Tag Archives: Oliver Wendell Holmes

What a low blow: Justice Lowy clears contested Berkshire Museum art for auction

Justice Lowy’s JUDGEMENT was released April 5, 2018. The Museum may sell Shuffleton’s Barbershop, and — via Sotheby’s– the remaining 39 works free of any restrictions.

“The museum has satisfied its burden of establishing that is has become impossible or impracticable to administer the Museum strictly in accordance with its chartiable purpose, thus entitling the Museum to relief under the doctrine of equitable deviation. Accordingly the court allows the Museum’s request for equitable relief to sell the designated artwork.”



page 1 MEMO OF UNDERSTANDING Justice Lowy Berkshire Museum and AGO April 5 2018

Reaction from Sotheby’s Auction House:

“We are very pleased that the court approved the agreement reached between the Berkshire Museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General. We look forward to working with the museum to ensure a bright future for the people of Pittsfield and Western Massachusetts.” Judge Lowy’s decision came in just in time to meet the auction’s press deadline clearing for art sales this spring, else sales would have been pushed back till the fall at the earliest. The catalogue pages are ready from last fall’s prep.

Reaction from Elizabeth McGraw, President, Berkshire Museum Board of Trustees:

“This is great news for the people of Berkshire County and everyone who visits the Berkshire Museum for one-of-a-kind experiences in history, art, and science. We recognize this decision may not please those who have opposed the museum’s plans. Still, we hope people will be able to move forward in a constructive way to help us secure and strengthen the future of this museum, at a time when our community needs it more than ever. “

Reaction from Save the Art – Save the Museum (STA-STM)

“Save the Art-Save the Museum continues to oppose the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s art treasures and its unrestricted use of the resulting funds. We also regret the judge’s disregard of the public trust in which the museum held its collections. The impending sale will not only diminish Pittsfield as a city claiming to be of cultural import to Berkshire County, but will reverberate destructively for years through collections similarly held in trust throughout the state and country. As a group, we will make a more detailed statement after meeting in person to consider the loss to our community and its impact.”

Patiner flight into egypt featured in 1953 article celebrating Berkshire Museum 50th celebration


Have a look back at an inspiring 1965 Berkshire Eagle profile about Berkshire Museum Director Stuart C. Henry, and an earlier feature from the Berkshire Evening Eagle, published Thursday, Aug. 20, 1953, heralding the Berkshire Museum’s 50th anniversary. Both convey the museum’s seamless blend of high art, science, community and education.

I wonder what happened to the marble swans over the Berkshire Museum elliptical pool designed by A. Sterling Calder, father of the sculptor, Alexander Calder, and resident of Richmond, Massachusetts, less than 20 minutes away from Pittsfield?  Read more

E Conchis Omnia ~ Everything from Shells

Paul Frontiero’s post on Saturday, Going Back from Whence We Came, reminded me of the genius of Erasmus Darwin. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is credited with developing the theory of evolution however, it was his grandfather Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) who first planted the seed of the idea in the Darwin household.

e-darwin-bookplate-with-mottoErasmus Darwin Bookplate

Erasmus changed the motto of the family crest to “e conchis omnia, which translates to “everything from shells,” reflecting his belief that all life descended from one simple form, a concept he put forward in his Zoonomia (1794):

“Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions, and associations; and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!” 

Unfortunately, Erasmus was immediately vilified by local clergy and Zoonomia was deemed blasphemous to God. In order not to be stripped of his medical license and lose his livelihood, he painted over the motto on the family carriage. Nonetheless he did leave the motto on his bookplate during his lifetime, as did his son, Robert Darwin (1776-1848), the father of Charles Darwin.

When you think about it, the bookplate during that period would have been much like the home page of a website. Information and ideas were primarily gained through books and books were shared by friends and family members. Bookplates were beautifully and thoughtfully designed to reflect the owner’s taste, and often included the family’s crest, coat of arms, ships, landscapes, scientific and musical instruments, trees, flowers, animals, birds, and much, much more. Today, bookplates are highly collectible and some of the most sought after were designed by well-known artists of their day.

rockwellkentBookplate Designed by Rockwell Kent

Quote from Paul’s post: “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”  –John F. Kennedy


 Bookplate of Oliver Wendell Holmes, with the words underneath the chambered nautilus shell “per ampliora ad altiora,” which translates as “through breadth to depth.”

The Chambered Nautilus

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Continue reading Holmes’s poem The Chambered Nautilus here ~

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