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The Art of Music: The Dayton C. Miller Collection

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Dayton C. Miller with 22k and 18k-gold flute which he made in 1902-1905, photograph, 1922. Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection, Miller family photographs, no. 66, Music Division, Library of Congress

The following is a guest post by Jan Lancaster, Music Division.

Works of art on paper invite contemplation. Drawings express an artist’s most immediate thoughts. They have a purity, an elegance. Every touch of the pencil, pen, or brush distills and crystallizes a moment in the artist’s thought process. Printmaking – the art of making an engraving, an etching, or a lithograph – requires more deliberation and a steady hand, though master printmakers can achieve the immediacy of a drawing.

Since I am an art historian, it gave me great pleasure to be asked to review a little-known collection of prints in the Dayton C. Miller Collection – a musical iconography collection of prints dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries.

I had worked with the renowned Miller flute collection since the fall of 2002 and, in my day-to-day work there, I had read much of Dr. Miller’s correspondence and I had become familiar with his various collections of instruments, books, art, music and photographs – all of which were related to flutes and flute-making. Dr. Miller had catalogued and published small books on his flutes and library, and the flutes have since been studied more thoroughly, images and catalogue records of which are available online.

Drei Flötenspieler (Three Flute Players) possibly by Andries Pauli, or Pauwels, le vieux, 17th century

Much of the collection had not been reviewed since its donation in 1941. Dr. Miller was a generous man, a natural teacher, who took time from his busy schedule as a professor of physics, inventor, amateur flutist and collector of all things related to the flute, to answer any and all queries sent to him regarding flutes. So, in researching the prints in Dr. Miller’s collection to present a selection of them online, it seemed in keeping with Dr. Miller’s own wishes to make his collections more widely available.

The Dayton C. Miller Musical Iconography Collection is an eclectic assortment of prints, the earliest being a Dürer in the late 15th century, the latest being popular magazine covers from the 20th century. Besides the Dürer, there are prints by other painter-printmakers such as Goltzius, Burgkmair, Hogarth and Gillray. The majority of prints in the collection, however, are “reproductive prints.” A reproductive print is an original engraving, etching or lithograph, but it “reproduces” a work by another artist, such Dorigny’s etching after a fresco by Raphael. Many of the names of the printmakers were not familiar to me but, as I studied the prints more closely, I found them very engaging and a source of never-ending fascination as I pored over the details of each print and learned more about the artists who made them. Many of the prints were beautifully executed, the images were charming, and I was filled with admiration for the skill that is required to make such art works as it is inherent in the printmaking process that the image be drawn in reverse on the plate.

Detail from <Boy with recorder> by Jean Ganière, engraver, ?-1666, published by Nicolas Langlois, 17th century

It would be hard to choose which prints in the collection were my favorites. As I studied each print and learned more about it, that print became my “favorite” for the moment, but this blog post is illustrated with a few of my most special “favorites.” Other favorites include L’Ouie (Hearing) by Georg Balthasar Probst, 18th century Der reisende Virtuos und mein Pudel Fulcan (The traveling virtuoso and my poodle, Vulcan), probably by Joseph Bergler, the younger, 1807, and Musique (Music) by Louis Eugène, or Eugène Louis, Pirodon, after a painting by Emmanuel Noterman or Zacharias Noterman, 19th century.


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