Thanks to the philanthropy of Drs. Tobia and Morton Mower of Baltimore, more than 70 original etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn graced the walls of the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts in the fall of 2013, to the delight of 12,000 museum visitors during the exhibition A Fortnight of Rembrandt: Selected Etchings from the Mower Collection. During the installation, arts photographer Jon Nalon created high-resolution images of each print. Now, through the generosity of the Mowers and the resources of the Art History Media Center, these detailed images are available to FSU faculty and students for teaching and research.
Overall views and close details of the Rembrandt etchings have been added to the Media Center’s online database of 45,000 digital images, making them available for use in FSU classes and research in Art History and related fields. The images are hosted on a Madison Digital Image Database (MDID), an application developed at James Madison University specifically for the needs of Art History departments. Images in MDID can be displayed through a web-based slideshow application that allows dynamic interaction in the classroom, such as split-screen image comparisons and zooming and panning across details. Media Center Curator Jean Hudson describes the valuable addition of the Rembrandt prints:
The images in our database are constantly updated as better sources become available. For quality and veracity, nothing is as reliable as a photograph directly from the original object – and even with original photos, quality can be lost with every step from the object to our collection. Working directly with the original photographs from the etchings, we are able to give the viewer an experience almost as good as standing in front of the object. In fact the experience is enhanced by the ability to expand and display on a large screen close details of the prints, allowing a room full of students to take in at once the precision and variety of every line in an etching.
During the Fortnight of Rembrandt exhibition, the Mowers met with students and faculty from Art History to talk informally about their print collection and their ongoing search for Rembrandt etchings. The Mowers brought an assembly of prints by contemporaries and followers of Rembrandt, allowing close examination and comparison with the etchings featured in the show.
The exhibit provided an unmatched opportunity for students and the public to witness up close Rembrandt’s extraordinary handling of the etching medium, as well as to appreciate the extensive worlds he created in miniature in his prints. Now, thanks to these wonderful photos, we can recreate and even enhance that museum experience in today’s classroom through magnified details showing the evidence of Rembrandt’s hand, from the quick scribblings of his etching needle across the wax ground to the deep gashes of his drypoint needle into the copper plate.
Interested in accessing the MDID database for an FSU class or research? Contact the Art History Media Center Curator, Jean Hudson.
A Fortnight of Rembrandt: Selected Etchings from the Mower Collection was a project of the Mowers and Gary Ostrander, Florida State University Vice President for Sponsored Research. Dr. Ostrander and Drs Morton and Tobia Mower have collaborated on exhibitions at two other universities; the Mower collection of Rembrandts has continued to grow and is always joyously received. For more details about the exhibition, see the College of Fine Arts News.