Looking into the Wishing Well. By Matthew Gengler, Access Services and… | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Oct, 2022
By Matthew Gengler, Entry Providers and Reference Librarian
In a pivotal scene from The Kid from Cleveland, actors George Brent and a youthful Russ Tamblyn stand over the Cleveland Museum of Art’s wishing very well. Tamblyn, playing the child, is invited to make a want Johnny. The movie, set in 1949, is a spouse and children melodrama that follows a younger boy with a complicated dwelling daily life who is helped by his most loved baseball team. Whilst the film may well not be really worth viewing for the plot, the mid-century footage of the museum’s first galleries is a handle. The scene with the wishing very well is even highlighted on the poster for the motion picture. Then museum director William Milliken, a devoted baseball enthusiast, would have enthusiastically approved filming in the galleries.
The true star of the scene, the museum’s beloved pink limestone wishing very well — now put in in the Susan M. Kaesgen Instruction Gallery and Foyer — has a rather exciting background. Formally named a Nicely Head, the wishing effectively very first arrived at the museum in 1929, possessing been sent by the dealer on instruction (and assure of payment) of the museum’s European agent, Harold Woodbury Parsons. At the time, Parsons enjoyed independence in accumulating for the museum, and with enough rationale. Around his career working as consultant of the Cleveland Museum of Art, as very well as the then Nelson Museum in Kansas Metropolis, Parsons produced critical acquisitions that formed the CMA’s assortment of European art. Amongst the treasures he acquired for the museum is The Holy Family with the Toddler Saint John and Saint Margaret by Filippino Lippi, a masterpiece of Italian portray.
Sadly, this time Parsons experienced overstepped his authority, a fact designed public by Milliken in his autobiography, Born Below the Indication of Libra, in which he criticizes Parsons for staying “more rash than vigilant.” Possibly Parsons could be forgiven for his oversight, considering the leeway offered him by the museum. Elsewhere in the very same quantity, Milliken refers to him as “an indefatigable intermediary” and praises how a great deal revenue he will save the museum by his deft acquisitions. However, in this minute, he misjudged his client’s passions and the wishing properly arrived, albeit unwelcome.
This didn’t avert its exhibition, on the other hand. The earliest pictures of the wishing perfectly from 1931 present it mounted in the interior backyard garden courtroom of the museum. With its caged songbirds and exotic vegetation, the location provided a space of silent repose for the tired museum visitor to pause and mirror. The wishing properly served to full the illusion until eventually the museum approached an significant milestone.
In anticipation of the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in 1941, the director resolved that the nicely should be applied for a silver coin selection to profit museum acquisitions, contacting it the Silver Jubilee Treasure Pool. The wishing nicely was set up in the rotunda, in which the marble statue of Terpsichore Lyran (the muse of lyric poetry) by Antonio Canova now stands (at the time, the Canova had not entered the selection, and resided at Exbury Dwelling in Hampshire, Uk, in the assortment of Lionel de Rothschild).
In his unpublished historical past of the assortment, Milliken describes museum benefactor Elisabeth Severance Prentiss, a statuesque muse in her own ideal, at the event as a “grand dame, with her natural beauty, heightened by her superb evening robe and her stunning jewels, tossing silver bucks from across the Rotunda.” The treasure pool was a fantastic success with donations topping $4,000 in the jubilee yr.
The initially operates acquired for the assortment with donations from the properly ended up Might Show entries which include Harvest by Katherine Greuner Lange and Backward Look, a uncommon watercolor work by John Paul Miller. This commenced a lengthy custom of applying the Silver Jubilee Treasure Fund, renamed the Wishing Properly Fund in 1961, to acquire objects by neighborhood artists. From 1944 to 1993, the museum purchased virtually 200 objects with the fund, mainly from the yearly May Display. In quite a few techniques, donations to the Wishing Properly were donations to the inventive legacy of Cleveland.
Immediately after practically 14 yrs of support to the establishment, the nicely head that Mr. Parsons delivered with no approval entered the collection, in 1943. This item continues to maintain the fascination of guests who peer down into the depths, toss a coin, and make a desire. Museum readers who have contributed their coins to the wishing well can justifiably stage to the artwork in the galleries bearing the Silver Jubilee or Wishing Nicely fund attribution and say that they experienced a section in generating the acquisition attainable.