Hoyt Sherman Place Unveils Otto van Veen's Discovered "Apollo and Venus"

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Hoyt Sherman Place Unveils Otto van Veen's Discovered "Apollo and Venus"

Des Moines' Earliest Old Master Painting

FLEMISH, ca. 1600

Height 49” x Width 37”

Oil on Wood


Hoyt Sherman Place
1501 Woodland Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309


March 21, 2018
Galleries open for Viewing at 5:00PM
Presentations 6:00PM
Unveiling/Reception 6:30 PM – 7:00PM
Free and Open to the Public

Contact: Mr. Robert Warren
Executive Director
515-244-0507 ext 1206

“Hoyt Sherman Place continues its 5-year Art Restoration Program”

In 2012, under the guidance and enthusiasm of then Executive Director Carol Pollock, the Hoyt Sherman Place Foundation established an “Adopt a Painting” conservation program to restore paintings acquired by the Des Moines Woman’s Club over the past 125 years. This program has continued under the current Executive Director Robert Warren.

To date, 53 paintings from the collection have been conserved by Chicago painting conservator Barry Bauman including works by Thomas Moran, George Inness, and Edwin Lord Weeks. This ongoing, highly successful, undertaking has now culminated in the conservation of Des Moines’ earliest Old Master painting, Otto van Veen’s discovered “Apollo and Venus” (Flemish, ca. 1600, unsigned).


On February 12, 2016, Executive Director Robert Warren was looking for some Civil War flags and a staff member mentioned there was some collection material stored in a little-used storeroom under the auditorium’s second-floor balcony. For Hoyt Sherman Place, this was to become their “King Tut” moment. While looking for the boxes, Robert noticed a painting wedged between a table and the room’s plaster and lathe wall. (Image 1) Robert had just discovered a 400-year-old early Baroque panel painting. The Old Master painting had been “lost in the shuffle” for decades.

The scene depicts the figures of Apollo and Venus accompanied by her son Cupid. Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Fertility, is portrayed as an artist painting a landscape that includes a small image of Pegasus on the horizon. Apollo, holding a lyre, is the Roman God of Music, Poetry, and more. Cupid is the Roman God of Desire, Affection, and Erotic Love. The painting also contains four still-lifes referencing Venus’ beauty and fertility: a collection of jewelry, a basket of fruit and flowers, a sprig of roses, and a bowl of oysters. A fifth still-life of her painting supplies occupies the lower right corner.

The painting was coated with layers of discolored varnish and former restoration work that flattened the three-dimensional quality of the scene and falsified the artist’s intended palette. Areas of former loss were present along splits in the wood and throughout scattered areas especially pronounced in the left third of the painting. The surface was heavily overpainted after a succession of former restoration attempts. (Image 2: Before Treatment)

Four months of work were required to return the painting to its pristine visual appearance. The cleaning of a painting requires the use of organic solvents to swell and remove discolored films without injury to the paint surface. A background in chemistry is required for these procedures. This work is carried out under binocular magnification. The cleaning of the “Apollo and Venuswas a delicate process due to the painting’s overall instability and scale (H. 49 inches x W. 37 inches). The cleaning results were spectacular. (Images 3 and 4: During Cleaning)

Loose areas of paint were reset into place. Former losses were then filled and carefully retouched to match the original to both value and hue. A final non-yellowing varnish completed the treatment. (Image 5: After Treatment/In the Studio. Images 6 and 7: After Treatment Details)

Otto van Veen
Otto van Veen, also known by his Latin name Otto Venius or Octavius Vaenius, was born in Leiden around 1556. In 1574, he traveled to Rome for further study. Around 1580, he returned north. In 1592, van Veen settled in Antwerp. His presence there is verified from commissions he received for church altarpieces. He also oversaw a productive and vibrant studio with numerous students. His most famous pupil was Peter Paul Rubens who trained with van Veen from 1594 to 1600. He finally left Antwerp in 1615 and moved to Brussels, where he remained until his death in 1629.

Robert Warren, Executive Director of Hoyt Sherman Place, will review the painting’s discovery and will discuss the painting’s underlying themes. The program will take place on March 21, 2018, at Hoyt Sherman Place at 6:00PM. A reception and unveiling will follow the presentations. The program is free and open to the public.

Robert Warren:
Robert Warren was hired as the new Executive Director at Hoyt Sherman Place in early October 2015. Warren had previously served as the Executive Director of Hartford Performs in Hartford, CT. His decorated career has also included positions such as Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota FL, Associate Producer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and Executive Producer for Creative Vision Entertainment Inc. in Washington, D.C.

Barry Bauman:
Barry Bauman (Conservator of Apollo and Venus) holds a Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of Chicago and served as associate conservator of paintings for the Art Institute of Chicago. He founded the Chicago Conservation Center in 1983 as a resource facility for the conservation of fine art. In 2004, he sold the company and established Barry Bauman Conservation, offering pro bono conservation services to museums and non-profit organizations. To date, he has treated over 1,500 paintings at no charge for 300 institutions throughout the United States including 53 for Hoyt Sherman Place. Barry Bauman is an Elected Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation.

Dr. Robert Baldwin:
Dr. Robert Baldwin (Research Consultant) has a Ph.D in Northern Renaissance and Baroque Painting from Harvard University. Dr. Baldwin has written over 200 essays and articles on western art that can be accessed on his website, socialhistoryofart.com. He is currently Associate Professor of Art History at Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut.

Click here for Images 1 and 2
Click here for Images 3, 4, and 5
Click here for Images 6 and 7

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