Director’s Desk: Rebels with a Cause

At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, we regularly rotate our collection to spark new thematic connections. This is an essential part of our curatorial philosophy. In a six-post series, I will explore the themes featured in our most recent collection installation.

Eight diverse women museum visitors are scattered throughout the NMWA collection galleries browsing the art on the walls.

NMWA visitors browse the newly reinstalled collection galleries; Photo by Kevin Allen

Throughout Western art history, women artists have distinguished themselves by persistently and successfully working within a system that has tried to suppress them and/or devalue their efforts. Not to be dismissed, they charted their own courses, petitioned for admittance to all-male art schools and artists’ organizations, and developed their own networks.

Beginning in the 20th century, many women artists boldly engaged with social issues and embraced their roles as advocates. These visionaries demonstrate that revolution comes in many forms, and their voices are alternately gracious, shrewd, fierce, and funny. In our “Rebels with a Cause” gallery, these artists—and often the individuals they portray—demonstrate that women have blazed trails and propelled change for centuries.

Gallery Highlights:

Born in 1552, Italian Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is regarded as the first professional woman artist in Western Europe. Not only did she work within the same sphere as her male counterparts, but her husband gave up his artistic ambitions to manage her career and their household. Through eleven pregnancies, Fontana produced vibrant, detailed works, and eventually became a portraitist at the courts of several popes in Rome.

What If Women Ruled the World (2016), the six-foot neon sculpture by Yael Bartana (b. 1970), raises questions around gender equity, national identity, and the fate of humanity. The piece is inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, in which a select group of powerful white men assemble to discuss options for survival in the face of an accidental nuclear Armageddon. Bartana’s piece proposes and proclaims a more peaceful alternative to this vision.


Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580; Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 35 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Funding for the frame generously provided by the Texas State Committee; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Yael Bartana, What if Women Ruled the World, 2016; Neon, 98 1/2 x 38 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase, Belinda de Gaudemar Acquisition Fund, with additional support from the Members’ Acquisition Fund; © Yael Bartana; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Yael Bartana, What if Women Ruled the World, 2016; Neon, 98 1/2 x 38 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Museum purchase, Belinda de Gaudemar Acquisition Fund, with additional support from the Members’ Acquisition Fund; © Yael Bartana; Photo by Lee Stalsworth


Amy Sherald, They call me Redbone but I’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, 2009; Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 25th Anniversary of NMWA; © Amy Sherald


Guerrilla Girls, Do women Have to Be Naked update (from the series "Guerrilla Girls Talk Back: Portfolio 2"), 2005; Lithographic poster, 12 x 14 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay; © Guerrilla Girls, Courtesy

Amy Sherald (b. 1973) reworks the traditional portrait format to reimagine the African American experience and challenge concepts of racial identity. Sherald’s haunting figures are expressionless and dressed in playful, costume-style clothing. In all of her works, including our painting They Call Me Redbone but I’d Rather be Strawberry Shortcake (2009), Sherald paints her subjects in grayscale, metaphorically removing their skin color and helping viewers imagine a world without restrictive stereotypes.

No discussion of “Rebels with a Cause” would be complete without the Guerrilla Girls, a group of famous—but anonymous—activist-artists who began wearing gorilla masks to call out sexism and racism in the art world of the 1980s. Several of their broadsides are on view at NMWA, including the well-known poster Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum? (2005). Fortunately, as this and other works in this new themed gallery illustrate, women artists have found other ways to get their work noticed and their talent and ideas across.

—Susan Fisher Sterling is the Alice West Director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Renaissance Rebel: Lavinia Fontana

One of the oldest works in NMWA’s collection, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580), was painted by late Renaissance artist Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614, Bologna, Italy). NMWA’s collection holds three of Fontana’s paintings. Considered the first professional woman artist, Fontana worked within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent. She earned a living through her art, broke barriers, and earned a list of superlatives and appellations.

Fontana trained in her father’s studio. Her family, though not noble, moved among a well-educated circle which valued the education of women. Bologna’s university accepted women, and Fontana earned the degree of dottoressa.

In 1577 Fontana married Gian Paolo Zappi—a marriage which proved unique. Fontana was married without a dowry on the assumption that she would earn her income through painting. Her marriage contract required that she and her husband remain in her father’s household, and that Fontana would continue to contribute to the family’s workshop. Though a painter himself, Zappi recognized his wife’s talent and acted as her agent and assistant, prioritizing her career as an artist.

Fontana could not join the Carracci School because the institution emphasized the drawing of nudes—and women were not allowed access to nude models. Fontana did not let that discourage her. She proceeded to paint nude figures anyway, like in the case of Minerva Dressing (1613). Some scholars claim that Fontana was the first woman to paint female nudes, though this is difficult to prove. Later in life she was elected to the Roman Academy, increasing the value of her paintings and allowing her to collect art and antiques herself.

Best known for her portraits, Fontana also painted historical and religious subjects. Portraiture was deemed an appropriate subject for a woman, but history and religious painting were not. Undeterred, Fontana made more than a dozen altarpieces. More than 100 of her paintings survive, more than any other woman artist from her time. The quality and breadth of her oeuvre becomes all the more impressive when one considers that she gave birth to eleven children, however, only three survived her. Pregnant for nearly a decade of her life, Fontana worked through the physical and emotional strain of motherhood.

A savvy businesswoman, Fontana maintained friendships with many of her sitters. Often naming them as godparents of her numerous children, Fontana guaranteed herself upper-class patronage. By 1604 Fontana and her family relocated to Rome to paint for the papal office. Her youngest son’s godfather was Cardinal Camillo Borghese, who later became Pope Paul V.   

Reportedly charming, Fontana was a sought after portraitist among nobility—particularly noblewomen. Biographer Malvasia stated, “All the ladies of the city would compete in wishing to have her close.” Sitters for Fontana knew to expect a flattering portrayal that highlighted both their beauty and their intelligence, with particular attention to jewelry and fabric.

Visit the museum to see paintings by this Renaissance rebel!

Chloe Bazlen is the summer 2017 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Challenge Accepted: Can You Name Five Women Artists?

Ask someone to name five artists and responses will likely include names such as Warhol, Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, da Vinci—all male artists. Ask someone to name five women artists, and the question poses more of a challenge.

Back by popular demand this March, the National Museum of Women in the Arts continues to ask, “Can you name five women artists?” This simple question calls attention to the inequity women artists face, inspires conversation, and brings awareness to a larger audience. Last year, the campaign struck a chord, and tens of thousands of posts were shared on social media. This year, more than 200 institutions from 50 states, 22 countries, and seven continents have already signed on to participate.

Join us throughout the month to share stories of women artists using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Challenge your family and friends.
  2. Share posts about your favorite women artists.
  3. Share a work by a woman artist at a museum or gallery near you.
  4. Explore NMWA’s artist profiles to discover artists you may not know.
  5. Get the facts about art world inequality and track campaign updates all month long.

To kick off the month, learn more about five influential women artists from the museum’s collection who defied expectations:

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman (ca. 1580) and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar (ca. 1939); NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Left to right: Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580 and Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Jar, ca. 1939; NMWA; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) is regarded as the first professional woman artist. For 20 years beginning in the 1580s, Fontana was the portraitist of choice among Bolognese noblewomen. Not only was Fontana the breadwinner of her family, she also gave birth to 11 children.

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez (1887–1980) revived and continued the centuries-old black-on-black pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Through her creative vision and skill, Martinez influenced generations of artists.

Left to right: Clementine Hunter, Untitled, 1981; NMWA, Gift of Evelyn M. Shambaugh; Lola Álvarez Bravo, De generación en generación, ca. 1950; NMWA, Gift of the Artist; © 1995 University of Arizona Foundation, Center for Creative Photography

Entirely self-taught and immensely prolific, Clementine Hunter (ca. 1887–1988) earned critical acclaim for vibrant paintings depicting life in the Cane River region of central Louisiana. Hunter did not start painting until the 1940s, when she was already a grandmother.

Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907–1993) was one of Mexico’s first professional women photographers, documenting daily life and portraying prominent world leaders. Like her friend Frida Kahlo, Álvarez Bravo celebrated the traditional costumes and customs of her country’s varied regions. She cannily blended nationalist content with the expression of universal human emotions.

Lee Krasner, The Springs, 1964; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © 2012 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lee Krasner (1908–1984) was one of the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Through six decades devoted to art, she explored innovative approaches to painting and collage. Often overshadowed by her husband, Krasner declared, “I’m always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock . . . but I painted before Pollock, during Pollock, after Pollock.”

Want to help advocate for women in the arts? Starting March 1, take the challenge and post about #5WomenArtists on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tag us @WomenInTheArts.

Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The Pre-K Invasion: Developing New Tours for Young Audiences

This April, some of NMWA’s oldest paintings entertained the museum’s youngest audience. In a series of pilot tours for preschoolers, NMWA’s Education staff led 140 energetic Pre-K and kindergarten students through the galleries to examine portraits, colors, and shapes. Seated on rainbow-colored carpet squares, tiny visitors listened to stories, explored paintings, and experimented with diverse materials in their own art projects.


Pre-K visitors explore poses and posture in front of Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

As the intern charged with crafting this new tour experience, I quickly realized that flexibility was key. Months of planning and research culminated in three thought-out lesson plans. However, unexpected obstacles still arose. School buses ran late, large events occupied the museum’s Great Hall, and an educator was accidentally scheduled to give two tours at once. I designed the tours to last 45 minutes, allow for ten students per educator, and conclude with an art-making activity in the Great Hall. In the end, the tours lasted an hour and art-making occasionally shifted locations.

Pre-K visitors experiment with art-making in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Pre-K visitors experiment with art-making in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Activities morphed based on the students’ interest, participation, and cooperation. Some of the preschoolers enjoyed using viewfinders to act like “color detectives” while other groups found the tool distracting. By the last program, we had figured out the most efficient ways to use materials in the galleries.

The art-making, movement activities, and stories captivated our young audience. The preschoolers found the dog in Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Noblewoman and the unicorn in Amy Sherald’s It Made Sense…Mostly in Her Mind easy to talk about—as well as the eye-catching outfits of each painting’s subject. They enjoyed mimicking shapes and lines with their bodies in front of Chakaia Booker’s Acid Rain and using “magic paintbrushes” to imagine the expressive brush strokes in Joan Mitchell’s Orange. Students were eager to mix oil pastels and rip colored tape in their hands-on art activities. While creating self-portraits, they used hand mirrors to admire their faces. They were proud to take their artwork home as a reminder of their experience.

Overall, the program was a huge success! Logistical hurdles aside, we received positive feedback from teachers and chaperones who thought the tours were engaging and age-appropriate. Hearing kids say, “Wow! This place is cool!” or mention how much fun they had made the entire experience worth every ounce of effort it took to make it happen. I am excited for the future of these tours and cannot wait to hear how they play out during the next school year.

—Valerie Bundy was the winter/spring 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She is a former Pre-K teacher who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in museum education at the George Washington University.

Curator’s Travelogue: Women Artists of Bologna

In this series of blog posts, NMWA Curator of Book Arts Krystyna Wasserman recounts a recent trip to Europe:

The focus of a journey could be the exploration of a new territory or a spiritual journey in search of internal peace. It could also be the need to assuage one’s desire for friendship, love, or adventure or, simply, finding an inspiration for creative work. My trip to Germany and Italy in September 2011 was focused on viewing works created by women, on meeting artists, particularly book artists, and on cultivating old friendships. 

PART III . Bologna

Home of the oldest university in Europe (1088) and the capital of tortellini, Bologna is also the birth place of Lavinia Fontana (1552–1614) and Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665), two of the best-known “old mistresses.” Fontana was the favorite painter of the noblewomen and created two of the oldest paintings in the NMWA collection, Portrait of a Noblewoman and Portrait of Costanza Alidosi, which are excellent examples of this genre. Of the two artists, Fontana is now given more recognition, judging by the number of her works on museum walls during my September 2011 visit to the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna.

Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of Costanza Alidosi, c. 1595

Lavinia Fontana, Portrait of Costanza Alidosi, c. 1595; Oil on canvas, 62 x 47 3/8 in.; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Fontana’s somber Ritratto della Famiglia Gozzadini (1584) (Portrait of the Gozzadini Family) was commissioned by the Bolognese aristocrat Laudomia Gozzadini. At the time the portrait was painted, Laudomia’s father, a senator, and her sister Ginevra were dead. The painting underscores Laudomia’s role as the legitimate heir to the family’s power and fortune. The portrait, as Vera Fortunati, a feminist art historian from the University of Bologna, observed,” is a kind of domestic alterpiece dedicated to the household gods.” Ritratto di neonato nella culla (1583) (Portrait of a Newborn in the Cradle), also on view, portrays a less common subject for a painter of that period. The baby’s aristocratic background is depicted through exquisite white clothing and inlaid cradle; however, the cradle is reminiscent of a catafalque and it has been observed that the painting may depict a deceased newborn. Fontana was the mother of eleven children and painted several children’s portraits, but as Vera Fortunati suggests quoting from P. Aries Padri e Figli nell’ Europa Moderna, 1960, “the appearance in the sixteenth century of the portrait of a dead child represents a very important moment in the history of feelings.” Both paintings travelled in 1998 to Washington for NMWA’s exhibition Lavinia Fontana of Bologna, 15521614 (February 5–June 7, 1998).

Fontana was also the first woman to paint alterpieces at the time of Counter-Reformation and the growing power of the Catholic Church. One of her altarpiece paintings, San Francisco di Paola blessing the Child has been also on view in the Pinacoteca Nazionale. Birth of the Virgin Mary can be seen in Santissima Trinita church and Madonna Enthroned with Child and Santa Caterina of Alexandria, Cosma, Damiano e il Committente Scipione Calcina in the church of San Giacomo Maggiore, among other churches of Bologna.

Donatella Franchi, A Clotilde, 2009

Donatella Franchi, A Clotilde, 2009; Mixed media, 8 x 8 1/2 inches; Gift of Lynn M. Johnston

I sorely missed Fontana’s tender Ritratto di Gentildonna con Bambina (Portrait of a Noblewoman with a Young Girl (ca.1590–1595) in which a mother passes a bound in red velvet book to her small daughter. This painting was an inspiration for a contemporary artist of Bologna, Donatella Franchi, in creating the artist’s book A Clotilde (currently on view in NMWA’s exhibition Trove). The book is devoted to her mother, who died at the age of one hundred. Franchi says, “In my memories of her as young woman, she always holds a book in her hands. To overcome the anguish that her fragility and dependence occasionally caused me, I focused on her most characteristic gestures. Her hands, delicately turning the pages or resting on them, appeared to be bathed in the same light as the great tradition of artistic portraits. The Pinacoteca painting depicting a mother passing a book to her daughter is one of them. Now that my mother is no longer here, it is with great intensity that I harbor within me the force of this legacy.”

Via Urbana, Elisabetta Sirani's birthplace

Via Urbana, Elisabetta Sirani's birthplace

Elisabetta Sirani (1638–1665) lived on Via Urbana 7, a quiet arcaded street. There is a plaque on the building that says: “Nell giorno VIII gennaio 1638 qui nacque Elisabetta Sirani emulatrice delsommo Guido Reni” (On the day of January 8, 1638 Elisabetta Sirani, the rival of the great Guido Reni (1575–1642) was born [in this building].) It is a slightly chauvinist inscription. It defines Sirani as emulatrice of Guido Reni rather than remembering her as an independent talent and an accomplished painter of religious and historical scenes. Guido Reni would never be described as a “rival” of Sirani or any other artist on the wall of the building he was born or lived in. In the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna the only Sirani painting on view was Sant’Antonio di Padova in adorazione del Bambin Gesu (1662). I was disappointed that San Girolamo (1660) and Maddalena (1660), some of her greatest works, were nowhere to be seen.

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663; Oil on canvas, 34 x 27 1/2 in.; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Conservation funds generously provided by the Southern California State Committee of NMWA

Sirani’s life was the subject of gossip. Young and beautiful, she died at the age of 27 at the peak of her successful career. A poisoning by a domestic servant Lucia Tolomelli was rumored, but I was assured by scholars that the autopsy proved that the artist died of stomach ulcers and a perforated stomach. She was working too hard to support her family and it did not help that her father, also a painter, kept and controlled all of her earnings.

Massimo Pulini's book on Ginevra Cantofoli

Massimo Pulini's book on Ginevra Cantofoli

In Donatella Franchi’s library, I discovered a book by Massimo Pulini Ginevra Cantofoli: La nuova nascita di una pittrice nella Biologna del Seicento. Ginevra Cantofoli (1608–1672) was a talented pupil of Sirani and an excellent painter whose work was often attributed to Guido Reni and other artists. Pulini identified many works by Cantofoli, among them a portrait of Sirani (in a private collection in Bologna.) She particularly excelled in sensitive and idealized paintings of women. Her Sibilla (Busto di Ragazza) is in the Hermitage, another Sibilla (Donna con Turbante) in the Louvre collection, and Berenice is in Galeria Borghese in Rome. In Bologna, none of her paintings is on view, even though Pulini’s book lists the large canvas Vergine Immacolata col Bambin Gesu (190 x 117 cm.) in the collection of the Pinacoteca in Bologna. Cantofoli’s paintings deserve to be known and seen. The magistrates of the city of Bologna should pay more attention to the legacy of their women artists to maintain the historical importance of their city as the legendary world’s capital of women artists from the Renaissance to the 18th century.

Santo Stefano church, in Bologna

Santo Stefano church, in Bologna

Angela Lorenz is another contemporary artist in Bologna whose artist’s books are in NMWA’s collection. Often referring to the female heroines of the past, she is currently working on an installation, Victorious Secrets, inspired by the mosaics of 380 A.D. in Villa Armorina in Sicily representing women wearing bikinis. Lorenz is an American from New England who married an Italian man photographer (who is also the owner of the best gelateria in Bologna). Unlike most art historians, guidebook writers, and tourists, she is not concerned with what the women are wearing, but what they are doing. Lorenz creates mosaics made of buttons, a traditional material used by seamstresses, which she stores in large boxes in her studio. After thorough research, she discovered that the women portrayed are the athletes and the winners of the Olympic games. Unlike the men who performed naked, women participated in the Olympics every other year and wore bikinis. She is currently creating a triptych which will show women throwing discus, playing ball, and lifting weights.

—Krystyna Wasserman is the curator of book arts at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Check back soon for additional posts on her travels.

What’s in a frame?

Why do people visit art museums? That’s easy: to see art. But all too often when strolling through our favorite galleries, we forget to take notice of those unsung objects that surround and support the hallowed masterpieces that we flock to venerate. I’m talking about frames—they set the tone for, and ultimately, make or break our perception of the works they hold.  For example, let’s look at one of NMWA’s most treasured works, Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580, by Bolognese artist Lavinia Fontana.

Lavinia Fontana, "Portrait of a Noblewoman", ca. 1580, Oil on canvas, 45 1/4 x 35 1/4 in. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay - OLD FRAME

The Artist: Born in 1552 in Bologna, Lavinia Fontana was taught to paint by her father, a prosperous local artist aptly named Prospero. While Lavinia was most likely not allowed to work in her father’s studio among his apprentices, she pursued her training by drawing members of her entourage. By the mid-1580s, her reputation and social connections had attracted a wealthy clientele delighted with her sophisticated portraits. Around 1603, Fontana moved her large family (she had 11 children) to Rome to become a painter for Popes Gregory XIII and Clement VIII. There, she worked on commissions for cardinals, ambassadors and princes, and executed some large-scale altarpieces–a rarity for a woman artist.

The Portrait: As a pre-eminent painter of the Bolognese elite, Lavinia portrayed noble wives, daughters, and widows. Portrait of  Noblewoman likely depicts a young bride as suggested by her over-dress of embossed red velvet and satin yellow bodice underneath. Other clues about the young woman’s status include her chaste and disciplined demeanor as well as the curious item hanging from her waist: a bejeweled pelt of a marten.  A slender, minklike creature, martens were associated with fertility.  Finally, the fashionable and costly lap dog known as “cane Bolognese” (present in many of Fontana’s portraits), was a well-known symbol of a spouse’s fidelity to her husband.

The Frame Project: From the time NMWA acquired the Fontana painting in 1986 up until 2007, the work was held in a 19th-century reproduction of an 18th-century French frame. The dark, unattractive moulding was neither from the correct period nor geographically appropriate, and failed to show this painting—considered one of the museum’s “signature” works—to its best advantage. In 2007, the Texas State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts generously offered to fund the creation of a new frame for the painting through NMWA’s Adopt-a-Work program (see below for more information).

New frame by Richard Ford, unpainted

New frame by Richard Ford, carved from Basswood

Who could NMWA commission to create a frame that could flaunt Fontana’s strokes and colors to their highest potential? None other than Richard Ford, one of Washington, DC’s premier frame conservators and frame scholars from the National Gallery of Art (NGA). From 2008 to 2009, Richard expertly designed and painstakingly hand-crafted a “Titian style” frame for the painting. Its color, size, and style are appropriate to the period of the painting as well as to the proud, local tradition of Bolognese frame production. The wealthiest Italian nobility such as Fontana’s sitter would have expected great craftsmanship in the service of this lovely portrait—an expectation that, we are proud to boast, has finally been met.


New "Titian-style" frame by Richard Ford, unpainted


The Final Product: Framed by Richard’s masterpiece, Fontana’s masterpiece beams like a new work. The new moulding comprises a raised, hollow, convex ornament accentuated by two rows of smaller, stylized leaf ornaments on the inside. The dramatic red beneath the gilt decoration beautifully complements the color of the noblewoman’s dress, the traditional color of most Bolognese wedding dresses.

Thanks to the generosity of NMWA’s Texas State Committee and the expertise of Richard Ford, the Fontana frame has been returned to its former glory.

Lavinia Fontana, "Portrait of a Noblewoman", ca. 1580, Oil on canvas, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, Frame courtesy of NMWA's Texas State Committee; shown here after the final toning and patination, lending the frame its aged appearance

Lavinia Fontana, “Portrait of a Noblewoman”, ca. 1580, Oil on canvas, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, Frame courtesy of NMWA’s Texas State Committee; shown here after the final toning and patination, lending the frame its aged appearance

About the author: Jordana Pomeroy is chief curator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. from Columbia University. In 2008 she was a fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership. Pomeroy has organized many exhibitions at NMWA, including Berthe Morisot: An Impressionist and Her Circle and Italian Women Artists from Renaissance to Baroque.

About the conservator: Richard Ford has held the title of conservator of frames at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), Washington, D.C. since 1989. DC’s premier frame conservator and frame scholar, Ford received his M.F.A. from the University of Maryland in 1985 and exhibited paintings from 1986 – 1998. He received the Maryland State Arts Council Grant in 1992, and in 1995 built a Ripple molding machine. Ford specializes in creating, restoring, and studying Dutch 17th-century, Northern Gothic, Italian Baroque, and Modernist frames.