In honor of Museum Week, we are excited to share the story behind one of the most exquisite and rare objects in our collection: Austrian composer and pianist Johann Hummel's three-piece court suit, dating to 1810-14!
The ensemble was donated by a member of the Hummel family in 2009, thanks to a combination of perfect timing, location, and luck. Yvonne Hummel is married to the great-great-great grandson of Johann Hummel (1778-1837), and she had recently cleared out the family's property in Italy of furniture, clothing, and antiques. Yvonne lived down the street from the FIDM Museum in downtown Los Angeles, and her neighbor Mary had previously visited our annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition. Mary suggested Yvonne call the Museum to see if we would be interested in these family heirlooms. She made an appointment, but didn't mention what she was bringing. On the day of the appointment, Yvonne and Mary walked down the street with the donations in a rolling cart. Once everyone was settled, our curators remember Yvonne pulling the coat out of her bag, and suddenly everyone in the office stopped what they were doing! They thought there was no way it could be authentic, or a complete ensemble. But sure enough, next came the breeches, followed by the waistcoat...and indeed, it was a complete, elaborate court suit belonging to a famous European composer - in pristine condition, no less!
Autograph sketch-leaf composition
Gift of Yvonne Hummel
These suits are insanely difficult to find, particularly with the fine silver and gold embroidery, rhinestones, and sequins on uncut voided silk velvet showcased in this example. Not only did this suit walk straight into our front door, it is also completely documented directly from the Hummel family! In fact, Yvonne generously gave the Museum a lithograph of Johann Hummel with a lock of his hair, and a folio of original hand-written music. The music is an unfinished and/or unknown composition, but in another stroke of luck, our very own Associate Curator Christina Johnson is an accomplished flautist! Christina played the short piece for us, which you can listen to here: Download New Recording.