A Universe of Things:
Micky Wolfson Collects
Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson,Jr. 2019, photo by Lynton Gardiner
Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson, Jr.
The man who collects astonishing things by their social significance
Mr. Wolfson has collected over 200,000 objects from the period 1850-1950.
A selection of over 100 are now on display in the exhibition
“A Universe of Things” at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum.
Since childhood, a fascination
for objects and collecting
“My Proustian instincts awoke once upon a time with a fanciful key covertly brought back from a childhood trip.
One key became many, and my collection came to occupy a large framed board with hooks, souvenirs of my movements and talismans of memory”.
What’s the point of this object? Why is it in the collection?
In the book Founder’s Choice that accompanies the exhibition, through the remarks
of Mr. Wolfson and the excellent explanations by Lea Nickless and Shoshana Resnikoff
they describe each piece and reveal its importance in history.
Micky’s passion for sculpture
The exhibition includes extraordinary sculptures, some of which are
extremely unique and exceptional representatives of artistic styles
H. M. Haile Selassie, c.1937
H. M. Haile Selassie, c. 1937. Sava Botzaris (Venezuelan, b. Serbia, 1894–1965) Bronze, iron; 26 ½ × 12 × 16 in. (67 × 30 × 40.5 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 87.1321.6.1. Purchased in 1986
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “The son of the court painter to the last King of Serbia, Sava Botzaris studied first with his father before going on to the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. By 1920 he settled in London, pursuing a brilliant career, sculpting important figures of the day such as George Bernard Shaw, Sir Winston Churchill, James Joyce, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia”.
Head of a Girl, 1935
Head of a Girl, 1935. Sargent Claude Johnson (American, 1888–1967) Terracotta, wood, paint; 10 ⅞ × 6 ¾ × 7 ⅝ in. (27 × 17 × 19 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, xx1989.139. Purchased in 1988.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “This terracotta portrait of a young girl captures the essence of childhood innocence and, at the same time, projects a sense of the monumental. A West Coast manifestation of the Harlem Renaissance spirit, Sargent Claude Johnson was one of the most important artists portraying black subjects during this period. While born to a father of Swedish descent and a mother of African American and Cherokee ancestry, Johnson identified as African American and advocated for black self-realization”.
Joe Louis, 1940
Joe Louis, 1940, Ruth Yates (American, 1891–1969) Grey Vermont marble; 18 ½ × 14 × 14 ⅛ in. (46.99 × 35.56 × 36 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1992.2.1. Purchased in 1992.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “At a time when African Americans were denied equality, Joe Louis overcame racial prejudices, rising to the status of well-loved national hero. He reigned as the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949, and came to symbolize U. S. preeminence over Nazi arrogance with his 1938 triumph over Germany’s Max Schmeling. The match captured the world’s attention as a representation of the struggle between democracy and fascism, good and evil”.
Wrestler, 1929. Dudley Vaill Talcott (American, 1899–1986) Cast aluminum; 80 × 47 ½ × 30 ¾ in. (203.2 × 120.7 × 78.1 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1991.36. Purchased in 1991.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “I am told that the Wrestler is a visitor favorite, situated as a kind of foreboding maître d’ on the first floor of The Wolfsonian. Human or automaton, hero or foe? The disquieting ambiguity reflects an underlying current of the period—the yearning to be modern was not without anxiety”.
Man with book, c. 1938
Man with book,
(American, b. Italy,
New York City
The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 83.6.6
Continuous Profile of the Duce, 1933
Sculpture, Profilo continuo del Duce [Continuous Profile of the Duce], 1933. Renato Bertelli (Italian, 1900–1974) Florence, Italy. Bronzed terra cotta.
Benito Mussolini came to power in 1922 as the head of Italy’s Fascist state and advocated nationalism, militarism, and statepower. He was glorified in many portraits until his death in 1945, including this Futurist sculpture that presents his profile in constant motion, an all‐seeing, machinelike presence. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 84.6.4.
Panel, 1929–30. From the Hotel St. George, Brooklyn, New York
Panel, 1929–30. From the Hotel St. George, Brooklyn, New York. Emery Roth (American, b. Hungary, 1871–1948), architect. Chrome‐plated aluminum. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1989.13.1
Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., 2004
Sculpture, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr., 2004. Dorothy Haase (American, b. 1941) New York City. Cast aluminum. The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of the Artist, NC005.1
Micky’s interest in unique furniture
The finding of singular pieces capable of providing a meaning
for a moment in time has determined the choice of them
Sideboard, c. 1876. Edward William Godwin (British, 1833–1880) William Watt, London, maker. Pine, ebonized mahogany, silver electroplated hardware; 73 × 100 ⅜ × 20 ⅛ in. (185.42 × 254.7 × 50 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1989.137.1. Purchased in 1989
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “An early testimony to globalization and cross-cultural pollination, this radically simplified sideboard in the Anglo-Japanese style reflects an aesthetic mirroring, a collective yearning for the other. Edward William Godwin, a progressive architect and design reformer, was a key participant in the assimilation of newly accessible Japanese art into mainstream European design, incorporating simple rectilinear structures, ebonized finishes, and minimal ornamentation into his design vocabulary”.
Desk with light, 1925–35
Desk with light, 1925–35. Camillo Cerri (Italian, 1896–1980) August Tobler, maker (Swiss, 1899–1975) Plywood, metal hardware, and glass; 78 ¼ × 59 × 45 in. (199 × 150 × 114 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1992.67.1. Purchased in 1992
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “What a voyage of discovery. When I came upon a suite of furniture, including this desk, in an antique shop in Milan, I was told that it was by a Czech cubist designer. Upon my inquiries, a Czech decorative arts curator told me that it was, in fact, Slovak. The mystery lingered until one day, as I was browsing in an antiquarian bookshop, a brochure leapt out at me: it had illustrations of my furniture! It turned out to be neither Czech nor Slovak, but Swiss, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, and designed by an Italian. Perfect”.
Cabinet, 1935. Marie-Eugène Joyeau (French, 1862–1937) Wood; 79 × 39 ¾ × 21 ½ in. (200.7 × 101 × 55 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 2018.12.4
Purchased in 2017
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “Like his father before him, Marie-Eugène Joyeau was a saunier, making his livelihood harvesting salt from the marshes on the Île d’Oléron, an island in the Bay of Biscay off the west coast of France. Though he lacked formal training as a furniture maker, Joyeau’s skill and passion are manifest in this unknown yet remarkable cabinet that appeared for sale, along with a washstand, a clock case, and a bed, in Bordeaux. Twelfth-century towers confronting twentieth-century dirigibles—it was too good to be true!”
Tea cabinet, 1916
Tea cabinet, 1916. Michel De Klerk (Dutch, 1884–1923) ‘t Woonhuys, Amsterdam, maker. Mahogany, mahogany veneer, plywood, brass; 29 ¾ × 32 ⅝ × 19 ½ in. (75.5 × 82.8 × 49.5 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1989.328.4. Purchased in 1989
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “Part of a rare suite of furniture designed by Michel De Klerk and produced by the firm t’Woonhuys for an affluent and traveled clientele, this tea cabinet is a prime example of a colonialist version of globalism that was often expressed in Dutch decorative arts. De
Klerk merged influences from Indonesian temple architecture, such as parabolic shapes associated with the rising sun or the lotus leaf and hardware inspired by the trident of the Hindu god Shiva, to create a fusion of identities, exotic yet unmistakably Dutch”.
Chandelier from the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, 1924
Chandelier from the Capitol Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, 1924. Marion Mahony Griffin (American, 1871–1961) and Walter Burley Griffin (American, 1876–1937) Plaster, paint, glass, lead; 13 ⅜ × 46 in. diameter (33.5 × 117 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 85.13.4. Purchased in 1985.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “As a scion of a motion picture theater empire, all that concerns the construction and decoration of these movie palaces—fantasy worlds full of grandiose architectural schemes and motifs—has long mesmerized me. What I did not realize at the time of this purchase was that this Capitol Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, was being built concurrently with my father’s first movie theater—the Capitol Theater in Miami”.
Radio, Nocturne, model 1186, c.1935
Radio, Nocturne, model 1186, c. 1935. Walter Dorwin Teague (American, 1883–1960) Sparton Corporation, Jackson, Michigan, manufacturer. Tufflex mirrored glass, satin chrome steel, painted wood; 45 ½ × 43 ½ × 15 ½ in. (115.6 × 110.5 × 39.4 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, xx1990.168. Purchased in 1987.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “This glamorous mirrored radio once radiated like moonlight over Miami in the stylish lobby of the Park Central Hotel, a 1938 Art Deco masterpiece designed by architect Henry Hohauser. Conceived by preeminent industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague, the Nocturne radio was considered the “last word in modernistic design and construction.” It remains an example of romantic mechanization and machine as poetry”.
Chair, c. 1930. Robert Mallet‐Stevens (French, 1886–1945) Paris. Aluminum, wood. The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Historical Design, 2019.10.4.
Clock, 1904. From the Dr. Arthur Rosenberger residence, Berlin. August Endell (German, 1871–1925), designer. Stained oak, aluminum leaf, clock works. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1989.82.4.
In dark stained oak with aluminum face and aluminum leaf embellishment, this clock demonstrates early uses of the metal as a precious material. Soon after, breakthroughs in technology greatly reduced the cost of production and radically changed its usage.
Chandelier, Star, 1931
Chandelier, Star, 1931. Poul Henningsen (Danish, 1894–1967), designer. Louis Poulsen, Copenhagen, manufacturer. Glass, nickel. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 86.13.46
Micky’s singular selection of paintings, drawings, prints and textiles
An eclectic choice of select works represent the art of many periods
Česká Malba Gotická: Deskové Malířství 1350–1450
Česká Malba Gotická: Deskové Malířství 1350–1450 (Czech Gothic Painting: Panel Painting 1350–1450), 1938 Antonin Matějček, editor (Czech, 1889–1950) Prague: Nakladatelstvi Melantrich. Plate: Zlatokorunská Madona (Madonna of the Golden Crown), artist unknown. Letterpress halftone; 15 × 11 ¼ in. (38.1 × 28.6 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, xb1989.227. Purchased c. 1960
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “My emotional response to the striking imagery in this volume on Czech Gothic paintings has never left me. I was a young man rambling around Europe, exploring Prague during the height of the Cold War. I happened upon a bookstore near the Charles Bridge, run by a nobleman, Count Schönborn, who remarkably was allowed by the Communist government to continue his profession. Overcome by the beautiful imagery and the technical accomplishment of the publisher, I made the purchase on instinct. It seemed like a perfect souvenir of Czechoslovakia”.
The Greatest Mother in the World, 1918
Poster, The Greatest Mother in the World, 1918. Alonzo Earl Foringer (American, 1878–1948), designer. American Red Cross, Washington, DC, publisher. Offset lithograph. The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Henry S. Hacker, 2010.23.65.
Painting, 1918. Dean Cornwell (American, 1892–1960) New York. Oil on canvas. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 87.5.21.
Brawny and assured, this metal worker dominates the canvas of Dean Cornwell’s painting, likely a study for a poster or magazine illustration. Cornwell foregrounds the worker, presenting an ideal of independent, manly labor as the basis of national industrial and military power.
Drawing, 1920–39. Frank MacCoy “Mac” Harshberger, Jr. (American, 1901–1975) New York City Watercolor, graphite, and paper on board. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection,
An artist and illustrator, Mac Harshberger lived in Paris and New York and was known for a style that captured the Art Deco energy of both cities. He lived openly as a gay man with his partner, Holland Robinson, and produced not just commercial illustration but also more personal art that challenged
expectations of gender and sexuality. The male subject of this watercolor, one of a series, wears makeup and heels—signifiers of femininity—while holding a calla lily in a way that suggests oral sex. Reclining on a chaise, he is presented as an object of beauty and pleasure, a position most often held by women in the Western art canon.
Idolo del Prisma (Idol of the Prism), 1925
Idolo del Prisma (Idol of the Prism), 1925. Ferruccio Ferrazzi (Italian, 1891–1978) Oil on board; 62 ½ × 36 ½ in. (159 × 93 cm) Wolfsoniana–Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura, Genova, gx1993.473
Purchased in 1992.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “With an air of mystery, an idealized feminine form gripping a crystal in her right hand emerges from a harmonious faceted space. Is she the universal woman, formerly imprisoned in a canonized attitude, now transmuting into a new state of being? A small red vessel positioned between her feet references fertility—Ferrazzi is illuminating a potent moment wherein the woman is sovereign, on the brink of creative rebirth”.
Weight-Lifting, Berlin, 1931
Weight-Lifting, Berlin, 1931. Glyn Warren Philpot (British, 1884–1937) Oil on canvas; 54 × 44 in. (137.2 × 111.8 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1988.10.1. Purchased in 1988.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “One of the most successful society painters of his generation, Philpot’s early career was firmly rooted in Edwardian aestheticism. As the youngest serving member of the Royal Academy, he was an international sensation. In Cairo he painted King Fouad; in Chicago Mrs. Potter Palmer; and in London Loelia Lindsay, Duchess of Westminster”.
Painting, Harlem, 1937. Elanor Colburn (American, 1866–1939) Laguna Beach, California. Oil on canvas. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1991.83.1
The work of motherhood is elegantly rendered here in this image of an unidentified African‐American mother and child posed in a middle‐class setting. The woman’s refined bearing and confidence were uncharacteristic in white artists’ depictions of African‐American people at this time. Elanor Colburn, a white artist, regularly painted mothers and children from a range of backgrounds, presenting the universality of motherhood as a force for empathy and understanding.
Allegorie der Arbeit (Allegory of Work), 1938
Allegorie der Arbeit (Allegory of Work), 1938. Hans Lohbeck (German, 1909–1974) Hermann-Göring-Meisterschule fur Malerei, maker. Wool; 9 ft. 3 in. × 6 ft. 6 in. (2.83 × 1.96 m) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 2013.8.1. Purchased in 2013.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “On one of my peregrinations through the streets of Paris, I stopped by a prominent carpet showroom and found this intriguing tapestry among its stock. The seller was not prepared to fully identify the piece, only stating that it was not French, probably from Central or Eastern Europe and from the 1920s. I was not convinced. With my curiosity more than piqued, I flew into action, sending images to one of the great textile experts in Belgium, who responded immediately saying that it was German and likely created during the Nazi period”.
1939 A.D., 1939
Print, 1939 A.D., 1939. Elizabeth Olds (American, 1896–1991) George C. Miller (American, 1894–1965), printer New York City. Lithograph. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 84.4.157.
Elizabeth Olds committed herself to printmaking as a political act, since prints were more widely accessible to the public than paintings. Her leftist politics are made plain in this lithograph, which depicts Jesus enacting a modern‐day version of the cleansing of the Temple. In Olds’s version, the Temple is Wall Street, Jesus is backed by marching workers, and the villainous merchants are top‐hatted bankers. Olds’s vision of social justice was intersectional: workers’ rights are linked to demands for racial equality and democracy, while the frightened capitalists are joined by a robed Ku Klux Klan member.
Peace in Our Time, 1939
Print, Peace in Our Time, 1939. Al Hirschfeld (American, 1903–2003) New York City. Lithograph. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1992.8.2.
British prime minister Neville Chamberlain declared, “I believe it is peace for our time” after acquiescing to Germany’s annexation of part of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Chamberlain’s statement expressed hope that appeasement of Adolf Hitler’s aggression would head off war in Europe—a hope that was dashed when Germany invaded Poland the next year.
Artist Al Hirschfeld proposed this image, depicting Chamberlain addressing gas‐masked members of Parliament, for publication in the New York Times.
Buildings Designed by Schultze and Weaver, Architects,
1921 to 1936, 1936
Buildings Designed by Schultze and Weaver, Architects, 1921 to 1936, 1936. Lloyd Morgan (American, 1891–1970) Oil on canvas; 71 ¼ × 174 ¼ × 2 ⅝ in. (180.9 × 442.6 × 6.6 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, Gift of the Kephart Family, in fond memory of Aunt Ann and Uncle Lloyd, 2007.13.1. Gifted in 2007.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “Lloyd Morgan, chief designer for the architecture firm Schultze and Weaver, painted this resplendent fourteen-foot synthesis of the firm’s most renowned buildings
as a gift for founder Leonard Schultze in 1936. Following Schultze’s death in 1951 the painting reverted to Morgan, who purchased his Tarrytown, New York home based on its having a wall large enough to accommodate its dimensions. Morgan’s great niece and nephew, Beth and Jeffrey Kephart, recall the mural overwhelming the living room. After Morgan’s death in 1970 it was consigned to the Kephart family basement”.
Detail of Buildings Designed by Schultze and Weaver, Architects, 1921 to 1936, 1936
Mural study, Industry and Agriculture on the Cumberland River, 1937
Mural study, Industry and Agriculture on the Cumberland River, 1937. For the Davidson County Public Building and Courthouse, Nashville, Tennessee. Dean Cornwell (American, 1892–1960) New York City. Gouache, gold, and silver leaf on board. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 84.5.118.
Aluminum appears front and center in this study for two large murals depicting industry and agriculture for the Davidson County Courthouse in Nashville, Tennessee. In the completed murals, artist Dean Cornwell superimposed allegorical figures and their tools over a map of the county, rendering them in aluminum and sheet gold to underscore the enormous importance of the metal’s
production for the region’s economy. In this smaller‐scale study, gold and silver leaf stand in for the materials.
Dick Tracy Wrist Radios, 1955
Radio, Dick Tracy Wrist Radios, 1955. Isaac Heller (American, 1926–2015), designer. Remco Industries, Inc., Newark, New Jersey, manufacturer. Plastic, wire, elastic, cardboard, brass. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, TD1991.24.1.
Remarkable pieces of windows, glass and ceramics in Micky’s collection
Stained glass window, commissioned 1926
Stained glass window, commissioned 1926, completed 1930. Harry Clarke (Irish, 1889–1931) Clarke Studios, Dublin, maker. Stained glass, lead cames; 71 ½ × 40 in. (181.6 × 101.6 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, td1988.34.1. Purchased in 1988.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “Intended as a donation to the League of Nations in Geneva from the recently established Irish Free State, this brilliantly accomplished picture window was Clarke’s final major work and the only commission of his to be rejected. Eight stained glass panels depict scenes from contemporary Irish writers, selected with guidance from William Butler Yeats”.
Details of Stained glass window
Stained‐glass window, 1936
Stained‐glass window, Elizabeth Parent, 1936. For Johnson & Johnson Personnel Building, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Frederick Soldwedel (American, 1886–1958) Stained glass, lead cames The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift, WC2012.1.10.1.
This stained‐glass window is one of a series depicting Johnson & Johnson employees made for a new personnel building at the mpany headquarters. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Parent began working for the firm at the age of twelve, holding various titles through the years including boxmaker, labeler, and forewoman. In 1939, Parent made $1,500, ahead of the national average for all workers of$1,368, but less than her male counterparts at Johnson & Johnson.
Vase, c. 1914. Vittorio Zecchin (Italian, 1878–1974) Artisti Barovier, Murano, Italy, maker. Murrhine glass; 19 ½ × 8 in. (49.5 × 20 cm) Wolfsoniana–Palazzo Ducale Foundazione per la Cultura, Genova, GX1993.271. Purchased in 1986
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “A dramatic glass ovoid form balanced on a splayed plinth, this vase by Vittorio Zecchin incorporates intricate patterns of murrhine in transparent and iridescent spirals, a technique known as vetro mosaico. Influenced by the Vienna Secessionists and created just before the Great War, this vase is a masterpiece of early modern design”.
Cordial service, c.1930
Cordial service, c. 1930. Bimini Werkstätte, Vienna, maker. Glass. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 18.104.22.168–.6.
Window grille from the Norris Theatre, 1929
Window grille from the Norris Theatre, 1929. William Harold Lee (American, 1884–1971) and Armand Carroll (American, 1898–1976), architects. Conkling Armstrong Terra Cotta Company, Philadelphia, maker. Glazed terracotta; 22 × 12 ft. (6.7 × 3.7 m) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, xx1989.429. Purchased in 1985.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “The 2,500-seat Norris Theatre in Norristown, Pennsylvania, was unveiled in December 1930 at a cost of one million dollars. The iconic Art Deco theater’s stunning three-story façade lured potential moviegoers into a formidable foyer replete with entertainment-inspired murals, a fish pond, and stained glass windows—all contributing to a hodgepodge of modern leisure-time iconography. Consisting of over one hundred green- and gold-glazed terracotta tiles heroically surmounted by a neon steeple, the theater’s façade made a glamorous impression on Norristown’s Main Street with its flamboyant botanical forms and trumpeting musicians”.
Glaubensgeheimnisse des Credo (Mysteries of the Credo), 1930
Glaubensgeheimnisse des Credo (Mysteries of the Credo), 1930. Annie Eisenmenger (Austrian, 1898–1983) Ceramic, wood; 5 ft. 11 in. × 14 ft. 6 in. (1.8 × 4.4 m) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift, wc2004.11.3.1. Purchased in 2004.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “I seem to recall proposing marriage to a Viennese art dealer who reluctantly brought this devotional object to my faithless notice. Smitten by both the sacred and the sensual, I was overcome by the craft, although rejected by the courted. Granted a large discount for my efforts, I left satisfied”.
Details of Glaubensgeheimnisse des Credo
Micky’s love for books
In the Wolfsonian’s Library there are thousands of books that have been used
by Mickey to catalogue and give a historical context to the pieces.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1875
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1875. Gustave Doré (French, 1832–1883) London: Doré Gallery; Hamilton, Adams & Co. Plate: …With my cross-bow / the Albatross. Engraving; 20 × 16 in. (51 × 41 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 83.2.2054. Purchased in 1951.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “It was 1951 and my first trip to Europe. We arrived in Paris and my father sent me off with my older brother Louis. We gravitated toward the bookstalls perched along the Seine, where I came upon a volume that transformed my twelve-year-old self”.
“As I paged through Gustave Doré’s magnificent work, the engraved images came alive with the most harrowing scenes imaginable. An icebound sailing ship with an albatross hovering overhead was rendered with dramatic intensity. I was speechless with emotion”.
Ein Spiel [Sodom: A Play] 1909
Illustration, from Sodom: Ein Spiel [Sodom: A Play], 1909. Julius Klinger (Austrian, 1876–1942), illustrator. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (British, 1647–1680), author Private printing, Leipzig, Germany. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 83.2.370.
Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, an obscenely graphic play published in 1684, mingled 15th‐century politics and overt sexual language to satirize and ridicule the excess of the court of Charles II of England. Julius Klinger illustrated this luxury edition of the play—which had been censored for centuries in Britain—in 1909. It was only available through private subscription. His erotic illustrations conjure sexualized scenes that follow longstanding traditions from Indian and Japanese painting, as well as the influence of contemporary Viennese artists, including Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
The Golden Book of Gifts, c.1934
The Golden Book of Gifts, c.1934. W. Harvey (Australian), goldsmith. Queensland Art Gallery, commissioner. Brass, bronze, semiprecious stones, enamel. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 85.2.122.
The Golden Book of Gifts is an unusual volume—one that does not contain any words. It was commissioned as an artistic binding to hold pages celebrating donors to a 1934 fundraising campaign for the Queensland Art Gallery. In the end, the funds were raised by other means, and the book was not needed for its intended purpose—so its pages remain blank.
Communism: The New Faith for a New World, 1935
Book, Communism: The New Faith for a New World, 1935. William Montgomery Brown (American, 1855–1937), author. Bradford‐Brown Educational Co., Galion, Ohio, publisher. The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Ideal Gladstone, XC2010.03.1.72.
Volkswagen‐Werk G.M.B.H, Berlin, 1937
Book, Volkswagen‐Werk G.M.B.H, Berlin, 1937. Thomas Abeking (German, 1909–1986), illustrator
Volkswagen‐Werk G.M.B.H, Berlin, publisher. Plastic film, paper. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 84.2.612.
Inspired by Henry Ford’s Model T, the Nazi regime aimed to produce an affordable car for the German masses. The Volkswagen, which translates to “people’s car,” was designed for free time and leisure, everyday luxuries that the Nazis promised to make available to the working class. Offered at a price of 990 Reichsmark—far below the cost of production, but more than most Germans could afford, even paying via a subscription plan—the new car was in fact well beyond the means of the country’s workers.
Sheet music, 1939
Sheet music, 1939. Saint Germain Press, Chicago, publisher. Godfré, Our Loved One, Ascended. Lotus Ray King (b. Edna Anne Wheeler Ballard; American, 1886–1971), composer
Nada Our Love. Godfré Ray King (b. Guy Ballard; American, 1878–1939), composer. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, XB1991.583–.584.
Guy Ballard founded the “I AM” movement with his wife, Edna, after claiming a divine encounter with eighteenth‐century mystic Saint Germain while hiking California’s Mount Shasta. Empowered by the “pure electronic essence” of this entity, Ballard, a mining engineer and salesman, took the name Godfré Ray King. He and his wife—renamed Lotus Ray King—proselytized a gospel that compelled followers to make monetary “love gifts” to the church. “I AM” preached against organized labor, threatened telepathic assassination attempts against U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and also sold books, photographs, and records that elevated the Ballards to divine stature, as seen here in these sheet music covers. Godfré, Our Loved One, Ascended was likely composed after Ballard’s death, amidst accusations of tax fraud.
Trophies, models and industrial design
Trophies, industrial design objects and models are like sculptures,
they have their own particular beauty
K. K. Culver Trophy: Miami All-American Air Maneuvers, 1938
K. K. Culver Trophy: Miami All-American Air Maneuvers, 1938. Viktor Schreckengost (American, 1906–2008) Gorham Company, Bronze Division, Providence, Rhode Island, manufacturer. Silverplated bronze; 40 × 14 × 9 in. (101.6 × 35.5 × 22.8 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Promised Gift, 83.6.5. Purchased in 1983.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “Innovative designer Viktor Schreckengost created this heroic confection for the K. K. Culver Trophy Race for women pilots at the annual All-American Air Maneuvers in Miami. Each January, pilots from around the country converged at the Miami Municipal Airport for races, flying demonstrations, and exhibitions of the latest airplanes. Designed to promote the region as an international center for aviation, tourism, and glamour, these events elevated Miami’s reputation and provided an economic boost during the Great Depression”.
Edna Gardner Whyte with trophies,
including the K. K. Culver Trophy, 1939
Model, DB‐70, 1931
Model, DB‐70, 1931. Societé Dyle et Bacalan, Bordeaux, France, manufacturer. Aluminum. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 87.1570.18.1.
Model, Trylon and Perisphere, c.1938
Model, Trylon and Perisphere, c.1938. Wallace K. Harrison (American, 1895–1981) and J. André Fouilhoux, (French, 1879–1945), architects. Stainless steel, wood, plastic; 36 ¼ × 31 in. diameter (92 × 78.7 cm) The Wolfsonian–Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, 86.17.1. Purchased in 1984.
Micky’s remarks in the catalogue: “The Trylon and Perisphere , two monumental modernistic structures designed by architects Wallace K. Harrison and J. André Fouilhoux, became the icon of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, resonating with the fair’s theme, “The World of Tomorrow.” The architects integrated pure geometric forms into a composition rigorously modern and new. Together forming the Theme Center of the fair, the futuristic approach manifested an optimistic outlook after a harsh decade of economic depression. The structures could be seen for miles, summoning fair-goers to a positive vision of the future. The nation and the world were in need of a moment of hopefulness, but the fair was to intersect with the outbreak of what would be the deadliest and most global war in history”.
Maquette, Elephant Tower, c.1938
Maquette, Elephant Tower, c.1938. For the Portals of the Pacific, 1939 Golden Gate International
Exposition, San Francisco. Donald Macky (American, 1913–2007), architect. San Francisco. Plaster, paint. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, XX1989.399
The United States hosted two world’s fairs in 1939, one on each coast. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate International Exposition celebrated the city’s role as an American gateway to Asia. For the Portals of the Pacific, which flanked the fair’s main entrance, Donald Macky designed enormous ziggurats topped by stylized elephants. Within two years, the artificial island built to host the exposition would be converted to a processing center for sailors heading off to fight Japan in the Pacific.
Postcard, Elephant Towers, Portals of the Pacific, 1939–40.
Stanley A. Piltz Company, San Francisco, publisher
Model, FIAT Littorina, serie II, 1938
Model, FIAT Littorina, serie II, 1938. FIAT, Turin, Italy, maker. Painted aluminum, leather, glass, wood Loan, The Wolfsoniana–Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura, Genoa.
FIAT launched the Littorina, a self‐propelled railcar powered by diesel or gas engines, in 1932. A symbol of advanced technology and modern design, it was immediately adopted as a propaganda tool by Italy’s Fascist regime. The railcar takes its name from Littoria (now Latina), the first of the towns founded by Benito Mussolini in the Agro Pontino, a swampy region south of Rome that was drained and settled by the government in the 1930s.
Littorina from FIAT album, 1942
Meat slicer, Streamliner, model 410, 1940
Meat slicer, Streamliner, model 410, 1940. Egmont H. Arens (American, 1889–1966) and Theodore C. Brookhart (American, 1898–1942), designers Hobart Manufacturing Company, Troy, Ohio, manufacturer. Aluminum, steel, rubber. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, XX1990.109.
Egg beater, Aluminum Beauty, 1919
Egg beater, Aluminum Beauty, 1919. Ullman Aluminum Division, Inc., Long Island City, New York, manufacturer. Aluminum. The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection, XX1990.844
How the “Micky” Wolfson Collection
became the Wolfsonian-FIU
LEFT: Washington Storage c.1936 RIGHT: The Wolfsonian today
“Over the years, my quest for knowledge through acquisitions evolved, no longer filling a wooden board but a warehouse—the Washington Storage Company, a 1927 Mediterranean Revival fortress situated in Miami Beach’s Art Deco district. Advised in the mid-1980s that I had single-handedly filled the space and was, by default, the only client, I proceeded to purchase the building, transforming it into The Wolfsonian”.
“In 1997 it became part of Florida International University and is now one of the largest university collections in the United States, with more than 200,000 objects, a number that continues to increase with ongoing acquisitions and generous gifts”.
“I collect to preserve what would otherwise be lost, to assemble tangible memories for contemporary interpretation, and to provoke responses from twenty-first-century viewers. The process of preservation and explication defines and charts my world—the collection is, in fact, my utobiography”.
I travel relentlessly, ever on the lookout, drawn to objects that convey information or ideas that are part of a larger narrative. Everything has a story. Each object I acquire is a tessera in the mosaic of the comédie humaine. Each piece contributes to the understanding of a locale, a situation, and a particular time in history. The mosaic continues to grow, a work in progress. It is my laboratory for education, inquiry, and discernment”.
Mitchell “Micky” Wolfson
“The Wolfsonian collection reflects the passion of many generous donors, but Micky has always been the heart of the museum”.
“His gifts, personality, and philosophy shape what it means to be ‘Wolfsonian’ in endless ways, and I can’t think of a more appropriate time for our curators to share his rarely heard stories than this milestone birthday.”
Wolfsonian research curator
and co-organizer of the exhibition.
“A Universe of Things mirrors Micky’s unrelenting enthusiasm for discovery”
“His curiosity and compelling worldview will inspire future generations of collectors.”
“These works do double duty, charting Micky’s collecting and telling their own stories”.
“Whether propaganda, an appliance, or even a bicycle, each object is evidence of a movement, a maker, a user, and a culture.”
Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Author
Lea Nickless: Editor; Writer & Researcher; Project Manager
Jon Mogul, Consulting Editor
Publisher: Scala Arts Publishers, Inc.
Measurements: 16.5×19 cm
Number of pages: 80
The Wolfsonian. Produced in tandem with the exhibition will be a companion book, Founder’s Choice (Scala Publishers), focusing on 37 of Wolfson’s selections from the collection paired with commentary that expands on his memories and perspective.