Friday, April 23, 2010

Collection of... Lady Penelope (Putiputi) Simcock

The Museum of True History is currently undertaking a Residency in the thermal climes of Rotorua. Staff have relocated for a two month period to research and recreate elements of the collections of Lady Putiputi in the hope that the process may shed some light on this fascinating woman.

Lady (Putiputi) Penelope Simcock was a collector of ephemera and items related to New Zealand Tourism, and in particular she was interested in representations of Maori for European audiences.

Very little reference to Lady Putiputi (as she was known) remains. A small notebook discovered in 1987 contained a detailed inventory of her collections. Included in the listings were large collections of photographs, footage and artefacts from New Zealand cinema, including rare rehersal footage of the seminal dance scene from the British produced movie The Seekers, which was filmed in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Also among her collections were a number of rare artefacts, Maori and European, which were made specifically for the tourist market and featured westernised representations of Maori imagery and subject matter. Unfortunately following the uncovering of the notebook it was also dicovered that Lady Putiputi’s descendant who had inherited the bulk of the collections had donated much of it to opportunity shops unaware of its intrinsic value as a snapshot of New Zealand cultural history. In later years the notebook was also lost. What has grown in its place is a mythology surrounding the content of the collection which may well have been one of the most valuable collections of its kind in the world.

These collections will be on display in Rotorua on the following dates:

Model Pa (Marquettes and Drawings)
Rotorua Arts Village - Te Whare Toi
May 24 - June 7, 2010

Road to Kariri
Waiariki Institute of Technology (I Block Atrium)
May 29 - June 25
Opening May 28, 6pm

Traditional Paint Whare, 2010 (Courtesy of MOTH)

Sulphur Whare, 2010 (Courtesy of MOTH)

Image top: Soda Whare, 2010 (Courtesy of MOTH)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Collection of... Baroness Lucia Bianci

MOTH is very excited by the potential for this project. The staff have worked hard to recreate portions of the Baroness' collections for exhibition at: Taketake Gallery, Whakatane (February - March 2010) and St Pauls St Galleries - Gallery 3, Auckland (April 2010) as part of St Paul St summer sculpture season.

Audience feedback has been encouraging with MOTH being featured in Artnews (Autumn 2010) and on the cover of Artzone (Autumn 2010). The collection has now gone to a number of private collectors but we will endeavour to keep track of the provenance of each individual artefact for future projects.

Veneziano - Selvaggi Corte, 2010 (Courtesy of Private Collections and MOTH)

Veneziano - Selvaggi Corte, 2010 (Courtesy of Private Collections and MOTH)

Veneziano - Selvaggi Corte, 2010 (Courtesy of Private Collections and MOTH)

Veneziano - Selvaggi Corte, 2010 (Courtesy of Private Collections and MOTH)

Veneziano - Selvaggi Corte, 2010 (Courtesy of Private Collections and MOTH)

The Baroness Lucia Bianci was born Lucy White sometime in the 1730’s to an English family of meagre holdings. Little else is known about the Baroness’ early years until she appears in official government records as the wife of Joseph Smith the British Consul to Venice, Italy from 1750.

After many years living an affluent lifestyle among the noble class of Venetian society, Mrs Smith was widowed following her husbands tragic death in a fire while on a business trip.

However, never shy of wealthy suitors the widow Smith soon remarried an elderly Italian Baron by the name of Emiliano Scarpa. This union was also destined to be short lived as the Baron died within one year of the nuptials taking place.

Now independently wealthy, the Baroness Lucia Bianci returned to her maiden name and swore off married life. During her years in Italy the Baroness had developed an interest in all things exotic, particularly the tales, images and objects discovered during the recent voyagers of Captain James Cook to the South Pacific. In imitation of many of her contemporary Venetian compatriots the Baroness began commissioning fanciful models and sculptures which brought together a bizarre concoction of Venetian, English and New Zealand Maori forms and iconography.

Little information remains of this collection save a few descriptive passages in a British travellers diary of the day and a single floorplan and elevation held in a private collection in Wales with the inscription ‘Veneziano-Selvaggi Corte – Signorina Bianci’ dated 1790.

The Museum of True History has taken on the daunting task of reconstructing aspects of this intrigueing catalogue including the centrepiece of the Baroness’ collection known as the Veneziano-Selvaggi Corte or Quarter of the Venetian Savage.

Also as part of the collection our talented artists have recreated some cartoons the Baroness commissioned as part of the internal decorative schema of the Quarter

Cartoons for fresco, 2010 (Courtesy of Regnault Collection)

Cartoons for fresco, 2010 (Courtesy of McKinnon Collection)

Cartoons for fresco, 2010 (Courtesy of MOTH)

Cartoons for fresco, 2010 (Courtesy of Scott/Rangi Collection)