Date: Fri 07-May-1999

Date: Fri 07-May-1999

Publication: Ant

Author: JUDIR

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AA BOOK REVIEW: A Renaissance Treasury: The Flagg Collection of European

Decorative Arts and Sculpture by Laurie Winters in Collaboration with Joseph

R. Bliss. Essays by Charles Avery and Russell Bowman. Entries by Joseph R.

Bliss, Jody Clowes, Elizabeth Aurusoff de Ferandez-Gimenez, Annemarie Sawkins,

Jennifer Van Schmus, W. David Todd, Barry Wind and Laurie Winters. Hudson

Hills Press, 1999, 176 pages, $50 hardcover.

The Richard and Erna Flagg collection, formed over six decades and given and

loaned to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1991, is one of the most important

single donations of earlier European decorative arts to an American museum. It

includes unique and historically significant objects that provide insight into

the culture, religion, and history of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Although enormously varied in style and country of origin, these works are

united in their emphasis on virtuoso displays of craftsmanship, technical

innovation, intricate artistry and precious materials.

The Flaggs began to collect decorative arts in their native Germany, but much

of their original collection was lost due to the Second World War, which

forced them to flee to the United States. They eventually settled in

Milwaukee, rebuilt the family tanning business, and resumed their collecting


Highlights of this collection include domestic and liturgical masterpieces;

rare and visually stunning clocks; tablewares and vessels; cabinets with

exquisite inlays of ivory and precious stones, and larger furniture with

complex intarsia inlays and carved moldings; and intricately tooled metalwork.

Clocks from the nucleus of the Flagg collection the German Renaissance

examples are especially prized for their combined feats of mechanization and

surface embellishment. Among them are a Seventeenth Century tower clock by

Ludwig Hyrschottel that fulfills all of the Augsburg guild requirements for a

"masterpiece" clock; Sixteenth Century Italian and Swiss bracket clocks; and a

Seventeenth Century clock in the form of a dromedary.

Tablewares in the Flagg collection include a Limoges ewer by Pierre Reymond,

gilt and ivory tankards, a banqueting cup by Christoph Leipzig executed as his

official "masterpieces" for entry into a guild, and glasswares with gilded and

enameled ornamentation, among them the Nef Ewer, an extraordinarily rare

example of Sixteenth Century Venetian glassmaking.

Among the religious works in the Flagg collection are paintings, house altars,

a Limoges processional cross, a silver flamboyant-style Gothic monstrance,

ivory and gilt corpus figures, and a beautifully carved and polychromed

sculpture, "Saint George Slaying the Dragon."

A Renaissance Treasury was designed and produced with a visual opulence to

match the collection it celebrates. It catalogues 112 objects in all; of

these, 77 are reproduced, most in color, with authoritative commentary on

their formal, social and religious significance.

Highlights of The Flagg Collection of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

have been circulating on a national exhibition. Upcoming venues include the

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee; and the Canton Center for Visual Arts

at Stanford University.

Laurie Winters studied at the Universities of Toledo and Michigan (Ann Arbor)

and taught at Rhode Island College before becoming associate curator of

Earlier Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Charles Avery is an independent consultant in England, having worked

previously at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Christie's. His books include

Florentine Renaissance Sculpture, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture,

Bernini, Genius of the Baroque and Donatello: An Introduction.

Joseph R. Bliss now lives in Cleveland where he is an independent art


Russell Bowman is director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, having worked earlier

at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. His publications include Making

Marks: Drawings in the 20th Century from Picasso to Kiefer and Philip

Pearlstein: The Complete Paintings as well as many essays on folk art.