Whitemarsh Hall Urns
Eighty years ago, after E.T. Stotesbury’s death in 1938, his wife Eva donated a portion of the Whitemarsh Hall sculpture collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). The donation of 18th century French sculpture, included two large 9-1/2-ft. tall urns that were subsequently placed inside the West Entrance of the Museum.
As part of the upcoming renovation of the West Entrance, the PMA will be de-accessioning the urns and has offered them to the Springfield Township Historical Society. PMA is not selling the urns. The only stipulation is that PMA bear no cost for re-locating the urns. In partnership with Springfield Township, the urns will be moved to the new Springfield Township Municipal Campus on September 19, 2019.
Each of the urns is a composite of carved limestone and a cast cementitious material. The cast elements, including the top rims and bases, appear to be modern additions to earlier ornamental limestone sections. The decorative frieze of one urn depicts the Greek god Apollo (Figures 1 & 2), while the other urn shows marine deities (Figures 3 & 4).
It is possible the urns were produced in the workshop of Jules-Édouard Visseaux (1854-1934), whose work was introduced to the Stotesburys by English art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. Visseaux and his artisans operated out of a studio in the Saint-Ouen district on the northern outskirts of Paris, producing urns, statues and fountains of terra cotta, stone and lead.1
Fig. 1: Apollo urn
Fig. 2: Detail of Apollo urn
Fig. 3: Marine deity urn
Fig. 4: Detail of marine deity urn
While at Whitemarsh Hall, the urns were positioned at the southeast and southwest corners, respectively, of the Main Fountain (Figures 5-7). As shown if Fig. 7, the urns were used as planters.Springfield Township has already constructed a reinforced concrete foundation for each of the urns. The foundations are located on either side of the entrance to the Library on Hawthorne Lane.
Fig. 5: Aerial view of Whitemarsh Hall. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Township Historical Society.
Fig. 6: Photo looking south toward the Large Fountain of the Main Garden. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Township Historical Society.
There will need to be conservation of the urns. The scope of the conservation will include cleaning, consolidation, minor repairs, repointing, and conservation oversight of the de-installation, transport, and installation. Kreilick Conservation will donate all necessary conservation. Kreilick will also prepare a report documenting the effort. The report will include recommendations for subsequent maintenance.
After the urns are relocated, there will be on-going expenses including annual plantings, insurance, and maintenance. The urns will be protected during the winter months, as they were when originally displayed at Whitemarsh Hall.
Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to this effort.
You may obtain the official registration and financial information of the Springfield Township Historical Society from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999.
T. Scott Kreilick
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