Looking into the Wishing Well

By Matthew Gengler, Entry Providers and Reference Librarian

In a pivotal scene from The Kid from Cleveland, actors George Brent and a youthful Russ Tamblyn stand above the Cleveland Museum of Art’s wishing well. Tamblyn, actively playing the child, is invited to make a desire Johnny. The movie, established in 1949, is a relatives melodrama that follows a youthful boy with a tough property lifetime who is served by his favourite baseball team. Though the film may not be really worth viewing for the plot, the mid-century footage of the museum’s primary galleries is a treat. The scene with the wishing very well is even featured on the poster for the movie. Then museum director William Milliken, a devoted baseball enthusiast, would have enthusiastically authorised filming in the galleries.

Perfectly Head, 1400s. Italy, most likely Verona. Pink limestone (referred to as “Verona marble”). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Acquire from the J. H. Wade Fund, 1943.69

The genuine star of the scene, the museum’s beloved pink limestone wishing well — currently installed in the Susan M. Kaesgen Instruction Gallery and Lobby — has a somewhat attention-grabbing history. Officially identified as a Very well Head, the wishing effectively first arrived at the museum in 1929, having been despatched by the supplier on instruction (and promise of payment) of the museum’s European agent, Harold Woodbury Parsons. At the time, Parsons loved independence in gathering for the museum, and with enough explanation. In excess of his job operating as representative of the Cleveland Museum of Art, as properly as the then Nelson Museum in Kansas City, Parsons created vital acquisitions that fashioned the CMA’s selection of European artwork. Among the the treasures he obtained for the museum is The Holy Relatives with the Toddler Saint John and Saint Margaret by Filippino Lippi, a masterpiece of Italian painting.

However, this time Parsons experienced overstepped his authority, a reality produced general public by Milliken in his autobiography, Born Underneath the Sign of Libra, in which he criticizes Parsons for currently being “more rash than vigilant.” Possibly Parsons could be forgiven for his error, considering the leeway furnished him by the museum. Somewhere else in the same volume, Milliken refers to him as “an indefatigable intermediary” and praises how considerably funds he saves the museum as a result of his deft acquisitions. Even so, in this instant, he misjudged his client’s pursuits and the wishing very well arrived, albeit unwelcome.

This did not stop its exhibition, nonetheless. The earliest images of the wishing perfectly from 1931 demonstrate it mounted in the inside garden court docket of the museum. With its caged songbirds and unique vegetation, the environment provided a place of silent repose for the exhausted museum customer to pause and reflect. The wishing well assisted to comprehensive the illusion right up until the museum approached an important milestone.

Silver Jubilee wishing well in the museum’s rotunda, 1941

In anticipation of the museum’s 20-fifth anniversary celebration in 1941, the director made a decision that the well really should be utilised for a silver coin selection to reward museum acquisitions, calling it the Silver Jubilee Treasure Pool. The wishing nicely was put in in the rotunda, wherever the marble statue of Terpsichore Lyran (the muse of lyric poetry) by Antonio Canova now stands (at the time, the Canova had not entered the assortment, and resided at Exbury Residence in Hampshire, British isles, in the assortment of Lionel de Rothschild).

In his unpublished background of the assortment, Milliken describes museum benefactor Elisabeth Severance Prentiss, a statuesque muse in her very own correct, at the function as a “grand dame, with her elegance, heightened by her great night gown and her stunning jewels, tossing silver dollars from across the Rotunda.” The treasure pool was a fantastic results with donations topping $4,000 in the jubilee year.

The initial performs purchased for the assortment with donations from the nicely had been Might Demonstrate entries together with Harvest by Katherine Greuner Lange and Backward Glance, a rare watercolor function by John Paul Miller. This commenced a very long custom of working with the Silver Jubilee Treasure Fund, renamed the Wishing Perfectly Fund in 1961, to receive objects by area artists. From 1944 to 1993, the museum acquired virtually 200 objects with the fund, mostly from the yearly May well Show. In quite a few approaches, donations to the Wishing Nicely were being donations to the inventive legacy of Cleveland.

Earning a would like, 1943

After practically 14 many years of services to the establishment, the effectively head that Mr. Parsons shipped without the need of acceptance entered the collection, in 1943. This item proceeds to keep the fascination of readers who peer down into the depths, toss a coin, and make a would like. Museum readers who have contributed their cash to the wishing perfectly can justifiably level to the artwork in the galleries bearing the Silver Jubilee or Wishing Well fund attribution and say that they experienced a aspect in making the acquisition probable.

Creating a would like, 1990s


On the lookout into the Wishing Very well was originally published in CMA Thinker on Medium, where persons are continuing the dialogue by highlighting and responding to this story.

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