The Detective and the Cataloger

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This image from Johann Gottfriedt’s 1655 publication ‘Newe Welt Und Americanische Historien’ was originally identified as the burning and looting of Cuba. Recent research has changed the attribution of the scene to the pillaging and burning of the town of Allegona (Las Palmas) and the fortifications of the island of Gran Canaria by the Dutch in July of 1599. (Accession# 1945.236.01/LE 2361)

Although 2020’s pandemic has not been a good thing for museums there are some museum professionals who are reaping big rewards from being stuck at home. Who are these lucky people? The curators, archivists and collections staff responsible for cataloging objects because finally, FINALLY, there is plenty of time available to review, expand or correct the cataloging of the objects and images in their collections.

Cataloging is the process of researching and recording detailed information about an object.  This process is completed when an object initially enters a museum’s collection but at Mariners it’s pretty obvious that the curators and collections staff didn’t always invest the kind of time necessary to fully and accurately research the objects they were cataloging. The result is misidentifications, misattributions and sometimes a complete lack of information beyond an object’s name or title!   Read more

Jack Aubrey has nothing on these guys

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Watercolor titled ‘Manoeuvre du Sans-Pareil pour sauver deux prises faits devant Vigo’ by Nicholas Marie Ozanne, ca 1750-1774. (Accession# 1945.02.242/Q 171)

In recent months, I’ve learned two amazing tales of deception and daring that thrilled me to no end. Although the events occurred almost two centuries apart (the first in the late 17th century and the second during the American Civil War) the men involved were that rare breed of human male that inspires fictional characters like Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower or my all time favorite Lord Nicholas Ramage (I actually had to remind myself to BREATHE while reading this series!). Since we could all use some excitement in our new stay-at-home-where-nothing-interesting-ever-occurs lives, I thought I would pass them along. 

I stumbled across the first story while working on our watercolor rehousing project. The image is a small india wash drawing by Nicolas Marie Ozanne titled Manoeuvre du Sans-Pareil pour sauver deux prises faits devant Vigo [Maneuver of Sans-Pareil to save two prizes taken before Vigo]. The artwork was engraved by Jeanne Francoise Ozanne and published by Yves Marie Le Gouaz in ‘Recueil des combats de Duguay-Trouin’ which is where I learned the story behind the image.   Read more


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‘Dutch whaling in the arctic.’ Circa 1706 Penschilderij by Adriaen Cornelisz [Van der] Salm (Accession# QO 31)

Penschilderij.  For those of you who read my recent blog post on the wash drawing by the Willem Van de Veldes ( you might remember my mention of the elder’s specialized art form of ‘penschilderij’ or ‘pen painting.’ While it’s not by Van de Velde we are lucky enough to have a beautiful little pen painting by Adriaen Cornelisz Salm (he also went by Van Salm and Van der Salm), in the collection. 

The medium of penschilderij was developed in the late 16th or early 17th century. It was born from the efforts of Dutch engraver, publisher and artist Hendrick Goltzius who began drawing with a pen on paper or vellum in order to simulate the characteristics of an engraving.  By the early 17th century Goltzius included drawing on a canvas primed with paint–the forerunner of the pen painting–in his oeuvre.  In his time Goltzius was quite famous so Van de Velde was probably familiar with his artwork and prints.  However, Goltzius only produced three pen paintings during his life so it seems unlikely that Van de Velde was familiar with the medium Goltzius was employing.  Consequently, experts like Rijksmuseum curator Friso Lammertse credit Van de Velde as the “true founding father” of the penschilderij.   Read more

WANTED: One FAE who knows Dutch

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Graphite drawing with india wash by the Willem Van de Veldes (Noyes Collection, Accession#: 1945.02.224)

FAE: Forensic Art Examiner. Or maybe a “graphics imaging reprographic specialist” would be more appropriate?  I need help as I’m slowly being driven crazy by a little graphite drawing with india wash by the Willem Van de Veldes (both the older and the younger).  

This beautiful little artwork was acquired by the Museum in 1945 with a collection of 285 artworks on paper and prints accumulated by New York collector Pauline Riggs Noyes. It came to my attention after the Museum’s patron group, the Bronze Door Society, awarded the collections department $31,000 to buy some new cabinetry to store our artworks on paper.  It intrigued me because it is one of the oldest drawings in the collection, it was simply cataloged as “men-of-war in a calm” when obviously there is something more interesting going on, and because it’s a freaking Van de Velde!!!! The father and son drawing and painting duo who many feel are the two most important maritime artists of the 17th century–if not EVERY century.     Read more

Bearded or Ringed or Spotted? Oh my!

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Our new gut skin parka! (Accession# 2019.24.01)

What in the heck am I talking about you ask? Why seal intestines, of course! That question posed a huge conundrum for me after the Museum successfully bid on a gut skin parka at Zemanek-Münster, a tribal arts auction company in Würzburg, Germany.  Although, if I am being honest I had to worry about walrus, bowhead and beluga whale, and caribou intestines as well. The questions of exactly whose entrails made up the parka, its country of origin and its age had to be answered before we could import the object into the United States. It took three months and in the process its provenance shifted from one side of the North American continent to the other.

It all started in October while I researched the native populations of King Island, Kotzebue Sound and Huntingdon Island for the Museum’s Indigenous People’s Day on November 9th. I was primarily interested in how native Alaskans used the umiak, kayak and baidarka* to hunt which led me to study their tools and clothing as well. Using internet sites like the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology Collections ( and the Alaska Native Collections of the Smithsonian’s Arctic Studies Center ( taught me a lot about the objects in our collection as well as native terminology.  One of the words I learned was “kamleika” which is actually the word Russian traders used for the gut parkas worn by Arctic peoples.   Read more