Published: October 21, 2008
Winterthur Museum & Country Estate recently acquired a rare and exceptional four-part fraktur that is considered to be one of the finest examples of the colorful Pennsylvania German folk art form.
The four-part set of a “metamorphosis” fraktur (metamorphosis means the paper on which it is painted has been folded into thirds so that lifting or closing one of the flaps changes the overall image) is one of only three known examples in existence, and is particularly important because it is the only one that is signed by the artist.
Fraktur are brightly-decorated paper documents associated with the Pennsylvania Germans and other Germanic communities in America, and were largely created between the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.
The fraktur set was acquired at an auction conducted on September 26 at Pook and Pook Auctioneers, Downingtown, Penn. Winterthur’s successful bid of $75,000 was supported through the museum’s collections fund. Gifts and bequests from donors, as well as dues from the museum’s Collectors Circle membership group, are used to provide funding for acquisition of objects that further enhance Winterthur’s collections.
The metamorphosis form is “exceptionally rare in fraktur” according to Lisa Minardi, Winterthur’s assistant curator of furniture and a specialist in Pennsylvania German decorative arts, “Not only does the metamorphosis form speak strongly to Pennsylvania German religious and educational values, this piece is especially significant because it is signed and dated by the artist, Durs Rudy,” she noted.
Both Durs Rudy Sr (1766‱843) and Durs Rudy Jr (1789‱850) are believed to have made fraktur; either father or son could have made this piece. The family immigrated in 1803 to America and by 1806 had settled in Lehigh County, where it is believed this fraktur was made.
The set of fraktur acquired by Winterthur is comprised of four individual elements, which together form a complete set. The first page in the series begins with a view of Adam, then by lifting the top flap he is transformed into Eve picking the apple, by opening the bottom flap she is in turn transformed into a mermaid. Subsequent panels illustrate the crucifixion, followed by a series in which a well-dressed young man is reminded that however rich, wise or handsome he may be, he should be prepared to die at any moment. The final panel ends with a scene of angels over Jerusalem, and is signed at the bottom “Durs Rudy 1832.”
Winterthur Museum & Country Estate is on Route 52. For more information, 800-448-3883, 302-888-4600 or www.winterthur.org .
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