2.The Frick Regularly Spoke Out about War-Time Destructions of Works of Art and Antiquities

Photograph by Michael Bodycomb, Courtesy of the Frick Collection, Frick Art Reference Library reading room, where mapping occurred to help the allies preserve cultural treasures in Europe during World War II.

Between the 13th and the 16th of August 1943, 65% of Milan’s historic monuments were severely damaged or demolished by Allied bombing, said Xavier Salomon in presenting Tiepolo’s lost frescoes, all of which were obliterated. The Frick’s spring 2019 exhibition was designed to bring back to life these extraordinary frescoes through reconstruction, using all the known drawings, three oil sketches, and black-and-white photographs done between 1897 and the 1930s, before the bombing. Only the oil sketches give a sense of the incredible color range used by Tiepolo. The Palazzo Archinto, entirely destroyed, held one of the great libraries as well as extensive art, decorative objects, and mosaics. At the time of the bombing, the Italian army had been destroyed and Mussolini forced to step down. Almost no military historian regards the bombing as militarily necessary or even productive. At the press preview, Salomon pointed out the destruction occurring today in Iran and Iraq.

Saving antiquities started with daughter Helen Clay Frick (1888–1984), whose “passionate and persistent efforts” in preserving and documenting art, wrote Schreiner, “made to wash the blood of Homestead from her father’s image.” If so, her achievements were impressive. A serious art historian, she recognized the importance of having good images to study art, and founded the Frick Art Reference Library to collect and document art. In part she was motivated by her experience first in World War I but later World War II, when so many works of art were lost. Regarded as one of the world’s finest libraries the Art Reference Library has a collection of some 228,000 titles and 3,300 periodicals, as well as hundreds of thousands of photographs and images. The Selldorf plan will, for the first time, provide direct access to the reference library from The Frick.

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One Response
  1. Simon DelMonte Reply

    Wouldn’t the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a group of conspirators who also tried to kill Seward and Johnson count as an act of terrorism? The word has almost lost all meaning, but surely any comparison between the attempt to kill Frick and the murder of Lincoln would place the two horrific events on the same level of combining politics and violence.

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