A keyboard instrument resembling a piano. Text and ornamentation are visible on the inside of its raised lid and on the surfaces above the keyboard itself. The instrument has elaborately carved legs.

Andreas Ruckers, Harpsichord, Antwerp, 1640. Yale School of Music, Morris Steinert Collection of Musical Instruments. Photo: Christopher Gardner

A novel look at how ornament and patterns traverse various art forms

September 26, 2023–February 18, 2024

Ornament marks the Yale University Art Gallery’s latest collaboration with the Yale School of Music, occasioned by the res­toration of its historic building housing the Morris Steinert Collection of Musical Instruments. During the closure necessitated by the renovation project, three important and elaborately ornamented early keyboard instruments will be on loan to the Gallery. A 1640 harpsichord by the Antwerp-based crafts­man Andreas Ruckers, with its intricately decorated soundboard and lid, exemplifies the Flemish school of harpsichord making at its height. Also featured in the installation is a smaller instrument called a spinetta, made by Francesco Poggio of Florence in 1620, with a lid painted by an accomplished atelier in the Tuscan city. On view alongside these two harpsichords is an early 19th-century Austrian pyramid piano, a stylish Neoclassical ancestor to the upright pianos that would become popular in 19th- and 20th-century homes. These three objects will be accompanied by a selection of around 40 European drawings and prints from the 16th through the 18th century that demonstrate how orna­ment offers an arena for artistic license. The display of musical instruments and works on paper emphasizes how patterns and forms have been imitated, adapted, and translated across media by artists and craftspeople alike.

This installation is a continuation of the Gallery’s collaborations with other Yale collections, following most recently on the exhibition Crafting Worldviews: Art and Science in Europe, 1500–1800, which assembled objects and artworks from the Yale Peabody Museum, the Yale University Library, and the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA), as well as the current exhibition In a New Light, showcas­ing painted masterpieces from the YCBA.

Exhibition Credits

Exhibition made possible by the Wolfe Family Exhibition and Publication Fund. Organized by Freyda Spira, the Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings, and Laurence Kanter, Chief Curator and the Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of European Art.