Published: July 27, 2021
PHILADELPHIA – Ella Schaap died at the age of 108 on July 10, in her Newtown, Penn., home. She had been a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was considered an expert in Dutch ceramics.
One of two daughters born to Martin and Frederika Sanders, Ella attended Barnard College as an exchange student; during her time in New York City, she met Dutch tobacco merchant Dolf Schaap, who she married in 1934 and with whom she had three daughters.
After the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the family moved to Indonesia but with the advent of World War II in the Pacific, they moved again, to San Francisco and then to the Philadelphia area.
Her relationship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art began in the 1950s, when she started to volunteer there, serving in a variety of capacities. When the museum acquired the Delft tile collection of Francis P. Garvan, her Dutch language skills and knowledge of Dutch history were used to help catalog them.
She was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in 2007 for her work in Dutch culture, which included three published books, numerous articles and several museum exhibitions. She and her husband collected contemporary American and European art, some of which were later donated to museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.
Avid sailors, the Schaaps sailed on the Chesapeake Bay and Schaap continued to skipper alone after Dolf died in 1985.
She is survived by her daughters, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and other relatives. The family has not planned any memorial or service.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Art Museum of Philadelphia’s Dutch ceramic collections at Philadelphia Museum of Art Development, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646 or online at https://philamuseum.org/?keyword=InMemoryOf. Specify you want your gift to benefit the ceramics collection.
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