John Seldon over whether the seas were Mare Clausum, exclusive possessions of particular monarchs, or Mare Liberum, open to all. Either way, Charles II would prevail. Anyone who missed the Latin messages would hear them repeated in plain English by costumed sailors who sang verses such as this from a stage-set ship at curbside:

King Charles, King Charles, great Neptune of the Main!
Thy Royal Navy rig,
And We’ll not care a Fig
For France, for France, the Netherlands, nor Spain.
The Turk, who looks so big,
We’ll whip him like a Gig

The Naval Arch, from John Ogilby, The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in His Passage through the City of London to His Coronation (London, 1662). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The centerpiece of the entire display—best seen from third-floor balconies along the route—was a huge painting of “King Charles the First, with the Prince, now Charles the Second, in His Hand . . . leaning on a Cannon.” Flanking the martyred father and his restored son were “living Figures, representing Europe, Asia, Africk, and America, with Escutcheons, and Pendents, bearing the Arms of the Companies trading into those parts.” The woman representing Africa held an umbrella to defend herself from the blazing sun (and perhaps from young Charles’s cannon), carried a pomegranate in her hand, and wore a crown of corn and ivory. The pomegranate was an abstruse classical reference to the goddess Juno, the corn symbolized “the Fertility of the place,” and the ivory evoked “the great number of Elephants, bred in that part of the World.”

The classics, of course, could provide no help in personifying America, which Ogilby could only portray as “Crown’d with Feathers of divers Colours, on her Stole a Golden River, in one Hand a Silver Mountain.” The river was the Amazon, the mountain was the silver mine of Spanish Potosí, and neither image conveyed anything about the North American and Caribbean colonies where tens of thousands of English colonists actually lived in 1662. Nor did the embodiment of Africa hint at the tens of thousands of captive laborers who would soon be leaving the continent’s shores on English ships to slave and die on English plantations. Instead, Ogilby portrayed a learned, aristocratic, fantasy empire, where classical models combined with elite guilds of merchants to reap riches and glory for king and nation.

The Naval Arch (detail), from John Ogilby, The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in His Passage through the City of London to His Coronation (London, 1662). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

A decade before Ogibly’s arch fantasies spanned Cornhill and filled the pages of his lavish memorial volume, a tiny unillustrated pamphlet in The Huntington’s collections had painted a very different prose picture. Its author, George Gardyner—who had actually been to the colonies rather than just read about them—shared Ogilby’s hope that Englishmen would “grow great and famous and extend their authority and name beyond either Roman, Grecian, Assyrian or Persian Nations.” But alas, he had to say, “the trade of America is prejudiciall, very dishonest, and highly dishonourable to our Nation.” Far from being admired as modern Neptunes, his fellow Englishmen were “upbraided by all other Nations . . . for selling our own Countreymen for the Commodities of those places.” He was talking about the commerce in indentured servants, people of England’s “own Nation, which have most barbarously been stolne out of their Countrey” to harvest sugar in Barbados and tobacco in Virginia.

Gardyner’s portrait of what went on in New England was no more flattering. The puritans there, he said, “punish sin as severely as the Jews did in old time, but not with so good warrant.” Moreover, “they have brought the Indians into great awe, but none to any Gospell knowledge.” These were not pretty pictures. No wonder Ogilby preferred images from two thousand years distant in his past to those from four thousand miles away in his present.

The title page of John Gardyner’s far less rosy picture of England’s colonies: A Description of the New World (London, 1651). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Daniel K. Richter, the 2017–18 Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow at The Huntington, is a Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History and the Richard S. Dunn Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his publications are Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America and Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts.

You can listen to Richter’s Distinguished Fellow Lecture, “The Lords Proprietors: Land and Power in 17th-Century America,” on SoundCloud.

George Washington, a Letter, and a Runaway Slave

Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, 1797, oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 23 5/8 in. (72.4 x 60 cm.)
frame: 35 1/4 x 30 5/16 x 3 in. (89.5 x 77 x 7.6 cm.). Gift of Mrs. Alexander Baring. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

On August 26, 1852, Charles Sumner (1811–1874), the junior Senator from Massachusetts, took the floor of the United States Senate to deliver a major speech against slavery. For three hours, Sumner blasted slavery as a barbaric custom that was an affront to the law of God, the foundational principles of the Republic, and the original intent of the Founding Fathers. The latter point was rather tricky to argue considering that several of the Founding Fathers had owned slaves. Sumner got around this obstacle by painting the Revolutionary generation, epitomized by George Washington, as unwilling inheritors of this poisonous legacy from the colonial past.

At this point in his speech, Sumner triumphantly held up an old letter, dating from 1796 and written by George Washington himself, that had “never before seen the light.” Addressed to Joseph Whipple, the collector of the customs in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the letter asked Whipple to help recover a fugitive slave who had worked for Martha Washington.

Sumner pointed to Washington’s words that he was “well-disposed” to the abolition of slavery and that the runaway should not “be forcibly removed.” In the end, according to Sumner, the “fugitive was never returned, but lived in freedom to a good old age, down to a very recent day, a monument of the just forbearance of him who we aptly call Father of his Country.”

George Washington’s letter to Joseph Whipple regarding the runaway slave Ona Maria Judge, Nov. 28, 1796. In the second paragraph, Washington writes: “I regret that the attempt you made to restore the girl (Oney Judge as she called herself while with us, and who, without the least provocation absconded from her Mistress) should have been attended with so little success. To enter into such a compromise, as she has suggested to you, is totally inadmissible, for reasons that must strike at first view: for however well disposed I might be to a gradual abolition, or even to an entire emancipation of that description of People (if the latter was in itself practicable at this Moment) it would neither be politic or just, to reward unfaithfulness with a premature preference; and thereby discontent, beforehand, the minds of all her fellow Servants; who by their steady adherence, are far more deserving than herself, of favor.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

What a nice story. Unfortunately, it is also largely untrue. Washington’s letter, along with Whipple’s reply, now reside at The Huntington. They came to San Marino in 1960, after the Library acquired a collection of papers from the extended family of Reverend Charles Russel Lowell (1782–1861), a Boston Unitarian minister, anti-slavery preacher, and a relative of Whipple’s. Washington’s letter is indeed quite revealing, although mostly not in the way Sumner spins it.

The slave’s name was Ona (or Oney) Maria Judge, the subject of a recent book by Erica Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge. A personal maid and “property” of Martha Washington’s, Ona Judge ran away from the president’s house in Philadelphia on May 21, 1796. Two days later, the president’s chief of staff placed an advertisement in two newspapers, offering a handsome reward for her return. It was too late: Judge had been able to board a ship that carried her to Portsmouth.

When Washington found out about Judge’s whereabouts, he asked his Secretary of the Treasury, John Oliver Wolcott, to help him return the young woman to Virginia in a discreet and speedy manner. Wolcott contacted Whipple, his subordinate, who duly arranged to meet Judge under the pretense of interviewing her for a position as a domestic servant. Wolcott forwarded Whipple’s report to the president.

Letter from Joseph Whipple to George Washington, Dec. 22, 1796. In his second sentence, Whipple writes: “I sincerely Lament the ill success of my endeavours to restore to your Lady her servant on the request of Mr Wolcott—It had indeed become a subject of Anxiety to me on an Idea that her services were very valuable to her mistress and not readily to be replaced.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Washington’s letter of November 28, 1796, is a response to Whipple’s report. When read in its entirety, the letter doesn’t speak to his conviction regarding the abolition of slavery. Rather, it has the combative and aggrieved tone of a slaveholder smarting from the loss of his wife’s human property.

Washington had little appreciation for Whipple’s report that Judge had decided to run away because of her “thirst for compleat freedom.” Nor did Washington favorably view Judge’s “willingness to return & to serve with fidelity during the lives of the President & his Lady if she could be freed on their decease, should she outlive them.”

The president was having none of it. “To enter into such a compromise, as she has suggested to you, is totally inadmissible,” writes the president. Moreover, to concede to Judge’s proposal would be tantamount to rewarding “unfaithfulness with a premature preference,” which would be unfair to “her fellow Servants; who by their steady adherence, are far more deserving than herself, of favor.”

A caricature of the Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner (1811–1874), titled Statesmen No. 1. “Amnesty and equal rights to all.” On August 26, 1852, Sumner held up Washington’s letter about Ona Judge during his Senate speech against slavery and interpreted it in a way that bolstered his argument at the expense of strict historical accuracy. Jay T. Last Collection of Graphic Arts and Social History. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

And here was the rub. The Father of the Nation, in his widely popular “Farewell Address,” published just two months earlier, had solemnly presaged that the blessing of liberty would secure “the happiness of the people of these States.” Clearly, he must have excluded slaves from this happy future. For “that description of People,” as Washington refers to slaves in his letter to Whipple, liberty was a “favor” to be granted or withheld by the master.

This sentiment was hardly peculiar to the South. In 1779, a group of 19 New Hampshire slaves petitioned to the state legislature for their freedom, only to be told that the conditions were “not ripe for a determination in this matter.” The legislature in the Granite State, which became Ona Judge’s home, postponed the decision until “a more convenient opportunity.”

That day finally arrived . . . but not until 2013, when the governor of New Hampshire signed a bill into law that posthumously granted the slaves their freedom.

Olga Tsapina is the Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at The Huntington.

David Armitage, Francis Lieber, and Civil Wars

Francis Lieber (1815–1888) authored General Orders No. 100 for the Union army in 1863—in the midst of the U.S. Civil War. The work codified the laws of war for the first time and prefigured the Geneva and Hague conventions. The military still references the “Lieber Code.” This engraving of Lieber, by H.B. Hall & Sons of New York City, appears in The Supreme Court of the United States: its history, 1901, by Hampton L. Carson. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The concept for the book Civil Wars: A History in Ideas, David Armitage’s examination of bloody conflicts from ancient times to the present, germinated in the idyllic surroundings of The Huntington. When the author revisited The Huntington more than a decade later to deliver the Crotty Lecture last month, he recounted the coincidence that led him to a topic he never expected to investigate.

“You could say the subject found me,” said Armitage, the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University.

In 2006–7, Armitage was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at The Huntington. The Second Gulf War raged. Between October 2006 and January 2007, an average of 3,000 people a month—including soldiers, civilians, Iraqis, and invaders—were dying in Iraq.

Manuscript from the drafts of the Lieber Code. The first sentence reads: “The adoption by the legitimate government of the common rules of regular war in insurrections or rebellions, is necessarily subject to the greatest modification regarding the treatment of the inhabitants of the revolted provinces, by the commander of the legitimate army, in all those cases for which the distinct law of his country or the positive orders of his government do not provide.” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

At the same moment, Armitage discovered The Huntington’s Francis Lieber papers, a collection of roughly 6,000 items, including notes, correspondence, manuscripts, and printed materials. Francis Lieber (1815–1888) authored General Orders No. 100 for the Union army in 1863—in the midst of the U.S. Civil War. The work codified the laws of war for the first time and prefigured the Geneva and Hague conventions. The military still references the “Lieber Code,” as it’s commonly known.

Lieber, a lawyer and professor of political science, was uniquely qualified for the challenge. Prussian by birth, he immigrated to the United States, where he taught first at the University of South Carolina and then at Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City. He had three sons, two of whom fought for the Union, one for the Confederacy. In May 1861, Lieber wrote, after the death of one of his sons in battle, “Behold in me the symbol of civil war.”

As Armitage read through Lieber’s letters, he experienced Lieber’s grappling with issues such as the status of enemy combatants, the treatment of prisoners taken on the battlefield, and the rules of military justice. The mid-19th-century correspondence resonated with daily headlines about the George W. Bush administration’s “Global War on Terror.”

Annotated draft of the Lieber Code. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“I found the past rhyming with the present,” said Armitage. In 2006, media, commentators, and the administration pondered what to call the Iraq War. The Los Angeles Times and some other major dailies called it a civil war. The administration and voices on the right objected. Lieber had been equally perplexed about what to call the war in which his sons fought.

He found it difficult to distinguish among the terms “civil war,” “rebellion,” “insurrection,” and “invasion.” A draft of the code that Lieber sent to Henry Wager Halleck (1815–1872), the international lawyer and Union general who had commissioned Lieber’s work, avoided defining civil war. Halleck wrote, “To be more useful at the present time it should embrace civil war as well as war between states or distinct sovereignties.” In March 1863, Lieber replied, “I am writing my 4 sections on civil war and ‘invasion.’ Ticklish work, that.”

Armitage came to view 1863 and 2006 as but two stops along a long journey that starts in the Republic of Rome and extends to the present day. He noted that, in 2016, there were some 50 armed conflicts around the globe—all but two of them within a single country. Civil wars were the most destructive of these. Economists estimate the human, material, and economic cost of such civil wars at $123 billion per year.

Annotated photostat of the Lieber Code. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Armitage believes the historian should not attempt to define civil war—“definitions never satisfy everyone”—but to excavate the conflicts. Civil Wars, recently released in paperback, provides perspective on the roots and dynamics of civil war and its shaping force in today’s world.

Armitage concluded his Crotty Lecture with “tempered hope” for the future. “What humanity has invented,” he said, “they can uninvent.”

You can listen to David Armitage’s Crotty Lecture, “Civil War: A History in Ideas,” on SoundCloud.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications and marketing at The Huntington.

Yone Noguchi and Haiku in the United States

Photograph of Yone Noguchi, inscribed to Charles Warren Stoddard, April 1903. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Haiku is arguably the best-known form of poetry in the United States. Nearly every schoolchild in the U.S. has attempted to write a poem in three lines of seventeen syllables, arranged in the now familiar 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Traditionally, haiku focuses on natural themes and provides philosophical insight through the juxtaposition of two subjects. But how did this distinctly Japanese art form first come to the States?

The answer is a turn-of-the-20th-century Japanese man named Yonejirō Noguchi (1875–1947), better known in the U.S. as Yone Noguchi. Noguchi was the first Japanese writer to publish novels and poetry in the English language. His accomplishments have often been overshadowed by his son Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), an internationally known sculptor and the product of a somewhat scandalous affair between Yone and American Léonie Gilmour (1873–1933).

Noguchi’s poetry was first published in the United States in The Lark, a magazine edited by Gelett Burgess in San Francisco. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Born in Tsushima, Japan, Noguchi was fascinated with English at a young age. Bored with his prep school studies, he travelled to San Francisco in 1893 to immerse himself in the language. There he befriended the poet Joaquin Miller (1837–1913), who introduced him to other literati, including Charles Warren Stoddard (1843–1909) and Gelett Burgess (1866–1951). Burgess published Noguchi’s poetry in his magazine The Lark.

The first volume of Noguchi’s poetry, Seen and Unseen, or, Monologues of a Homeless Snail, appeared in 1897. Filled with his Whitmanesque free verse and imperfect English, it also included translations of two haiku by the 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) in the introduction. To Noguchi’s surprise, the volume was a success, and he began to earn a reputation as a man at the convergence of East and West.

Noguchi’s The American Diary of a Japanese Girl, published in 1902, was the first novel published in the United States by a Japanese writer. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Noguchi moved to New York City, and in 1902, his The American Diary of a Japanese Girl became the first novel published in the United States by a Japanese writer. Riffing on the popularity of Pierre Loti’s 1887 novel Madame Chrysanthème and John Luther Long’s 1898 short story “Madame Butterfly,” Noguchi also fictionalized some of his own experiences in California for the tale. Initially attributed to the pseudonymous “Miss Morning Glory,” the purported autobiography follows an 18-year-old Japanese girl on her transcontinental visit to the United States with her uncle. As she prepares to leave San Francisco, she writes a farewell haiku:

Sayonara no
Ureiya nokore
Mizu no neni!

Remain, oh remain,
My grief of sayonara,
There in water sound!

Noguchi’s novel The American Diary of a Japanese Girl was initially attributed to the pseudonymous Miss Morning Glory, an 18-year-old Japanese girl on a transcontinental tour of the United States. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In February 1904, Reader magazine published an essay by Noguchi: “A Proposal to American Poets.” In it, Noguchi encourages American poets to try writing Japanese haiku, or hokku, as he preferred to call them, using an older term. He compares hokku to “a tiny star . . . carrying the whole sky at its back” and “a slightly open door, where you may steal into the realm of poesy.” Simplicity and the power of suggestion, Noguchi argues, offer a superior poetic form. In contrast, he notes that “I always compare an English poem with a mansion with windows widely open, even the pictures of its drawing-room visible from the outside. I dare say it does not tempt me much to see the within.”

Noguchi goes on with examples of his translations of poems by Bashō, as well as a few hokku of his own creation. He admonishes: “Pray, you try Japanese Hokku, my American poets! You say far too much, I should say.”

Miss Morning Glory’s farewell haiku, the first original haiku published in an English novel. Translated, the poem reads: “Remain, oh remain, / My grief of sayonara, / There in water sound!” The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In August 1904, Noguchi returned to Japan and accepted a position as a professor of English at Keio University. He married a Japanese woman and continued publishing in English. He received critical success in Europe through the 1910s, where his ideas about haiku sparked the interest of the U.S. poet Ezra Pound (1885–1972) and the Imagists. American poets slowly explored the form, which gained serious traction during the Japanophilic 1960s. Today, English-language haiku is a staple of American poetry.

The quality of Noguchi’s poetry, and his translations, have been debated by scholars over the years, as has the extent of his influence on the popularity of haiku. But his early attempts to bring a taste of Japan to America are undeniable.

Natalie Russell is assistant curator of literary collections at The Huntington.

The Auction Catalogs of Martin Folkes

Mezzotint of Martin Folkes (1690–1754) with a bust of Isaac Newton (1643–1727) by J. Faber Jr., after the portrait by J. Vanderbank, between 1769 and 1774. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

During my time at The Huntington as a short-term fellow, I was researching and writing a biography of Martin Folkes (1690–1754). A protégé of Sir Isaac Newton’s, Folkes was an English antiquary, mathematician, numismatist (coin expert), and astronomer whose unique distinction was his simultaneous presidency of both the Royal Society of London, a renowned scientific academy, and the Society of Antiquaries. He was president of the Royal Society from 1741 to 1753 and president of the Society of Antiquaries from 1750 until his death in 1754.

Folkes was perhaps the best-connected and most versatile natural philosopher and antiquary of his age, an epitome of Enlightenment sociability, yet he is today a surprisingly neglected figure. His was an intellectually vibrant world in which the long shadow of Newton—Folkes’s patron and hero—has tended to obscure those who followed him.

Title page of A Catalogue of the Entire and Valuable Library of Martin Folkes, Esq., 1756. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

One way we can rescue this Newtonian scientist and connoisseur from obscurity is to examine the auction catalogs of his vast library and art collections, sold at auction after his death by his daughter Lucretia. Understanding his library is to understand his mind. The Huntington’s magnificent holdings include the original 1756 library auction catalog, helpfully annotated by an attendee, an invaluable resource for a historian of the book.

Not surprisingly, we see several broadly scientific works in Folkes’s collection, including the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and the publications of the French Royal Academy of Sciences, a reflection of his role as Royal Society president.

We also see in the catalog some of Folkes’ own works, particularly his tables on English Silver and Gold Coins (1745), the first numismatic history of English coinage ever written; his exactitude and his and the Royal Society’s analysis of specific gravities of metals made his research a reference point for popularized manuals of weights and measures.

Page 14 of A Catalogue of the Entire and Valuable Library of Martin Folkes, Esq., 1756. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Folkes conferred with several collectors to assemble his volume, including the Earl of Pembroke and the antiquary William Stukeley, best known for his work on Stonehenge. Its publication was a continuation of the Newtonian program in the Royal Society; Newton had served as Warden, then Master of the Mint to reform the English coinage. In the manuscripts section of the Folkes’s auction catalog, we indeed spot “Sir Isaac Newton’s Letter to the Treasury on the Coin in the Year 1717.”

Folkes also was a collector of rare books, art, and—as the first member of the gentry to marry a London actress, one Lucretia Bradshaw—a devotee of the theater. He possessed a first folio of Shakespeare, which sold for £3.3s, a small fortune at the time.

Title page of Martin Folkes’s A Table of English Silver Coins from the Norman Conquest to the Present Time, printed for the Society of Antiquaries, 1745. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In 1756, a separate auction was also held of Folkes’s massive art collection, and The Huntington’s copy of the art catalog led me, with the help of Keith Moore, the Royal Society librarian, to find four original portraits that hung in the Royal Society when it was in Crane Court in the early 18th century. The auction catalog indicated that Folkes collected a number of images by John Smith, who created mezzotints after the original oil portraits painted by Godfrey Kneller.

In the Royal Society’s Journal book for 1716, shortly after Folkes was elected to the Council, an entry indicates that Folkes donated five mezzotints of past Royal Society presidents to the Society, including portraits of Lord Carbery, Lord Somers, the Duke of Montague, and Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Mezzotint by John Smith of English architect and scientist Christopher Wren (1632–1723) by John Smith, after the portrait by Godfrey Kneller. The ragged edges indicate where the portrait had been taken out of the frame; the verso has acid wood marks. Image courtesy of the Royal Society, London.

Tucked away in the Royal Society archives, Keith Moore and I subsequently found the donation by Folkes, which would have been gratefully accepted by Newton, a gift which no doubt raised Folkes’s status and esteem in the Royal Society. Folkes would succeed Sir Hans Sloane as president of the Royal Society in 1741. The Huntington, in fact, has one of the letters sent to the Royal Society during Folkes’s tenure as president and endorsed with his characteristic signature; it concerned a new edition of the works of Francis Bacon, the Royal Society’s philosopher-king.

At some point in the past, the mezzotint portraits were taken out of their wooden frames, but the gilt dedications and descriptions are still intact; the mezzotints are currently being conserved in London. With the help of an auction catalog at The Huntington, Keith Moore and I realized the significance of items in the Royal Society archives, promoting them from being just another set of prints into esteemed Royal Society memorabilia. And, thanks to The Huntington’s auction catalogs, we now have a much clearer picture of the remarkable career of Martin Folkes.

Anna Marie Roos is reader at the University of Lincoln, member of the Library Committee of the Royal Society of London, and has recently been named the new editor of Notes and Records of the Royal Society, the Society’s journal of the history of science. An article by Roos concerning Folkes’s travels to Italy in the 1730s—“Taking Newton on Tour”—has been recently published by the British Journal of the History of Science.

A Designing Pre-Raphaelite

Detail of the lower portion of The Nativity, by Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833–1898), in which Mary, Joseph, and a small group of angels gaze at the infant Jesus in wonderment. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Before I saw The Nativity by Edward Burne-Jones, I asked myself if The Huntington really needed another design for a piece of 19th-century decorative art? We already had more than 1,000 drawings for wallpapers, carpets, tapestries, and ceramics by members of a British group of 19th-century artists called the Pre-Raphaelites.

Inspired by the art and culture that preceded the period of the great Renaissance artist Raphael (1483–1520), the Pre-Raphaelites emulated artists of the 1400s because they depicted nature more realistically than idealistically, and because their medieval craft guilds offered an alternative type of community to the industrialization of the mid-19th century.

After I saw The Nativity in person, the answer to whether we needed it was a decisive “yes.” This work of art, a moving and exquisite depiction of the birth of Jesus, was unlike anything The Huntington already owned.

Artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898) rendered this work—which measures almost five feet high—in various dreamy shades of blue offset with touches of gold. The elongated scene is divided into two sections by a swooping “S” curve, reminiscent of historiated letters in manuscript illuminations. In the upper portion of the painting, a crowd of angels appears before shepherds, who shield their eyes from the dazzling vision. The background is filled with a tangle of skeletal trees. In the lower portion of the painting, Mary, Joseph, and a small group of angels gaze at the infant Jesus in wonderment. Here the artist painted a cave in the background, creating a sense of protection and quiet piety that contrasts with the decorative brilliance above.

Detail of the upper portion of The Nativity, showing a crowd of angels appearing before shepherds. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

It is a beautiful thing . . . but, what, exactly, is it? We know that it is fully painted with opaque pigments on two joined sheets of paper that have been mounted to cloth, so, we could as easily call it a drawing as a painting. That the artist himself designed the gilded frame for the work means that he intended it to be a finished work of art. However, we know that it also served as a preparatory design for another work: a stained-glass window in the cathedral of the artist’s hometown of Birmingham, England.

A little research revealed that the Victoria and Albert Museum in London owns a large-scale photograph—actually many smaller photographs pieced together—of this work on paper. It seems that the artist first made a rough design for the window, photographed it and enlarged it to a scale the size of the window, and then painted over the photographic image to fine-tune the figures and bring out the details that were important for stained glass.

For example, the feathers in the angels’ wings and the rocks above the cave were delineated more carefully since, as a window in a cathedral, they needed to be legible from a distance. Given the success of the design on paper, the artist then decided to work the image up more fully, adding highlights in gold and designing a frame to make it the ravishing and finished work of art that it is today. Yes, it is a beautiful thing . . . but it’s also fascinating because of what it can tell us of the artist’s working process. Because of its sensitivity to light, this new acquisition is on display for a very brief time in The Huntington Art Gallery’s Works on Paper Room from Feb. 22 to March 19, 2018. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this exquisite work in person.

Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833–1898), The Nativity, watercolor and bodycolor, heightened with gold, on two joined sheets of paper, 56 3⁄4 x 231⁄8 in. (144.1 x 58.7 cm.). The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Catherine Hess is interim director of the Art Collections.

Coming Home

Phillip E. Bloom is the June and Simon K.C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden and Director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies at The Huntington. Photo by Lisa Blackburn.

Before Phillip E. Bloom applied to become The Huntington’s Curator of the Chinese Garden, he spent two days exploring and contemplating Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance—first alone and later with his wife, Yurika Wakamatsu, who had just taken a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Occidental College.

Coming to San Marino from Indiana University, where he was an assistant professor of East Asian art, Bloom was enthralled by the thoughtfulness that marked the garden’s planning and construction; the exacting placement of plants, rocks, and water in relation to the architectural features; and the use of poetry and literature to name and enliven each pavilion. But what really surprised Bloom, who grew up in Montana and has lived in many far-flung locales both in the United States and abroad, was Southern California itself.

“Neither of us had spent much time here before, but when Yurika came for her job interview, she felt more at home than anywhere she’d ever been,” says Bloom. “I could see why. It’s exciting to live in a place where Asia really matters. And there are so many other ethnic communities and cultures that coexist with a fluidity we’d never seen before.”

Pavilion of Three Friends and Lake of Reflected Fragrance in The Huntington’s Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Bloom and Wakamatsu met while in graduate school at Harvard University, where they both earned their doctorates in East Asian art history. Bloom specializes in the visual culture of China’s Song Dynasty (960–1279).

Since becoming the new June and Simon K.C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden and Director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies in September, Bloom has loved watching the way people from the region’s diverse communities interact with the space. True to the way it was conceived, the 10-year-old Liu Fang Yuan functions as a place where different cultures gather not only for beauty but also for inspiration, to create something new, from art and friendships to cultural understandings. “In just the short while I’ve been here, I’ve loved watching the range of experiences—from young schoolchildren learning about poetry and plants, to grown-up crowds enjoying the food, art, and musical performances,” says Bloom. (And he’ll no doubt witness more such experiences when visitors come to celebrate the Chinese New Year Festival at The Huntington on Feb. 17 and 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

The Huntington will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a cultural festival on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18 (Sat. and Sun.), from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can enjoy music, dance, demonstrations, exhibitions, Chinese cuisine, and performances, including those by lion dancers. Photo by Martha Benedict.

Continuing to engage the region’s diverse communities is Bloom’s paramount goal, and he is eager to collaborate with his counterparts at other museums and institutions of higher learning to share ideas and to develop partnerships that will lead to exhibitions and new public programs.

“Part of the appeal of coming to Southern California was that there’s a higher density of historians of Asian art than almost anywhere else in the U.S,” says Bloom.

As coordinator of the institution’s East Asian garden lecture series, Bloom also sees great potential in sharing the dynamic scholarship from Huntington-hosted symposiums with a wider audience—especially college students and interested members of the general public—by developing a publication series and a digital journal.

“I am eager to create a body of scholarship that can be used for university teaching,” says Bloom. “When you read scholarly articles on East Asian gardens, they somehow tend to make the garden feel quite dead, so I am eager to create a body of scholarship that can be used for teaching undergraduates.”

The Waveless Boat pavilion and the Lake of Reflected Fragrance in Liu Fang Yuan, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance. Photo by Martha Benedict.

With all this on his plate, Bloom and Wakamatsu have still found time to become full-fledged Angelenos, indulging their love for art, music, and food. With Los Angeles’s status as an important hub of Asian culture and influence and The Huntington’s own critical role in promoting the appreciation of Asian culture as part of our shared global heritage, Bloom says they have found an exciting and comfortable place to call home. And, he says, “I don’t ever want to leave.”

You can listen to Phillip Bloom’s inaugural lecture at The Huntington, “The Ecology of Eternity in a Song-Dynasty Buddhist Monastery,” on SoundCloud.

Manuela Gomez Rhine is a freelance journalist based in Pasadena, California.