WellesleyWeston Magazine

SPRING 2016

Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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thing. As he experimented, Reynolds would daub thin layers on top of thick. That resulted in the paintings drying unevenly and thus prone to deterioration. "His work is kind of terrifying to conservators," Whitner said. They "have their own Hippocratic oath: First, do no harm." Another potential pitfall with the Reynolds' is vanishing faces. In his early portraits, Straussman-Pflanzer noted, he mixed lead white with red lake pigments, which fade over time. Many of his early portraits now have a mask-like appearance. Fortunately, the Davis's Reynolds came out looking much as it proba- bly did wh en it first hung on the wall of an English estate. - - ✘ - - Another gem at the Davis is a 20-by-26 inch Dutch harbor scene jam packed with action: at least a dozen ships of various sizes; people on shore and at sea, working, gabbing, pic- nicking, and sleeping. The incredible detail is thanks to the likely medium: pen and brush with oil and ink on wood panel. The engrav- ing-like piece was created around 1650 by Willem van de Velde the Elder, considered the master of a subgenre of maritime art known as pen painting. "There are a few imi- tators of his style, but they don't even come close," Whitner said. To have a work by van de Velde hanging in your parlor was an ultimate status symbol for a 17th-century Dutch house- hold. Today, only about 70 of these pen paintings are known to exist. But what Whitner and Straussman-Pflanzer found in the storage racks was a yellowed image "in this sad and sorry little frame" with a big piece of blue tape covering a crack in the glass. Whitner's first reaction: "How are we going to get this cleaned?" A former colleague at the MFA agreed to take on the challenge. "They were able to do tech- nical analysis," she said. "It cleaned beautifully. " Like most of the 13,000 objects in the Davis collection, the van de Velde was donated to the museum. And that, too, is a story. Strafford Morss gave it in memory of his 23-year-old wife, Gabrielle Ladd Morss (Wellesley College, Class of '58), who died in a plane crash in 1960, just 18 months after their wedding. 97 s p r i n g 2 0 1 6 | W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e an D

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