The Winterthur collection of 90,000 objects has grown with the acquisition from the estate of Pastor Frederick Sheely Weiser. The acquisition, one of the largest in museum history, includes 121 fraktur and nearly 200 textiles and other items from Pastor Weiser’s collection.
Even after his death in 2009, Pastor Weiser of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, is considered one of the foremost scholars and collectors of Pennsylvania German decorative arts. Known for collecting the most significant and rare objects, Weiser’s collection, assembled over a span of more than forty years, includes many objects attained directly from descendants of the original owner or maker.
One of the highlights of the highly important collection of Pennsylvania German fraktur (decorated manuscripts) is this extraordinary religious text, signed by Mennonite schoolmaster Andreas Kolb and regarded by scholars and collectors as one of the greatest fraktur ever made due to its stunning synthesis of design and text. Kolb signed his name at the top and wrote “wie ein Adler” (like an eagle) above the birds’ heads.
Fraktur are colorful documents made by Pennsylvania Germans between 1740 and 1860. This artistic form of folk art, usually executed in ink and watercolors on paper, reflect personal records, such as certificates of birth, baptismal, confirmation, marriage, and house blessings. The early fraktur were executed entirely by hand, and it was common practice for fraktur to display religious beliefs.
Among the acquired collection of fraktur, other highlights include a large alphabet made in 1795 by fraktur artist Jacob Otto; a spiritual clockworks attributed to traveling artist Friedrich Krebs; small drawings given to students by their schoolmasters as rewards for good behavior or academic performance; religious texts, tune books, and hymnals; and New Year’s greetings, valentines, and assorted drawings of people, buildings, flowers, and animals.
Of the nearly 200 textiles from the collection, highlights include thirty hand towels with embroidery and drawnwork that hung on a door for decoration, an embroidered handkerchief owned by Maria Huber dating 1768, and small cloth bags used by housewives to save garden seeds.
Additional items from the acquired collection include five Easter eggs dyed a reddish-brown color with onionskins then decorated by scratching designs to reveal the white shell. Very few early examples of these fragile eggs remain, one dated 1816 descended in the family of its original owner; another is embellished with the word “EASTER” from Gettysburg, Pennyslvania.
Pastor Weiser’s collection acquired by Winterthur contains many important forms and artists not previously represented in the Winterthur collection. The Weiser estate also graciously donated his extensive research to the Winterthur Library for the interest of study along with the collection pieces.
Look for the newly acquired objects from the Weiser collection to be on view in the Winterthur Galleries in March 2015. The exhibition will explore the colorful world of the Pennsylvania Germans and their decorated manuscripts, textiles, pottery, furniture, and other forms of diverse and unique folk art.
Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department