Looking into the Wishing Well. By Matthew Gengler, Access Services and… | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Oct, 2022
By Matthew Gengler, Access Products and services and Reference Librarian
In a pivotal scene from The Child from Cleveland, actors George Brent and a young Russ Tamblyn stand about the Cleveland Museum of Art’s wishing well. Tamblyn, actively playing the kid, is invited to make a wish Johnny. The film, established in 1949, is a spouse and children melodrama that follows a youthful boy with a hard property lifestyle who is helped by his favourite baseball staff. While the movie may well not be worth viewing for the plot, the mid-century footage of the museum’s first galleries is a address. The scene with the wishing properly is even featured on the poster for the film. Then museum director William Milliken, a devoted baseball lover, would have enthusiastically approved filming in the galleries.
The serious star of the scene, the museum’s beloved pink limestone wishing effectively — currently set up in the Susan M. Kaesgen Schooling Gallery and Lobby — has a alternatively interesting history. Formally called a Well Head, the wishing properly initially arrived at the museum in 1929, possessing been sent by the vendor on instruction (and promise of payment) of the museum’s European consultant, Harold Woodbury Parsons. At the time, Parsons relished independence in collecting for the museum, and with enough motive. About his vocation doing the job as representative of the Cleveland Museum of Artwork, as perfectly as the then Nelson Museum in Kansas City, Parsons manufactured vital acquisitions that fashioned the CMA’s collection of European artwork. Between the treasures he obtained for the museum is The Holy Family members with the Toddler Saint John and Saint Margaret by Filippino Lippi, a masterpiece of Italian painting.
However, this time Parsons had overstepped his authority, a simple fact made community by Milliken in his autobiography, Born Below the Indication of Libra, in which he criticizes Parsons for becoming “more rash than vigilant.” Possibly Parsons could be forgiven for his blunder, contemplating the leeway supplied him by the museum. Elsewhere in the exact same volume, Milliken refers to him as “an indefatigable intermediary” and praises how a lot income he saves the museum via his deft acquisitions. However, in this minute, he misjudged his client’s interests and the wishing perfectly arrived, albeit unwelcome.
This did not avert its exhibition, nevertheless. The earliest pictures of the wishing very well from 1931 present it put in in the interior backyard courtroom of the museum. With its caged songbirds and unique vegetation, the setting furnished a room of peaceful repose for the weary museum customer to pause and replicate. The wishing perfectly assisted to total the illusion till the museum approached an vital milestone.
In anticipation of the museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in 1941, the director resolved that the effectively need to be employed for a silver coin collection to benefit museum acquisitions, calling it the Silver Jubilee Treasure Pool. The wishing very well was set up in the rotunda, wherever the marble statue of Terpsichore Lyran (the muse of lyric poetry) by Antonio Canova now stands (at the time, the Canova experienced not entered the selection, and resided at Exbury Residence in Hampshire, United kingdom, in the assortment of Lionel de Rothschild).
In his unpublished history of the selection, Milliken describes museum benefactor Elisabeth Severance Prentiss, a statuesque muse in her very own right, at the event as a “grand dame, with her splendor, heightened by her superb evening robe and her dazzling jewels, tossing silver bucks from throughout the Rotunda.” The treasure pool was a wonderful accomplishment with donations topping $4,000 in the jubilee year.
The 1st functions obtained for the assortment with donations from the perfectly were being Could Exhibit entries such as Harvest by Katherine Greuner Lange and Backward Look, a exceptional watercolor perform by John Paul Miller. This began a prolonged custom of making use of the Silver Jubilee Treasure Fund, renamed the Wishing Properly Fund in 1961, to receive objects by area artists. From 1944 to 1993, the museum bought virtually 200 objects with the fund, principally from the once-a-year Could Display. In several ways, donations to the Wishing Properly ended up donations to the artistic legacy of Cleveland.
Just after practically 14 several years of assistance to the establishment, the well head that Mr. Parsons delivered with no approval entered the selection, in 1943. This item carries on to keep the fascination of people who peer down into the depths, toss a coin, and make a want. Museum site visitors who have contributed their cash to the wishing effectively can justifiably level to the artwork in the galleries bearing the Silver Jubilee or Wishing Very well fund attribution and say that they experienced a part in earning the acquisition feasible.