John Whitridge, MD
We are in the process of conducting a survey of our art collection with the intention of having it re-valued for insurance purposes. We do this every so often, but the years tend to slip by between valuations.
In my quest to make sure that everything is included in this round, I have been poking in vacant rooms, storage spaces and other places in our vast buildings which are not frequented more than once every few years. Of course, this is the perfect time to do this hunting, since 95% of our offices are not being used.
I’ve learned to shift boxes and look into closets to check them out. As I searched a storage room, I moved a media trolley, only to see someone staring back at me from the corner. After my heart stopped pounding, I realized it was another marble bust!
I tried to shift him to see if there was any identifying information, but couldn’t even budge him an inch. A few days later, we loaded him on a cart and brought him up to my office. He was absolutely filthy!
I ran a Magic Eraser over him a few times, and you can see the result above! Although some of my museum friends freak out about this, I am taking the advice of another museum conservator and being gentle with the whole process. I even brought in Q-tips to clean out his ears.
Once I cleaned him up a bit, the hunt was on to find out who he was. He was another Rinehart bust, so that narrowed the field greatly. He was sculpted in Rome in 1874.
Armed with those details, I checked the 1948 catalogue raisonné to cross reference the information and see if I could find out who he was.
Sadly, there isn’t too much information on Dr. Whitridge. He was important enough to have his picture in the Library’s 100th Anniversary book, but scanning it, there’s really no mention of him.
And he is mentioned in the Annals a few times, mostly as a committee member, and with a very brief biography.
In 1874, there was an article in the Baltimore Sun talking about the arrival of two busts by Rinehart at the marble salesrooms of Mr. Hugh Sisson, located in the Rinehart Building at 140 West Baltimore Street.
The bust is really quite handsome, and after it was cleaned up (and the penciled in eyeballs removed!), it turned out to be a lovely piece, in a wonderful luminescent white marble.
The other piece I found in the Sun was a brief mention of Dr. Whitridge’s death and burial in Rhode Island. There is a reference to what was written about him earlier, but I can find no other article.
Just another little mystery to try and research and unravel!