Notes from George Stuart . . .

Empress Revised

Queen Elizabeth I of Russia in formal gown
Russian Empress Elizabeth I debuts new gown. 

When I discovered I was in the good company (many artists ‘reworked’ previously finished pieces: Mozart, Rubens, Tennyson), I felt comfortable re-doing earlier Historical Figures. Obvious errors in judgment and questionable craftsmanship continued to nag me. Many of the Figures have therefore been changed or modified over the years.

Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (Russia) is among the latest to receive a revision. It turned into a one year plus effort, with three of us taking nine months to just produce the ornamental passementerie border of the gown. Researching the correct style for her period, finding a suitable fabric and enhancing that fabric, took weeks with alternating delays, mistakes and makeovers. The project was finished just before things got out-of-hand! I think the results of our frustrations were worth it.  - G. S.

Nixon Sparks Collection

Tzu An Empress— unseen beauty under vest.
The Manchu Figures were begun in the 1970s, with Mr. Nixon's discovery of China! I thought it an ideal subject for American audiences. I soon discovered that Chinese embroidery would be a huge obstacle to surmount. The first phase of that work was produced in Taiwan, in the '70s. A second attempt in the '80s was halted because we lost connection with the Taiwan embroiderers. It wasn’t until 2001, and through the internet, that we found embroiders in mainland China. They were the embroiderers that, for centuries, had produced the exquisitely embroidered garments of the Imperial court!

Director, Mr. LU Zhengliang  of the Suchow Embroidery Works was intrigued by the idea of creating the appropriate designs in one quarter scale to fit the Historical Figures. The results are beyond remarkable and the quality is comparable to anything done in the Chien Lung, 18th Century. The embroidery alone makes these Figures priceless!  - G. S.       

Mr. Schiffer

As we age we do not like any form of change in our routine or lifestyle. The recent departure of our MVC Director Tim Schiffer has been a real change for us all.
I was here at the first year the Museum opened at its present site. I have seen five directors come and go. Each time has been a bit of a drama.
Mr. Schiffer’s association with the Museum has been the longest, if memory serves. And, it has been my good fortune to have worked with him from the beginning, in complete
harmony. A “first” I needn’t add. 
Even though he had responsibility for the entire Museum operation with all its demands and special needs, he always made me feel that the Figures collection was important enough to give it his attention when needed.
He and his staff worked with me to enhance the Smith Gallery, and budgeting was found for an elaborate and much-needed conservation process to save the Figures.
Mr. Schiffer managed the Smith Endowment to make possible some magnificent embellishments on several Figures.  All of this was done with grace and encouragement.
This Curator Emeritus is very grateful for these past years with Mr. Schiffer as Director. The Historical Figures Collection can only hope for similar support in the next administration.
Mr. Schiffer will be missed.    


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