Between Boston and Florence, the Circulation of People and Pictures: Amasa Hewins (1795-1855) Paints the Galleria degli Uffizi
Interior of the Tribuna is a jewel-toned painting, which delineates in careful detail a large octagonal gallery filled with marble sculptures and paintings hung “salon-style” against a red wall. This painting is a carefully rendered representation of mid-nineteenth century museum going and depicts the famed Tribuna Gallery in the Uffizi Museum in Florence, Italy. Executed by Amasa Hewins, a Boston painter, fine art importer, and United States Commercial Agent to Florence, during his residence in the city, the painting is one of his last known works and arrived in Boston in 1854 in the final export shipment that he sent before he died.
However, it can also be utilized as an entry point to consider the theme of circulation. From the ante-bellum American artists who lived and worked between Italy and the United States, to the ways in which they related to, adopted from, and assimilated Italian arts and culture, to the taste for Italian-inspired and European works in the United States, a careful consideration of this painting allows us to think about the trans-Atlantic circulation of aesthetic taste, artistic style, and individuals, while also attending to the physical circulation of art objects via their import and export. Indeed, exportation records reveal that Hewins shipped over 2,600 artworks to the Boston area, including those by Raphael, Titian, Correggio, and Rembrandt. How did this painting, done by his hand, fit within his larger interests as a dealer in old masters and what might it illuminate about other Americans, either artists working abroad or individuals collecting art in Boston?
Naomi Slipp holds a Ph.D. in art history from Boston University and an M.A.
from the University of Chicago. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Art History at Auburn University at Montgomery, AL, where she teaches Western art history courses, ranging from the 1500s to today, and manages a Museum Studies program and the University gallery. She has published in Sculpture Journal, Athanor, Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, and Nineteenth Century Studies Forum, contributed to catalogues for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Harvard Art Museums. In addition, she has two essays forthcoming; the first is on the surgical daguerreotypes of the Boston-based photographic firm Southworth and Hawes, while the second explores the birth of marine fisheries science, wildlife conservation, and the Presidential China of Rutherford B. Hayes.
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