Sarah Cantor, a Kress Research Fellow at the Museum of Art this summer, is working on an online catalogue of the Old Master drawings donated to the College by James Bowdoin III. The 141 sheets, comprised primarily of sixteenth and seventeenth century drawings from the Italian and Northern schools, are not only the first public collection of drawings in the United States, but one of the earliest collections in America. The entire group was published in a 1985 catalogue by the late David P. Becker, Bowdoin Class of 1970, which Cantor is updating and revising.
She is also working to establish a clearer picture of the early history of the drawings through both archival research and closer examination of the objects themselves. In her first month at Bowdoin, she discovered that a number of the original eighteenth-century mounts for the drawings have been preserved and she is determining whether these drawings were purchased by Bowdoin from an English collection or if he himself had the works mounted. The end result of this research will be an online catalogue that includes an essay on this early history and, working with Bowdoin’s Information Technology department, a presentation of the drawings that is accessible for scholars, students, and the public.