Student-curated exhibit is fully digital

When the Sonnenschein Collection of Master Drawings goes on exhibit on March 26, the viewing experience will go deeper and farther than any previous Cornell College art exhibit.

Steven Coburn ’18 and Jessica Meis ’19 take pictures of Sonnenschein collection drawings that will be uploaded to the website as a virtual exhibition.
Steven Coburn ’18 and Jessica Meis ’19 take pictures of Sonnenschein collection drawings that will be uploaded to the website as a virtual exhibition.

Each artwork can be viewed in minute detail, some from the front and the back, with links to related art in museums across the world. The digital component was created by two  Cornell College students who spent a summer digitizing and researching the entire collection

The exhibit will be in Peter Paul Luce Gallery through Saturday, April 22. A closing reception will be held from 2-4 p.m. that day.

Sophomore Jessica Meis ’19 and junior Steven Coburn ’18 were part of the 2016 Cornell Summer Research Institute, working with art history professor Christina Penn-Goetsch to examine the college’s Sonnenschein art collection. The collection was put together by Edward and Louise Sonnenschein in the 1920s and 1930s and consists of 58 drawings from the 16th to the 19th century, largely done in Italy and France, with others from England, Holland, and the United States. Their son Robert gave the collection to Cornell in the 1950s.

In 1997 Cornell hired a Chicago firm to assess the collection, including an overview of each piece and an estimate of its value. But Meis and Coburn made some significant discoveries on their own about these works.

“What our research found were some major mistakes in the assessment,” Penn-Goetsch says. “Some works were misattributed and misdated. The students carefully recorded the watermarks on the paper and cross-referenced them with a catalog of known watermarks of the period to learn the date and place of the drawing’s creation. It was a classic example of research in art history.”

Among the surprises was a drawing of Saint Sebastian that was misattributed or vaguely attributed to “an imitator of Guido Reni,” a famous Italian painter who lived from 1575 to 1642. Meis discovered it was actually done by Simone Cantarini, who lived from 1612-1648. She also discovered that Cantarini used the same model in other drawings.

“It’s very rare for students in their second year of college to curate any kind of exhibition,” Penn-Goetsch says, “and even more so when they’ve done such meaningful research on the images.”