3-D Printing Brings Art to Life

Ever since reading this History Made New article in UVAToday, I’ve been determined to offer full scale 3-D printed replicas at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. And, this week, it became a reality!

Many thanks to University of Virginia Library information visualization specialist Will Rourk who traveled to Fredericksburg with all his gear to scan our artifacts and to Dwight Dart of the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Rapid Prototyping Lab for printing the finished pieces.

Julius Melchers (1829-1908), Gari’s father, was a sculptor and his son’s first art teacher. I chose Julius’ carved wooden busts to be scanned because they are so intricate and three dimensional.


The original carved busts are shown with their 3-D printed counterparts.

On the left is Margarethe, 1893, which is probably a portrait of Melchers’ granddaughter Marguerite, born in 1889 to Julius and Hedwig Melchers Stroh.  Bacchus, sculpted by Julius Melchers in 1892, depicts the Roman god of wine.


Gari Melchers, by Paul Manship, plaster, 1932


Portrait of Paul Manship by Gari Melchers, 1932

I selected the plaster bas-relief of Gari Melchers, executed in 1932 by sculptor Paul Manship, because I thought it would give the blind and visually impaired children who attend our annual Beeping Egg Hunt an excellent way to tactilely discover what Gari Melchers looked like.

Manship and Melchers were friends and members of the New Society of Artists in New York City. Their friendship resulted in Manship’s portrait of Gari and an oil sketch of the sculptor by Melchers in the same year. Historians believe the artists exchanged the two works as gifts.

Most of the artifacts that our guests see cannot be touched or handled. So, I plan to incorporate these plastic facsimiles into all areas of the museum’s educational programming to expand the sensory experiences our guests can enjoy and gain new ways to appreciate art.

I can’t wait!

Melchers’ Tearjerker


The 1890s saw the rise of the commercial music industry in the United States.  Sales of sheet music skyrocketed, enabling everyday music lovers to play and sing songs in their own parlors. The song that touched off the sheet music craze was Charles K. Harris’s “After the Ball,” the first “platinum” hit in American music history, ultimately selling over five million copies of sheet music. The song was a romantic favorite, a melodramatic evocation of lost love typical of the Gilded Age.  No doubt Gari Melchers learned a few bars of the tune himself while back home for an extended visit in 1883, for he appropriated the song’s title for beautiful little painting he produced that year.

After the Ball

While visiting his parents that year, Melchers was commissioned to paint the first portraits of his professional career. To mark her coming of age, Melchers set about painting the elegant likeness of Detroit beauty, Helen Lothrop Prall. At one point during the course of a painting session with Miss Prall, Melchers must have allowed her to break from her pose and rest in an out-of-the-way corner of the studio. No doubt the artist was so pleased with the effect of his model’s languor that he took up a pen to capture it, and then followed with oils. The result is After the Ball, with its sentimental and slightly melancholy tone suggested by the symbolism of the daisy on which Prall gloomily meditates and the fallen gloves which have escaped her notice. It’s highly plausible that Melchers painted the picture with the song in mind. Incidentally, today the portrait is a perennial favorite at the Detroit Institute of Art.

Here are the lyrics:

Verse 1

A little maiden climbed an old man’s knee,
Begged for a story – “Do, Uncle, please.
Why are you single; why live alone?
Have you no babies; have you no home?”
“I had a sweetheart years, years ago;
Where she is now pet, you will soon know.
List to the story, I’ll tell it all,
I believed her faithless after the ball.”


After the ball is over,
After the break of morn –
After the dancers’ leaving;
After the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching,
If you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.

Verse 2

Bright lights were flashing in the grand ballroom,
Softly the music playing sweet tunes.
There came my sweetheart, my love, my own –
“I wish some water; leave me alone.”
When I returned dear there stood a man,
Kissing my sweetheart as lovers can.
Down fell the glass pet, broken, that’s all,
Just as my heart was after the ball.

Repeat refrain

Verse 3

Long years have passed child, I’ve never wed.
True to my lost love though she is dead.
She tried to tell me, tried to explain;
I would not listen, pleadings were vain.
One day a letter came from that man,
He was her brother – the letter ran.
That’s why I’m lonely, no home at all;
I broke her heart pet, after the ball.





Spring 2017 Events Schedule

A busy spring is in the works here at Belmont!

captureMarch 18- May 21
Belmont Portrayed: Through a Lens

A juried exhibition featuring photographs of the buildings, grounds and gardens of Belmont.  Awards determined by popular vote.  Opening reception for members, artists and guests on Friday, March 17, 6-8 pm.  Included with museum admission.


beeping-eggApril 9, 2-4 pm
Beeping Egg Hunt

Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont will host its sixth annual Beeping Egg Hunt on Sunday, April 9. The egg hunt provides an opportunity for visually impaired and blind children, along with their families, to participate in an audible egg hunt.  Families are asked to RSVP to 540 654-1851 or mdolby@umw.edu by Friday, April 7.

April 23, 10 am-5 pm
Spring Open House

Enjoy the beauty of Belmont at the most delightful time of the year. Gather friends and family to take a tour of the historic house and the artist’s studio.  Wander the gardens and hike the woodland trails or find the perfect gift in the Museum Shop. Free.

May 7, 2 pm
Spring Garden Tour for Members

Cultural Resource Manager Beate Ankjaer-Jensen will conduct a private tour of the restored grounds and gardens for Friends of Belmont, including details about the buildings and the historic landscape discovered through her archival research. The outdoor walking tour will last about 1½ hours.  Free for members.  Space is limited, and reservations are required at 540 654-1839 or bjensen@umw.edu. To join the Friends, visit GariMelchers.org or call 540 654-1842.

art-after-hours-2May 11, 6-8 pm
Art after Hours

Music on the lawn, unique refreshments from local vendors and free gallery tours welcome visitors new and old.  Free. Beverage tickets and food purchases are extra. Reservations requested at 540 654-1848 or mpcsolya@umw.edu.

May 21, 2 pm
Spring Director’s Tour for Members

Friends of Belmont get a behind the scenes look at the historic house, studio and art collection with Director David Berreth.  Free for members.  Space is limited and reservations are required at 540 654-1840 or dberreth@umw.edu.  To join the Friends, visit GariMelchers.org or call 540 654-1842.

smithy-the-with-frameJune 10- Sept. 4
Spotlight Exhibition:  Gari Melchers’ The Smithy

Loan courtesy of the Ross Family. Included with museum admission.

June 11, 2 pm
Faces that Linger in the Mind

Curator Joanna Catron uses The Smithy, which makes a special appearance as a summer spotlight exhibition, as the jumping off point for this illustrated presentation about the memorable faces painted by Gari Melchers. Free.

Restoration progress

Two new gates were installed at Belmont in late November, 2016.  Different in style and age, both are replicas of gates that were part of the landscape that Gari and Corinne Melchers created.


The gate that separated the barn yard from the pasture was not just a simple farm gate, but a gate of a distinctive and elegant design. We know from our records that both Gari and Corinne were actively engaged in the planning of the gardens and grounds, and a sketch he made for a gate and fence on the back of an envelope in 1919 is one of many examples of their involvement with creating their country home and farm. The gate may have been designed by an artist, but the building technique was decidedly vernacular. It was likely built on site by one of the farm hands, put together with simple joints, wire nails and bolts. Both the design and building techniques were copied for this reproduction, allowing our visitors to distinguish the various levels of workmanship displayed on the estate. The green paint, based on paint analyzes, showcases the beautiful design. This project was executed by Habalis Construction Inc. of Fredericksburg, with support from the Duff McDuff Green, Jr. Fund of The Community Foundation and the Fredericksburg Savings Charitable Foundation.

The second gate installed is quite different from the pasture gate. Gari and Corinne Melchers mounted two beautiful old gates in the stone walls that enclose the gardens. They are of unknown provenance, but almost identical in design. The pegged mortise and tenon joinery combined with the delicately carved acorn topped spindles indicates outstanding workmanship of an earlier era.acorn-gate

Oaks were important in the Ficklen landscape and several large white oaks (Quecrus Alba) survive from the pre-Civil War period at Belmont. Andrew Jackson Downing in his book A treatise on the theory and practice of Landscape Gardening, adapted to North America, (1859) called the white oak America’s National Tree, and believed that as it more nearly approached the English Oak in appearance, it was highly sought after for refined landscapes. The acorn has been perceived from Druid times as a sacred seed that symbolizes potential, longevity, humble beginnings, patience, faith, power, and endurance. The oak is even today seen as a symbol of longevity, strength and durability. It is possible then, that the gates are remnants of the gardens Joseph B. Ficklen created in the 1850’s when he added to his house, built the porches, stairs and laid out his lawn and Long Walk. He would have had some kind of gates to mark the entrances to his gardens, and our acorn gates would have fit the bill. Gari and Corinne Melchers could have re-purposed them, finding a new home for the gates in the stone walls they built.

The carvings and the mortise and tenon construction have been carefully replicated by Gaston and Wyatt of Charlottesville. The Garden Club of Virginia funded this reproduction project.

The newly restored gates were an important element of the farm complex built in the early 1920s. The cow barn, smoke house, stable, and three gates with fences have all been restored. The remaining elements of the compound that still need restoration are the run-in shed, and the gate and fence that run between the visitor center and the stable office.

envelope-gate-drawing-bel-652The 1919 envelope sketch mentioned above is of a gate, posts and fence. The design was changed slightly during the execution; the arched top was dropped, and tulip shaped finials were added to the stiles.


img_3839In addition to finding funds to restore this gate and the run-in shed, we also hope to repair the remaining acorn gate and our main gates with the lion-topped posts. The buildings and grounds are always in a state of restoration; our work to preserve Belmont for the pleasure of future visitors is never ending.



Alien Invasion or Picturesque Nostalgia?

Recently docent Trudy Hardcastle escorted a native Dutchwoman through Belmont who shared interesting information about George Hitchcock’s painting in the hall, The Annunciation.  She explained that the head ornaments on the Madonna are pictorial “code” for wealth. That inspired Trudy to dig a little deeper into the background of some of these strange and archaic forms of Dutch regional costume.

Trudy discovered an interesting site that helped us to identify the costume detail in Hitchcock’s painting as a traditional OORIJZER,  literally ear iron, or metal headgear,  worn on special occasions in conjunction with Dutch linen or lace caps, and passed down from generation to generation.   Pronounce it  Ōar īzer.  Many regions in Holland sport their own very distinctive costumes, including caps, cap pendants, jewelry and varying iterations of the oorijzer, which is usually worn mostly out of sight,  gripping the head under the cap, except for the terminals that are visible around the face.

Hitchcock’s  Madonna is wearing an oorijzer with silver rectangular plates representative of South Beveland, Zeeland. These ornaments helped to fasten the cap to the head with pins at the terminal knobs, but more importantly, are indicative of a woman’s economic status, and in some cases, her religious affiliation, that is, Protestant or Catholic. Hitchcock’s Madonna wears a silver rather than a gold oorijzer, which is appropriate for Mary, who the Bible tells us, was but a humble girl. Hitchcock was probably unwilling to accessorize his Madonna with the truly humble materials of copper, brass or iron that the really poor womenfolk of Holland might wear.  Hitchcock found the costumes of Holland very picturesque and rightly surmised that the more stereotypical elements he included in his pictures of Dutch life, the more marketable they would be.

Gari Melchers, on the other hand, was less interested in including the odd, sometimes helmet-like oorijzers than utilizing only the more feminine and decorative caps.  Off hand, the only instance in which I can remember him employing an oorijzer in a model’s costume was in his painting The Coral Necklace, which pictures an example of both the spiral wire curls and trefoil dangle of Middleburg, Holland. Honestly, some of these oorijzers look like radio antennaes!  Notice that the model in this painting also wears a showy gold and blood coral necklace common to many regions of Holland.





Dinosaur prints to be included in the Smithsonian collection.

Dr. Robert E. Weems, a retired research geologist with the United States Geological Survey, returned to Belmont in October to make four molds of some of the prints he discovered during a visit to Belmont during the summer of 2015. The prints he selected for mold-making were based on size, clarity and/or scientific interest. A large crocodile print was one of the molds made.  Another large-sized specimen included for the study is a partial Brontopodus forefoot print. A partial print from a large bipedal predator, the Acrocanthosaurus, was also chosen for casting.

Hypsiloichnus mold and print

Hypsiloichnus mold and print

The smallest print selected for molding was Hypsiloichnus, which is the track made by a small herbivorous dinosaur similar or identical to Zephyrosaurus. See this link for more information about this dinosaur. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zephyrosaurus

Unfortunately, the crocodile print mold did not sufficiently dry before it was pulled up and thus failed to create an non-distorted copy of the foot shape.  The other three print molds were successfully made.  Dr. Weems will return next spring when the weather warms back up to try again to make a copy of the crocodile print, which is the best and largest crocodile print so far found in these rocks.

Dr. Weems applies a layer of latex to a Brontopodus dinosaur print

Dr. Weems applies the first layer of latex to a partial Brontopodus print.

The process of making the molds is quite involved and interesting. Three layers of latex were applied to clean stone, followed by two layers of cheese cloth and latex which was overlaid with a plastic barrier.

Cheese cloth adds strenght to the latext mold.

Cheese cloth adds strength to the latex mold.

Plaster of Paris strips are laid down over plastic to create a "cradle" for transporting the molds to the lab.

Plaster of Paris strips are laid down over plastic to create a “cradle” for transporting the molds to the lab.




Plaster of Paris strips were laid down on the plastic to create a solid backing for the molds to prevent stretching and distortion. Each layer had to dry between applications making it a time consuming endeavor.

The molds were transported to Dr. Weems lab where they will be cast with plaster of Paris, creating exact copies of the prints. Eventually, the casts will be placed in the Smithsonian dinosaur print collection. Dr. Weems wants to make further studies of the Cretaceous period prints found in our garden paths and they may show up in future papers he hopes to write about Virginia dinosaur activity.

Transporting dinosaur mold to lab for casting.

Transporting mold to lab for casting.

Emily Garrett, University of Mary Washington geography student is creating a map of the prints found in the stonework at Belmont. Look for this at the end of the fall 2016 semester!



Looking for Pearls: ‘One Hundred Years of Harmony’ a soothing light at the Jepson

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On the third floor, in a small gallery, are eight Impressionist paintings of great tranquility. Paintings by Gari Melchers who himself was the art adviser to the Telfair a century ago. The intimate exhibition is titled “One Hundred Years of Harmony.”  More