North and South: Objects on the Road

This past week the Rosenbach has sent objects on loan to exhibitions at two other institutions: one traveled northward to Princeton and the others headed south to Alexandria.

The Princeton loan is one of our two Thomas Sully portraits of Rebecca Gratz (we lovingly refer to her as “Rebecca without the hat”). She is normally on display in our parlor, so if you come visit us while she’s gone you’ll be able to check out a portrait of her father, Michael Gratz, by Jane Sully Darley, that we’ve temporarily moved into her space. The Darley painting is fascinating because we also own the Sully painting it was copied from and seeing both versions of Michael Gratz in the parlor together is really interesting.

Thomas Sully, portrait of Rebecca Gratz. Phialdelphia 1831. Collection of the Rosenbach 1954.1936

Anyway, back to Rebecca. Rebecca has headed northward to participate in the Princeton Art Museum’s exhibition By Dawn’s Early Light: Jewish Contributions to American Culture from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War which opens this Saturday (2/13) and runs through June 12. It turns out that the Princeton folks can’t resist a pretty face and if you check out their website, Rebecca is actually the poster child for the exhibit. If you haven’t ever been to the Princeton Art Museum, it’s well worth a visit, both for this exhibit and for its wonderful permanent collection. I hadn’t been myself until a few years ago when our annual guide trip was to Princeton and I was thoroughly impressed, both by their collection and by their knowledgeable docents.

As Rebecca traveled north, two of our documents related to Civil War Alexandria headed to an exhibit at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. This is a small, but fascinating, museum located inside the famous Torpedo Factory art center. One of the items that they are borrowing is a personal favorite of mine: a letter from the Civil War spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow, with a sketch of  Fort Ellsworth (part of the defenses on Shuter’s Hill) on the interior.

Greenhow Letter
Rose O’Neal Greenhow , Message from Mrs. Greenhow of Washington D.C. 1861. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11
Map from Greenhow Letter
Rose O’Neal Greenhow , Message from Mrs. Greenhow of Washington D.C. 1861. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11

The  Alexandria Archaeology site actually has a whole brochure on Shuter’s Hill, which is great for putting this in context.

The other item we lent is a hand-drawn map, from an unknown hand, of the defenses of Arlington Heights, which includes Alexandria  and Fort Ellsworth at the lower left.

Hand Drawn Map of Arlington Heights
Sketch of Arlington Heights. Collection of the Rosenbach AMs 1168/11

Civil War Alexandria is getting some  extra attention right now because of the PBS drama Mercy Street, which is set in a military hospital there. Hopefully that will pique some folks’s interest to check out the real historical material at the archaeology museum.

So if you are positioned to check out either of these exhibits, please do and let us know your thoughts. Either way, it’s a real pleasure to be able to contribute to the work of other institutions and reach more people through these kinds of loans.