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Imaging rare, unusual, and intriguing objects at the Brown University Library

Porcelain Figures from Brown’s Monuments Man

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Porcelain figures originally commissioned by John Nicholas Brown II (1900–1979) are currently on exhibit at the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. library through April 25, 2014. Brown II was a civilian-status Lieutenant Colonel, Special Cultural Advisor for Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) in Europe toward the end of World War II — as well as husband to collector Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown, the founder of the Library’s military art collection (a substantial part of which has been digitized for online viewing). While the 21 porcelains currently on display in the library were not salvaged works per se, they were commissioned by Brown in 1945 while he was a “monuments man” in Europe.

Thanks to a movie opening on February 7, 2014, directed by George Clooney and loosely based on historical accounts, the “monuments men” have been making a resurgence in both popular media and the cultural heritage community: from features in the New York Times (re: monuments women, as well), to educational reference resources showcasing the retrieved artworks (Scholars Resource set featuring 111 salvaged works), to recent commentaries by associated museums (“In the Footsteps of the Monuments Men: Traces from the Archives at the Metropolitan Museum”).

The image shown below, a porcelain commissioned by John Nicholas Brown II in late 1945 while serving with MFAA, was taken by Digital Production Services for the library’s exhibition publicity. Curator Peter Harrington describes the context of its commission:

While John Nicholas Brown was working with the allied forces in Germany in 1945 reporting on stolen art works, he visited the factory at Nymphenburg in Bavaria and ordered 21 porcelain figures for his wife, Anne S. K. Brown. Subsequent additions to this set came from the Dresden porcelain factory. Today these porcelains form a unique segment of the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering.

5 Comments

  1. From 2/6/14 Providence Journal: “R.I.’s Monuments Man, John Nicholas Brown, played key role in returning stolen artworks” ( http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140206-r.i.s-monuments-man-john-nicholas-brown-played-key-role-in-returning-stolen-artworks.ece )

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  5. The pwork of the “Monuments Men was continued after World War II through the creation of Arts, Monuments, and Archives officers in the Army Reserve Civil Affairs Corps units. I was the AMA officer in the 402nd Civil Affairs Company, Tonawanda, New York from July 9, 1979 to Une 30, 1982, when I moved out of state and transferred to the Individual Ready Reserve. We didn’t do any AMA work in our training or in military exercises such as LOG-X at Fort Pickett, Virginia.

    I know that AMA officers were included in the military forces sent into Iraq in 2003. Unfortunately, I think that they had less success than their World War II counterparts. TKL Class of 1969

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