November 20, 2002: Notebook
The Class: The Curious Aesthetics of Musical Theater
When word got out in the English department that Professor Tamsen Wolff would be turning ENG 347 (historically a class on modern American or Irish drama) into a course on musical theater, professors, students, and administrators began to stop her in the halls of McCosh to sing a few bars from their favorites.
Musicals are such a popular and invasive form of our culture, Wolff says. But as a reflection of society, theyre not generally considered worthy of serious academic criticism, even though, as Wolff can verify, Everyone can sing you something from some musical.
So the challenge for Wolff and her students is to discuss critically what amounts to popular entertainment. A lecture on Show Boat looks at issues of race and cultural appropriation, while lectures on the movie Moulin Rouge and even a musical episode of the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer consider the social explanations for a resurgence in movie musicals. All the while Wolff intersperses her analysis with video and audio.
Theres a different type of personal involvement and absorbing of the material when you learn in contexts other than just reading, says English major Kate Lynn Schirmer 03, one of more than 200 in the class. Students are expected to read the librettos for each musical and to listen to their soundtracks. In addition to two papers, students are required to go to the theater, either around campus or in New York, and to write a review of a current performance.
SELECTED READING LIST: Hammerstein and Kerns Show Boat; Lerner and Loewes My Fair Lady, Brecht and Weills The Threepenny Opera; Stephen Sondheims Sweeney Todd; Baz Luhrmanns Moulin Rouge; Lars von Triers Dancer in the Dark
Who owned it and when?
Art Museum is midway through a project to determine the provenance of its collection
By Maria LoBiondo
Photo: Victoria Reeds research on provenance, including Pinturicchios Saint Bartholomew, yields both the mundane and the surprising. (Frank Wojciechowski)
The calm countenance of the Art Museums Saint Bartholomew, by the Renaissance master Pinturicchio, belies the controversy the painting exemplifies. The painting, hanging in an upstairs gallery, was once owned by a Jewish family who lost their collection during World War II. And while the fate of the Pinturicchio Saint Bartholomew is secure the Princeton museum settled with the heirs of its original owner Princetons museum and museums nationwide are engaged in a detective hunt through their holdings for works with murky backgrounds.
For the past year, Curatorial Associate Victoria S. Reed has painstakingly reviewed the Art Museums European collection researching the provenance of each work. Of the 241 paintings she has studied so far, 114 have gaps in their ownership history. A gap in provenance does not automatically make a work suspect; anonymous sales and artists bartering their paintings for food are two reasons a paper trail may be elusive. But Reeds work has an important purpose: making information available so that wronged Holocaust-era family heirs can reclaim their cultural property. Museums have recognized the need to be vigilant about provenance research so they can do the right thing, explains Art Museum Director Susan M. Taylor.
It is well known that the Nazi regime plundered countless art treasures throughout Europe. The Allies made an effort to return works to rightful owners, but many more were never recovered. As early as 1946, the U.S. State Department warned American museums that stolen European art was finding its way to these shores, but provenance issues were not a priority, says Taylor.
That has changed dramatically in todays art world. Declassified war-
related material and the Internet are contributing to the efforts of Jewish claimants to recover lost family collections. In the 1990s, museums that included the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago grappled with legal wrangling and embarrassment over works found in their halls. A presidential commission on the issue followed, and the Association of American Museum Directors (AAMD) set guidelines in 1998 for its members to publicly declare all European holdings and their provenance, especially works created before 1946 and acquired between 1932 and 1946 that had, or could have, changed hands in continental Europe.
All our museums are taking this very seriously, says Mimi Gaudieri, executive director of AAMD. Its an issue we discuss at every meeting.
The issue came home to Princeton when the heirs of Federico Gentili di Giuseppe, a Jewish resident of France, contacted the Art Museum about the Pinturicchio Saint Bartholomew in 1999.
Gentili di Giuseppe died of natural causes in 1940. A year later his art collection was sold at public auction in Paris, without the familys consent, under orders of a French court in German-occupied France. Decades later, in 1998, his heirs took legal action against the Musée du Louvre and the government of France to have the auction results voided. Five paintings were recovered by the family.
The Art Museums Pinturicchio was not part of this transaction, having been purchased by Princeton in 1994 through the New York dealer French & Company, Inc. After discussions with the Gentili di Giuseppe heirs, the Art Museum paid an undisclosed amount in compensation for the familys loss, based on an agreed-upon value for the painting, which also has not been disclosed. French & Company provided some of the compensation.
After the settlement Reed was hired for a two-year provenance research position. So far her research has not set off any red flags, nor have any other claimants contacted the museum. Reed digs through the museums accession cards listing the vital information on each work, consults sales and exhibition catalogs, tracks auctions, and often uses online resources. Reed started with the art displayed on the gallery walls, then proceeded to root out information on works in storage, organized by region. Her list is a work in progress: The list is constantly changing as new information becomes available and gaps are filled in, she says.
The only other Princeton painting known to be related to this issue Aert van der Neers River Landscape in Moonlight was seized by Adolf Hitler and returned by the Allies to its rightful owner, Baron Louis de Rothschild of Vienna. It is documented that the Allies returned the work to its owner in the 1940s, and this is important because it means the proper restitutions were made to the wronged party, Reed explains. Later the work was sold to a dealer and came to the museum as a gift of Edwin H. Herzog 21.
Many museums, including Princetons, are posting their lists online. Reed maintains the list at www.princetonartmuseum.org/pop_coll_provlist.cfm. It notes, for example, that while Marc Chagalls Lovers in the Sky was given to the Art Museum as a gift by Everett E. Rogerson in 1952, and Rogerson purchased the work from the Albert Roullier Galleries in Chicago, Reed has not yet determined how the work found its way into the gallerys hands.
Some entries are even more complicated. The entry for Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens, for example, lists several anonymous sales and a cryptic 1953 London Museum Galleries letter to an unnamed recipient mentioning the work.
Like real detective work, Reeds sleuthing can be mundane fact checking. But sometimes it yields surprises. In researching Madonna and Child by the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines, Reed contacted the Museum Boymans in Rotterdam to ask about former owner Georg Tillman. Her records showed that the work had been exhibited only once in Rotterdam in 1936. I was put in touch with Tillmans daughter-in-law and her son, who provided me with information about Tillman, who came to New York in 1939 and passed the painting on to a business associate, Henry Loeb 29, who gave it to Princeton in 1949, Reed says.
Museums now do extensive provenance research before making acquisitions. New Yorks Metropolitan Museum Web site lists 14 works returned to rightful heirs as a result of that research. When Reeds position ends in June, the challenge for the Art Museum will be to continue what she has started, Taylor says.
Reed will curate an exhibition in March as yet untitled which will give a behind-the-scenes look at how provenance research is done.
Maria LoBiondo is a frequent contributor to PAW.
Endowment ahead 2.2 percent
While most American universities had a second straight year of negative endowment returns, Princeton gained.
The universitys investments returned 2.2 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30, said Andrew Golden, president of Princeton University Investment Company (Princo), which manages Princetons $8.3-billion endowment. Standard & Poors 500-stock index fell 18 percent during the same period, the indexs worst performance in 32 years.
The positive return emerged thanks to a diversified portfolio enhanced by a short-term reallocation of assets that had been invested in U.S. stocks. Among the areas to which Princo shifted investments were emerging markets, which returned just over 14 percent and made up about 10 percent of the endowment, and real assets, which returned nearly 8 percent and accounted for about 13 percent of investments.
Private equities posted a loss of 23 percent and domestic equities lost 7 percent.
A recent Commonfund Institute study put the average annual endowment return at 5.4 percent in fiscal year 2002. Schools in the study with more than $1 billion in assets reported an average loss of 3.43 percent. Another survey of 129 institutions, by Cambridge Associates, showed a median endowment return of 4.8 percent for the same period.
Princetons endowment is the fourth largest in the country and third largest among private institutions behind Harvard and Yale, respectively.
The university has formed a 14-member committee of students, administrators, and faculty to find a new admission dean to replace Fred Hargadon, who will retire in June. Faculty members are: Jeremy Adelman (history), Scott Burnham (music), Christopher Eisgruber 83 (public affairs), Peter Meyers (physics), Valerie Smith (English), and James Sturm 79 (electrical engineering). Administrators are: Janet Dickerson, vice president for campus life; Robert Durkee 69, vice president for public affairs; Ann Halliday *78, special assistant to the president; and Katherine Rohrer *80, vice provost for academic programs. Students are: Adam Frankel 03, Jacqueline Perlman 05, and Lauren Phillips 04. Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel will chair the committee. The university hopes to have a new dean in place next summer.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education ranked Princeton third among the countrys 26 leading universities for its success in attracting, enrolling, and graduating African-American students, as well as its progress in recruiting black professors. Only Duke and Emory Universities outranked Princeton in the survey, which looked at data on black student enrollment, black student yield, percentage of black faculty, and 10 other related categories.
Princeton had a 91-percent graduation rate for its African-American students, according to the survey. Other universities with a black-student graduation rate of 90 percent or greater were Amherst (93 percent), Colgate (93), Harvard (92), and Vassar (90).
The journal cited the universitys new financial aid policies as a factor in attracting black students.
However, Princeton still received low scores for its small percentage of black faculty (2.5 percent) and what the journal described as an archaic undergraduate club system that is said to discourage the applications of many blacks.
In the Ivy League, Harvard ranked eighth, Brown 10th, Columbia ranked 11th, Yale 13th, Cornell 15th, Penn 17th, and Dartmouth 18th.
Judge Robert H. Bork, former U.S. Court of Appeals circuit judge: The Constitution: Past, Present and Future, October 24
Professor Anthony Grafton: Technica Curiosa: Technology and Magic in Early Modern Europe, October 23
Bernard Williams, Oxford University: The Human Prejudice, October 15
Jared Diamond, UCLA: Collapses of Ancient Societies and their Lessons for Today, October 9