Exhibits 2001-2010

Fall 2009- Sepik Masks

The exhibit walls of the library currently display the School’s collection of original masks and from the Pacific Islands, mostly donated by Peter Ferry, Class of 1975, with one piece donated by Mr. and Mrs. Nicolas Bonadies, parents of Anthony, Class of 1973. Oceania is the name of a group of more than 25,000 South Pacific Islands. This Pacific Island art was developed there in isolation from other influences. These are named Sepik, because they originate from the area around the Sepik River in New Guinea. The basic sculptural materials are wood. The masks show a belief in spirits whose forces could be honored by images, in the hope of appeasing the spirits uncontrolled forces in their natural environment.

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Winter 2008-2009 – Netsuke, Japanese Toggles

The library was fortunate this winter to have a display of 26 pieces of Japanese netsuke, or Japanese toggles, from the collection of Stephanie Bange. A netsuke is a carved miniature sculpture, drilled with paired holes so that it can be threaded on a cord to serve as a toggle for a small case, meant to carry personal necessities, hanging from a kimono. Originally, netsukes were made from ivory, then wood, and even from nuts. Their themes include demigods, animals, birds and fish, urban scenes, and fairy tales and fantasy scenes. The intricately and beautifully carved pieces are thought to have been used beginning in the seventeenth century. Contemporary reproductions, made for sale in museum stores, are often made of resin.

Also included are six examples of inro, where the cord is attached. Shown below is the full display, an inro of a mother turtle and her young “kissing” at the opening point, bamboo and birds, a fish, and a cat above a cat. Pictured also were are netuske of a rabbit and a Sambaso dancer.

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Spring 2004- “Narragansett Bay and Portsmouth Abbey in 1700s”

A talk given by James E. Garman last fall prompted a display in the spring of 2004 of the way Narragansett Bay and Portsmouth Abbey’s land had been during the mid to late 1700’s. Two major events took place during the Revolutionary War of that period., the burring of the ship British Gaspee and the Battle of Rhode Island, August 29-31, 1778.

A map and colonial documents from the burning of the Gaspee, (a British ship moored in Narragansett Bay and burned by angry colonists) June 9-10, 1772, were displayed. With them were maps and artifacts, including an authentic cannonball found on the Abbey grounds from the Battle of Rhode Island, August 29-31, 1778, fought just north of the Abbey church.

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Reports from two major sources, the Technical Report…archaeological survey and site examinations by among others, James C. Garman, class of 1983, for the Public Archaeology Lab of Pawtucket, R.I. and Cultural Landscape Assessment, the Bloody Run Links… by Past Designs of Kennebunkport, Maine. were included and help illustrate the display. Dr. James C. Garman it’s author, is the son of Abbey history faculty member James E. Garman.

Summer 2008- Lippold Cross, and Church Renovation

During the summer and early fall of 2008 the Portsmouth Abbey library had a display of the Church renovation project, including the restoration of the Richard Lippold (1915-2002) gold wire sculpture, “Trinity”. Mr. Lippold visited the church before his death and at that time plans were formulated to repair the sprung and dulled wires. The glorious gold of the open-work sculpture became part of the total church renovation project (including the building structure, stained glass and cross) begun in spring 2008. The art was dismantled and removed for restoration. Pieces of the gold clad wires were also in the display. “Trinity” will be remounted again for the upcoming re-dedication of the Abbey Church of St. Gregory the Great in 2009.

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Winter 2003-2004

On February 24, 2004, the school had a presentation by Marilyn Murphy Mearon as Queen Elizabeth I, entitled “Elizabeth I – Her life and times in her own words”. In the photos she is speaking with student Lawrence Slocum and Fr. Christopher Davis. ​

In conjunction with that program a display of artifacts was put in the display case.

The display case held items of interest. Father Damian Kearney contributed a Seal of Regina Elizabeth I and Mrs. Stevens, Library Director, constructed the paper scale model of the Tower of London.

Fall 2003- Father Wilfrid’s Shields

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During the fall term, the school library was used for Parents’ Weekend lectures. At one, Father Damian gave a talk . As part of his talk, he mentioned the numerous monks that have been have had special talents. Among them was Dom Wilfrid Bayne, and at the time there was a small display of his shields on the shelves and table, entitled “Arms of the Benedictine Monasteries”.​

Many years ago, Dom Wilfrid was approached by Maurice Lavanoux of Liturgical Arts Magazine, suggesting that he take up ecclesiastical heraldry professionally. The intent was that Father Wilfrid Bayne might fill the gap in ecclesiastical art caused by the death of the late Pierre La Rose, the truly gifted authority and designer of American Church heraldic art. La Rose had designed the monastery and school coat of arms, as well as Portsmouth Abbey’s official seal. Father Wilfrid, after working for many years at this new challenge, added greatly to American ecclesiastical and lay heraldry; he then became an authority on armorial painting and antiquarian knowledge in his own right.

“Billy, as he was known then, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1893. He had no interest in law as a career, as his ancestors had, so it was determined he should be trained as an architect. After Dixon’s Military Academy in Louisiana, he was sent to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, Auburn. William had his own ideas about all these plans for his future. He wanted to be an artist, so, after one year at Alabama Polytechnic he enrolled in the famed Art Students’ League in New York City, where he studied drawing and composition. He also became interested in the Russian ballet. He danced with Pavlova as the first American male to appear with her company. Illness halted this career and as America entered First World War, he volunteered for service in the Navy’s hospital corps. At the end of the war, working as an assistant to Augustus Vincent Tack, a talented mural designer, William developed further his feeling for composition and heightened his understanding of the pageantry and drama inherent in the mural art form.

Raised an Episcopalian, Bayne, shortly after the close of the war, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. In 1923 he applied for admission into the English Benedictine Congregation at Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He was sent to Downside Abbey in England, but because of poor health was rejected. In 1930 he tried again, this time at the Abbey of Fort Augustus in Scotland, and was professed in 1931.

Returning to America, he took up residence at the Priory of St. Gregory the Great, where he remained. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1937, and taught Latin, Greek and History in the Priory School.

For better than thirty years Father Wilfrid made a serious study of heraldry, of its antiquarian and historical aspects, as well as of its art forms. Being from an old Southern, Colonial, family, he began to delve into genealogy and heraldry for his own satisfaction. His art training enabled him to draw the coats of arms of those families His professional standards as an historian compelled him to search out justification and proofs for the arms claimed by families in which he was interested. His draftsmanship and composition have given to the arms he has devised and painted with an authority which other American “heraldists”, other herald painters, fail to achieve.

In 1941 the editor of Liturgical Arts asked him, as we have mentioned, to take on some professional assignments. Since then Father Wilfrid has designed arms for cardinals, bishops, abbots and priests, for dioceses and parishes, as well as for monasteries, schools, associations and other Church institutions. He has painted arms, most generously, for friends, and has accepted commissions from others for paintings of personal arms. He has devised badges and insignia for lay organizations and was commissioned to do the armorial artwork in connection with the making of a reproduction of the Newport (Rhode Island} Artillery Company flag of 1775.
Father Wilfrid’s contributed articles of both historical and antiquarian interest to American publications including The Augustan Society Information Bulletin, (illustrated with drawings of arms), the article on ecclesiastical heraldry for the New Catholic Encyclopedia, contributions to Liturgical Arts, including “Heraldry in the Catholic Church,” articles in The Benedictine Review and The Coat of Arms, a (quarterly) published by The Heraldry Society of England.
A monograph (the first in a series) of The American Society of Heraldry sought to preserve for posterity the arms devised and painted by Father Wilfrid. The book includes his work for members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, as well as for a few personages abroad, and for Church institutions and establishment, personal arms of a number of American families and drawings of badges and insignia designed by him for lay organizations. His collection of books are now part of the monastery and school library holdings. He designed the crest of The American Society of Heraldry.Shields

Pictured are the arms on display. Shown were the arms of St. Louis (Missouri) and Douai (Woolhampton, England) Abbeys, Ealing (London) and Saint Anselm (Washington, D.C.). Also on display (in photo below in middle) was the personal coat of arms of Bishop Ansgar of Portsmouth Abbey that is executed in exquisite embroidery. sheilds_over_computer_2003

Tables along the windows held the shields of Saint Benedict’s Abbey, Fort Augustus (Inverness-shire, Scotland) and Ampleforth (Yorkshire, England). Father Wilfred died in 1974. His photograph is at the beginning of this article with the shield he created for Portsmouth.

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Winter 2002-03-Sailing Prints By Soderberg, America’s cup

The America’s Cup sailing scenes on display in Library were done by Yngve Edward Soderberg, American, Etcher, of pen and ink drawings born in 1896, Chicago, IL- Died, August 6, 1971 in Mystic, CT.

Works by Soderberg are included in the collections of the: Denver Art Museum, Cummer Museum of Art, Jacksonville, FL; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO; and the Mystic Art Association and Gallery, Mystic, CT.

Ranger vs. Endeavor II 1937 as sketched aboard Endeavor II

These 5 etchings were a gift of James W. Robinson, Class of 1932 whose wife also donated 250 of his books on sailing and the America’s Cup to the Portsmouth Abbey School Library.

This display was mounted on the exhibit walls for the period of the defense of the America’s Cup from December 2002 through February 2003 in New Zealand. Placed in the display case in the library are the programs of past and present America’s Cup defenses as well as the program for the Induction Ceremony at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in 1993. Fredrick E. “Ted” Hood, grandfather of Alex, a present IVth former, was inducted as a successful defender of the Cup 1974 “Courageous” (which also won in 1977).

A history of the original race is a described with pictures in the display case. Some of the books on the America’s Cup challenges and on sailing given by the Robinsons are also on exhibit.

Numerous alumni, including James Robinson ’32, James Sands ’32, Eric Ridder ’36, Olympic contestant for windsurfing, Matt Arnborg, ’88 and Olympic medal winner for sailing, Bob Merrick ’89 developed a life-long interest in sailing from their years sailing while at Portsmouth Abbey. ______________________________________________________________________________

Fall 2002 – Jan Armor– Trees

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Portsmouth photographer Jan Douglas Armor has installed a display of photographs of trees of Aquidneck Island on the library exhibit walls. The 12 photographs from his collection represented in the library are done in black and white and show beautifully stark silhouettes of either individual trees or of stands of them. The one pictured here is titled “Littleleaf Lindens” and is located at Glen Farm, once the home of H. A .C. Taylor, now the property of the town of Portsmouth.

Around 1910 when he built his “Glen Manor House” there, approximately 116 of these trees were planted. Portsmouth Priory had a similar “alee” of Dutch elm trees leading to it’s Manor House. Unfortunately, they all died of disease. The photography project was made possible in part by financial assistance from the R.I. State Council On the Arts, Newport Grid And The Newport Tree Society.

Jan writes..
Our trees are dying. I do not mean that just some trees are dying – in, say, the forests of Brazil or Europe or Southeast Asia, where they are felled by buzz saws, greed and ignorance. That’s part of the story but not all of it. For the trees are dying everywhere, including here in the United States of America. They are dying on the ridges of our Appalachians, in the sugar bush of Vermont, in the thick forests of central Michigan, and in the deserts of the Southwest. They are dying on the mountains of Colorado and California, and on the gulf of Mexico. They are even dying in the Northwest – even before they are cut. We are witnessing the accumulated consequences of some 150 years of headlong economic development and industrial expansion. Some scientists are now suggesting that this dying may become a cause of a potentially catastrophic failure of global ecological balances. Ecologists have described nightmarish biochemical and atmospheric feedback loops wherein the more trees die, the more they will die.” (From The Dying Of The Trees by Charles Little).

I must be a voice for the trees. Even as I have embraced this subject artistically, I have become more conscious of their plight. As a photographer I am privileged to be able to show you what I have seen, perhaps even to have you feel what I felt standing looking at some silent, magnificent tree. But I am also compelled to make you aware that our trees, a metaphor for our whole environment, are at risk. The more I learn, the more I am convinced that we must do much more to protect what we have left. Often trees are right in the way of our highways and our developments. We haven’t been particularly good stewards of this precious commodity. We have cut and cleared and burned and abused our trees for all of human history. In the last century the devastation has accelerated at an alarming rate. In simple terms, of course, it is about money. From conserving, to recycling, to politicizing, we need to do much more. I want our children, and their children, all of those that will come after us, to know the beauty of our trees.

“What will the axemen do, when they have cut their way from sea to sea.”
James Fennimore Cooper in the Pioneers, 1823.

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Summer 2002- Stained Glass

With the closing of the Chauncey H. Stillman Dining Hall for renovation in March of this year and the subsequent protective masking of the roundel stained glass windows there, the Library Director began a photographic inventory and then a documentary search for information on the Medieval Stained Glass at Portsmouth Abbey and School. Portsmouth is listed in the multivolume Corpus Vitrearum Checklist, entitled “Stained Glass before 1700 in American Collections”. The glass at Portsmouth is primarily from two periods, the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries. It is only one of two preparatory schools in the New England edition (I) of the Checklist, written by Dr. Madeline H. Caviness et al, the other being, the Pomfret School.

The medieval glass can be found in 14 window panels. Also some medieval glass pieces can be found to have been used in the 10 roundels created in the eighteen hundreds and now incorporated in the lobby of the dining hall.

The glass was a donation in the 1950’s of John William Mackay; given in memory of his father, Clarence Hungerford Mackay from his estate Harbor Hill, Long Island, New York (now destroyed).

Previous to that the pieces had been in the collection of Henry C. Lawrence of New York. Records indicate that two (and probably four) of the panels were part of a chapel built for his medieval glass by George William Jerningham, the 8th Baron Stafford of Costessey, Norfolk, England. As a high ranking Austrian army officer, George’s brother, William Charles, is credited with amassing the Costessey Collection and installing it in England during a time when they were considered out of decorative fashion. After a century and a quarter the land was sold, the chapel demolished and the glass purchased by Grosvenor Thomas of Kensington. Later some were in the galleries of Henri Daguerre and the gallery of A. Seligmann, Rey and Co. both in Paris. Thus they came to America, to Lawrence, to MacKay, and then Portsmouth Priory (Abbey).

At the time the Mackay gift was made the Abbey church, designed by Belluschi, did not yet exists but the Abbot and monks knew it was planned. The pieces were exhibited at museums until the church was finished. Among the first was the at Bush Reisinger Museum of Germanic Culture at Harvard University in 1952. Another was at an exhibit at the Mary Hutchinson Compton Gallery at MIT. Since the installed pieces are not in public areas of the church they were uninstalled from the walls and displayed for an exhibit, again at the Bush Reisinger Museum at Harvard, in 1978.

The oldest panel is The Magus also known as King or Magi, dated from 1225-1235. It is from Angers, France most likely the Cathedral of St. Maurice. It measures 21¼ x 9¼ in. without border. Boarders of glass fragments were attached to the perimeter of the original composition. It was probably part of a multi paneled Infancy of Christ cycle in the church where contemporaneous depictions and sizes still exist. It was featured in an exhibit at MIT entitled “Science and Religion”.

Also very old are four panels from Cologne, Germany, thought to be from the destroyed Church of the Maccabees, with each measuring 63 ¾ and 20 ½ in. Their date is 1505-1525. They are St. Benedict, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Peter with kneeling patrons and St. George of Cappadocia with kneeling man.

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All are brilliant and have wonderful color balance. Each is identified with their symbols, key for Saint Peter, red cross and dragon of Saint George, ring and wheel of Saint Katherine, and black Benedictine cowl over the cope and surplice of an Abbot.

Two beautiful panels, which are identified as two halves of a composition of the Annunciation, are also dated from the period of 1525-1535. These show the Blessed Virgin Mary turned slightly toward the Angel Gabriel. The white dove of the Holy Spirit, in a halo of light, hovers between them. White, yellow and pale blue permeate the scene. The architectural setting of vaults and columns gives the mood of the High Renaissance.

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The oldest fragment pieces on the campus are now incorporated in roundels is a head of Christ, believed to be from Borges Cathedral, another head of Christ in the Saint Chappelle style and a few fragments of glass in the draperies. The remainder of the glass in the roundels survived until the destruction of churches during the French Revolution after which these pastiches of medieval and later glass were composed, probably in the 1800s. All the roundels are mounted in clear glass clearstories in the dining hall, three or four to a wall segment. Their diameter is either 17 ½ or 23 ½ inches.

These roundels, which appear in the Dining Hall Stained Glass photos exhibit pages following , depict the life of Christ and the saints. This depiction of Saint George is slaying the dragon, the symbolism associated with his life and legends. Most are Biblical scenes and are quite colorful in the deep reds and blues associated with medieval glass.

Fall 2001- Space Suit Loan

Through the efforts of Peter J. (Jerry) Baum (father of Charles, a III rd former) and Mr. Dominic Fratantonio, Vice President of the David Clark Company, the school library received an authentic space Shuttle launch entry suit for the fall-winter display.

The blazing sunset orange suit is one of three used by each astronaut. This one, designed by the David Clark Company and used by NASA, has many important safety features incorporated after the January 1986 Challenger crash. They include anti-suffocation devices, oxygen systems, survival radios, flare kites, G-suit controller ventilator valves and more. The display included an historical overview of space suit design, some materials, design requirements for male and female astronauts and pictures of contemporary mission flight crews in a variety of suits, including the one displayed. Students were able to remove the parts from the free standing form to get a feel for the equipment. Mrs. Stevens was grateful to the carpenters in the maintenance department for the “space man”.