Avid exhibition-goers may have recently traveled back to ancient Egypt at the Peabody Museum, encountered Renaissance painter Francesco Vanni at the Yale Art Gallery, or felt the “Power of Pictures” at the Beinecke Library. But did you know you could also dance with Lady Emma Hamilton, discover the secrets of alchemy, or spend time in the street markets of Hong Kong?
This fall, Yale has an abundance of exhibitions that draw from special collections beyond the better-known museums.
One great advantage of these smaller shows is they are housed in buildings that are open on Mondays (when most museums are closed) and often into the evening hours for those with a Yale ID, making it possible to visit after work. All of the shows highlighted below are free and open to the public.
Legacy of Yale’s first university printer
The art of book design and printing is the subject of an exhibition at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. On view through Dec. 6, “Withal the Craft: The Life and Work of Carl Purington Rollins” surveys the career of Yale’s first university printer. Rollins designed more than 2,000 books for Yale University Press over the course of four decades. He was also responsible for producing most of Yale’s ephemeral materials and introduced the craft letterpress tradition to students with his Bibliographical Press (now, as originally, housed in Sterling Memorial Library).
Despite having received the highest distinction in his field — the American Institute of Graphic Arts medal — Rollins is virtually unknown today, say the organizers of the display. The exhibition explores his days as printer for a utopian community in Massachusetts to his later work for Yale and numerous academic and graphic societies. It also traces the influence of William Morris on Rollins’ early work and explores how his approach to design continues to influence the university’s visual identity and the teaching of design.
The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library is located inside the Loria Center at 190 York St. The exhibit area, in the lower level of the library, is open Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
Medicine and magic
Publications of a different sort are on display in “Books of Secrets: Alchemy, Medicine and Magic” at the Cushing and Whitney Medical Library. Open through Jan. 17, this exhibition highlights works from the 16th to the 19th centuries that divulged medicinal, alchemical, artisanal, and other kinds of “secrets” of nature and the arts. “Books of Secrets” were cheap publications, mostly recipes or how-to manuals, which were widely popular. According to the organizers of the exhibition, their authors achieved a remarkable level of authority among the reading public and, in some cases, revealed as much about nature and its hidden ways of operating as their better-known contemporaries, Francis Bacon and René Descartes.
“Books of Secrets” was curated by students in Paolo Bertucci’s undergraduate seminar, “Spies, Secrets and Science.” The Cushing and Whitney Medical Library, located at 333 Cedar St., is open Monday–Thursday 8 a.m.–midnight; Friday 8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; and Sunday 9:30 a.m.–midnight.
Verdi’s 200th birthday
Music lovers will want to visit Yale’s Gilmore Music Library, now celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of famed composer Giuseppe Verdi, known for his many operas, including “Rigoletto” (1851) and “Aida” (1871). “Verdi and His Singers,” open through Feb. 28, features letters in Verdi’s hand, a caricature of Verdi by Enrico Caruso, a Verdi score annotated by Robert Shaw, several photographs, and a variety of other materials, including a program of his most notable sacred work, the “Requiem,” performed in Yale's Woolsey Hall in 1905. Many of the items are associated with Victor Maurel, a baritone who sang major roles in the premieres of “Otello” and “Falstaff,” and whose papers are now in Yale’s collection.
When classes are in session, the exhibition is open to the public Monday–Thursday 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m.–4:45 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.–4:45 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m. For holiday and recess hours, please visit the website.
If you happen to be near Farmington in the coming months, stop by The Lewis Walpole Library (LWL) for “Emma Hamilton Dancing,” on view through April 4.
One of Yale’s lesser-known holdings, the LWL comprises several 18th century buildings on a 14-acre campus. It is home to a research center for 18th -century studies, and the collections include British prints, drawings, manuscripts, rare books, paintings, and decorative arts, as well as a growing collection of sources for the study of New England Native Americans.
The current exhibition centers around a set of neoclassical images of dancing and expressive postures, known as “Attitudes,” performed by Emma Hamilton, who may best be remembered as Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s lover. In 1794, Thomas Piroli engraved and published the images of Hamilton after drawings by Frederick Rehberg.
The exhibition also features depictions of the tarantella, waltz, minuet, cotillion, and quadrille, as well as prints of ballet dancing in the age of the “ballet d’action,” and texts on the theory and practice of dancing.
Of special note is an edition of “Attitudes” by noted satirist James Gillray. In 1807, following the death of Hamilton’s husband and Nelson, Gillray ran another edition in which Hamilton’s figure was dramatically enlarged. The exhibition displays the original Piroli works and Gillray’s parody side-by-side for the first time.
The Lewis Walpole Library gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays 2–4:30 p.m, and by appointment (860-677-2140).
Hong Kong street scenes
Another campus exhibition takes you on a virtual journey to China. The Yale-China Association is presenting “Michael Sloan: Paintings of Hong Kong Street Markets” through June 30. Sloan, an acclaimed illustrator and New Haven resident, spent a year in Hong Kong exploring the metropolis. The exhibition features 18 paintings depicting people, street markets, and scenes of social crossroads.
In a video produced by the Yale-China association, Sloan notes that during his year in China, “I was able to develop some intimacy with the city and really got to know the neighborhoods. I was very attracted to areas like Tai Po and Fa Yuen, where there are thriving street markets, with lots of crowds, chaos, smells, and signs — a carnivalesque atmosphere.”
The exhibition will be on view in the Bierwirth Room at 442 Temple St., Monday–Friday 2–4 p.m. Yale-China recommend calling prior to visiting, as the space is sometimes closed for private events.
For information on all of Yale’s exhibitions and installations, visit calendar.yale.edu and select “Exhibitions” from the menu on the left.