Legacy Online Collections
The Wellby Collection
Michael Wellby died in February 2012 and his munificent bequest of 500 pieces of silver, goldsmith's work, and Kunstkammer objects was received in the Ashmolean Museum later that year. The Ashmolean wishes to express its gratitude to Mr Wellby's family for their courteous co-operation in this process.
The Ashmolean plans to dedicate a gallery to the display of Wellby Collection to open in 2015. In the meantime a selection from the collection will normally be on view.
The collection consists mainly of precious objects made on the Continent of Europe, especially in Germany, between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. It is a modern version of the kind of princely Kunstkammer assembled by European princely families at courts such as Vienna, Prague, and Dresden, and the most important addition of objects of this type to any UK museum since the bequest of Ferdinand Rothschild to the British Museum in 1898 ('the Waddesdon Bequest').
The illustrated inventory here presented is a preliminary and provisional description only, provided in response to intense public interest in the bequest. It makes use of material from Mr Wellby's private catalogue, but this has been expanded and modified in the light of comments from various specialists in the field. The attributions reflect the uncertainties and difficulties inherent in the study of these objects. The Museum is planning an extensive programme of scientific and other research on the collection.
The information on provenance is complete insofar as the Museum has it at present. A programme of provenance research is planned in the future.
The descriptions have been compiled by Timothy Wilson (Barrie and Deedee Wigmore Keeper of Western Art), with the extremely valuable collaboration of Anna Koldeweij. They reflect the current state of knowledge and opinion in the Museum, but are subject to revision.
The Museum will be glad to hear from anyone with information or comments on particular pieces, whether with reference to attribution, to the existence of close parallels, or to information on recent or less recent provenance. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Michael Wellby bequest of goldsmiths’ work, see the Cultural Property Advice web site.
Light Sculpture by Deborah Thomas
In 2014 the Ashmolean commissioned Deborah Thomas, a glass artist based in Stratford-upon-Avon, to create a glass light sculpture to act as a gateway piece to a new display of silver and Kunstkammer objects from the bequest of the late Michael Wellby.
The light sculpture is intended to be both a response to this unique collection and the specific space within a broader museum context. The artist responded passionately to the projects and to the objects in the Wellby Bequest.
This is the first time that the Ashmolean has worked directly with a contemporary artist in the creation of a long-term display. The final stages of the project were captured by photographer and filmmaker Michael Harris.
The project was made possible through a grant from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts scheme.