Biography of a Glass
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Elie van Rijckevorsel
Elie van Rijckevorsel (1845-1928) was the last descendant of a Rotterdam trading family. He was the youngest and only surviving child from a family with four children, he chose, against the wishes of his influential grandfather Abram van Rijckevorsel, a career as scientist, obtained his doctorate in Utrecht under the guidance of Professor Buys Ballot obtained an honorary degree from the famous Lord Kelvin at the University of Glasgow and travelled the world. The ethnographic objects he brought home with him form the historical basis for the collection of what is now the World Museum. The gift of his collection of antique glass and porcelain in 1910 formed the basis of the arts and crafts department of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Elie donated a substantial sum to the city for the construction of the Municipal Library in 1911 and in the same year he founded the Erasmus Foundation. In this way, he could deploy his fortune, even after his death, for the development of education, art and science in Rotterdam. Elie’s life story was told in full in an episode of the RTV Rijnmond series Rotterdammers of significance. The studio portrait showing Elie toasting himself with a glass of red wine was made around 1875 and is kept in the Rotterdam Municipal Archives.
Elie van Rijckevorsel owned a coach-house on the Westmaaslaan. He built a pavilion adjacent to the coach-house, using material from the Rustplaets estate that was demolished in 1877 where he put his collection of glass and china, paintings and several exceptional pieces of furniture on display. Elie also used the art room as a studio and experimented with painting and decorative techniques. He painted a number of tile tableaux which were fired in Delft and are still found on the wall of his house at Parklaan 3. He also sometimes opened the art room to the public.
In addition to this goblet, Elie van Rijckevorsel also donated around 150 other antique glasses and more than 200 items of Eastern china to the former Museum Boymans. Part of the glass collection is illustrated in the annual report of 1910. In that same year, shortly after the gift, the first permanent display of old arts and crafts was set up in Boymans. The museum was at the time still located in the Schielandshuis, now Museum Rotterdam.
Glass washing project
In 2011, the Collection & Research department of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen cleaned all the glass objects in the collection and inspected them for imperfections and for any possible threat of the dreaded glass disease. This glass disease is caused by the chemical composition of the glass, in combination with a fluctuating humidity. In glass, there is sometimes a lack of calcium oxide, which means that salts in the glass remain somewhat soluble in water. If the surroundings become moister, the salts hydrate, after which they attach themselves in and to the glass. A network of haircracks not only makes the glass less transparent, but also sets in motion a process of pulverization called ‘çrizzling’ that is irreversible. Finally, the glass collapses under its own weight. The glass that stars in this video clip is protected from the glass disease because the English glass-blowers added a little lead oxide to the glass mixture.
This video clip was made for the exhibition entitled Dr. Elie van Rijckevorsel - a collection of collections, with which Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Erasmus foundation. The Maritime Museum is celebrating with a presentation about scientific journeys, using Van Rijckevorsel’s trips to Indonesia as an example. Museum Rotterdam shows Van Rijckevorsel as an example of the Rotterdam upper class in the nineteenth century. The World Museum is expanding the permanent exhibition with several important works from the collections of Van Rijckevorsel and the Natural History Museum On the occasion of the 100th anniversary, the Erasmus Foundation will also be publishing a richly illustrated anniversary book with the title ‘Who embraces too much keeps hold of little. Elie van Rijckevorsel 1845-1928’, edited by Paul van de Laar (Head of the Collection, Historical Museum), Alexandra Gaba-van Dongen (curator pre-industrial design Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) and Linda Hanssen (curator Textile World museum). The book is on sale in the Museum shop (14.50, 312 pages.)
A new museum building
Museum Boymans came into being in the nineteenth century thanks to a bequest from Frans Jacob Otto Boymans, a lawyer practising in Utrecht, to the municipality of Rotterdam and was located in the Schielandshuis. But under the directorship of Dirk Hannema (1921-1945) a new museum building was conceived and built. Architect van der Steur and director Hannema discovered by trial and error the ideal incidence of light and decided that the museum’s garden room would be a place of peace and quiet. After the Second World War, the museum started collecting modern and contemporary art. The Van der Steur building soon proved too small. In 1964, the Hungarian-Dutch architect Alexander Bodon designed a two stage expansion plan. The first stage was completed in 1972; the second stage was never implemented. Instead, in 1992 Bodon designed a book shop on the street side of his wing and a year later, Hubert-Jan Henket designed a pavilion for arts and crafts at the rear of the museum. In 2003, the Belgian architect duo Robbrecht en Daem designed a new wing on the Westersingel which enclosed in a U shape the Bodon wing. The Henket pavilion became the restaurant. In 2010 a start was made on restoring the Van der Steur building.
- Composer 02:45
I’m made of glass.
I was born around 1725 in England and then brought to the Netherlands, where I was engraved with a rapidly rotating copper wheel. My engraving shows a coat of arms and two monograms in calligraphy, HMAH and FHR. What do those letters stand for? For the man and woman at whose marriage I once starred? Or am I a testimonial to some other joyful event? Perhaps on that occasion, many people drank from me! But unfortunately I have forgotten that and my memory deserts me about the events after the great party.
At the end of the nineteenth century, when I was more than 150 years old, I came into the possession of a rich Rotterdammer: Elie van Rijckevorsel. He was crazy about me and allowed me to shine among the other special pieces from his collection, on display in his private art room.
In 1910, Elie donated me to Museum Boymans because he felt that more people should be able to look at me, and from that moment on, I had my own inventory number: 604 KN&V. Here I am cherished, inspected, washed, protected and admired in all sorts of different exhibitions.
And now you are looking at me: nice to meet you!
Made by Kuba Szutkowski, based on an idea by Alexandra van Dongen.
Editorial: Els Hoek.
Music by Harm Goslink-Kuiper.
With thanks to: Marieke van der Krabben.