Now that you've been introduced to the FIDM Museum, you're probably wondering where and how we've acquired our objects. Museums acquire new objects in a variety of ways, but purchases, bequests and donations are the most common avenues by which objects find new homes in museum collections. Often, we have specific ideas as to what we might like to add to our collection and Museum staff keep an eye out for these items. Sometimes an object shows up, unexpected and uninvited, but ultimately becomes an important part of our collection. Today's featured object literally walked through the Museum door one day last fall. Not on its own, but with the help of a generous donor. The image below is a detail shot; any guesses as to what you're seeing?
Vest detail (center front) of a man's 3-piece court suit
Gift of Yvonne Hummel
This suit has a fascinating provenance, or history. The husband of the donor was the great-great-great grandson of the Austrian composer and pianist Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). If you happen to read German, you can read about Hummel here or in English here. According to family lore, this suit belonged to Hummel, though we don't know when or where it was worn. As with any object there are so many unanswered questions. How did the suit make its way from Austria to Los Angeles? It is in near pristine condition--how did it stay this way for 200 years? Who made the suit for Hummel and how much did it cost? The donor will be conducting additional research into family records with the hope of obtaining more information, while Museum staff continues research into the suit itself. As it is a relatively new acquisition, we have not completed photographing the entire suit. We will definitely post more pictures, including detail shots, when we have them.
At the time this vest was worn, both men and women who could afford to do so wore highly embellished, luxurious garments for both day and evening. This particular vest is paired with a jacket and breeches of aubergine silk velvet. Both the jacket and vest are embellished with the embroidery you see in this image. Satin and metallic thread form iris flowers and stems, while small round glass ornaments and metallic sequins complete the shape of the iris. Small embroidered commas of metallic thread and metallic sequins are repeated allover the vest front. Keep in mind that this entire ensemble was created about 50 years before the sewing machine came into common use. In other words, every element of this elaborate suit was created and completed by hand. For those of us who find sewing from a simple pattern challenging, this is an unimaginable feat.