Education and Learning

Wallace Connections

Education and Learning

Education and Learning

This month, in honour of National Childrens' Day UK, we dedicate #WallaceConnections to stories behind artistic education and the transmission of knowledge. #NCDUK2021

Family workshops (I)

Many great Renaissance armourers belonged to families dedicated for generations to their art. Masters of the craft grew up with it, helping their parents in the workshop as children, learning to work metal alongside their brothers, uncles and cousins. One such family, the Helmschmids, worked in the German city of Augsburg for over 100 years. Kolman Helmschmid was born in 1471, by which time his family was already famous. He was made Master at the age of twenty and became the head of the workshop after the death of his father Lorenz in 1515. Slightly later, he was made court armourer to the Emperor Charles V. The Wallace Collection includes several works by Kolman, as well as pieces made under him, possibly by his brothers Timotheus and Briccius. Interestingly their sister, Anna Helmschmid, was married to the Germain painter and woodcut printmaker Hans Burgkmair the Elder.

Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour

A detail of parts of a field armour
Parts of an armour, attributed to Kolman Helmschmid, with etching attributed to Daniel Hopfer, Augsburg, Germany, c. 1525–30 (A30).

Family workshops (II)

Italian Renaissance tin-glazed and painted earthenware (maiolica) was produced in workshops that were often family-run and passed from one generation to the next. They ranged from tiny businesses to large enterprises with numerous specialist workers. The potters relied on word of mouth and practical experience for the transmission of knowledge, which might be passed down confidentially from father to son. Families who ran different workshops might be related, such as the Fontana and Patanazzi families from Urbino. Some sixteenth-century family workshops gained renown for their products, such as the lustre of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli’s workshop in Gubbio in Umbria, or the characterful drug jars from the Pompei family workshop in Castello in the Abruzzi. Maestro Giorgio Andreoli's signature appears at the back of this magnificent dish.

Suzanne Higgott, Curator of Glass, Limoges Painted Enamels, Earthenwares and Renaissance Furniture

A ceramic dish
Dish with Women Bathing, workshop of Maestro Giorgio Andreoli, central scene by Francesco Xanto and border probably by Francesco Urbini, Gubbio, Italy, 6 April 1525 (C66).

The French Royal Academy (Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture)

Founded in 1648 as a way to escape the oppressive guild system, in operation since the Middle Ages, the French Royal Academy (Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture) taught its students the principles of drawing and painting through the study of Anatomy, Optics and Perspective. The Academy emphasised the importance of learning from the great classical artists of the past. Painters capable of depicting scenes from ancient history, mythology, or religion were considered most prestigious. Those who worked in other genres such as portrait, still life and landscape were less valued.

François Lemoyne, who specialised in religious and allegorical painting, greatly benefited from being a full member of the Academy in 1718. He received prestigious commissions and became First Painter to the King Louis XV in 1736. In Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, painted the following year, Lemoyne displays acute understanding of human anatomy, a cornerstone of Academic teaching.

Félix Zorzo, Curatorial Assistant

A painting of Time saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy
François Lemoyne, Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy, 1737 (P392).

Pupil and teacher become equals

Born in Paris in 1775, Constance Mayer is a rare example of a successful painter who was not born into the profession. Thanks to her talent, she earned a place in the studios of some of the leading painters of the day, including Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Jacques-Louis David. In 1802, she began to work with Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, nominally as his pupil although the ‘student-teacher’ relationship quickly evolved into one of equals. Two artists worked closely on shared projects such as The Happy Mother, a painting by Mayer now in the Louvre with which Prud’hon assisted with preparatory drawings and sketches, an oil sketch (P313) in the Wallace Collection.

A painting of a woman and child
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, The Happy Mother, c. 1810 (P313).

The fact that Mayer was associated with several prestigious artist studios surely helped her visibility in her own time. She was a regular and much-praised participant in the public Salon exhibitions and garnered prestigious commissions from the likes of the Empress Joséphine herself. Ironically, Mayer’s subsequent critical fortune has suffered from this close association with several famous men. More often than not, she now falls in their shadow. It is thus a pleasure to feature her work and acknowledge her distinguished career.

Dr Yuriko Jackall, Head of Curatorial and Curator of French Paintings

A painting of a mother and child
Constance Mayer, The Happy Mother, c. 1810. Musée du Louvre, Paris (INV 6584).

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