Block Museum ‘fills gaps’ in collection with newly acquired Castiglione print

Patrick St. Michel

The Block Museum of Art recently acquired a 17th-century Italian print depicting a scene from Homer’s Odyssey. “Circe Changing Odysseus’ Men into Beasts,” the detailed etching, circa 1651, is the work of Benedetto Castiglione, a painter, printmaker and draftsman known for his mythological and religious compositions.

Debora Wood, senior curator for the museum, said the Castiglione piece impressed Block Museum members enough to win out over two other works.

“Members went to R.S. Johnson Fine Art to see an exhibit. Myself and director David Robertson presented three prints for sale at the gallery the museum would consider purchasing for the collection,” she said in an e-mail. “After much deliberation, it was decided the Castiglione would be purchased for the collection.”

The Block Museum purchased the print using funds raised from a benefit auction held in spring 2005. Wood said the actual price of the print is confidential and couldn’t disclose the final amount.

Castiglione’s piece portrays Circe, daughter of the sun, turning Odysseus’ crew into animals when the men arrive at her island, as written in the Odyssey.

Wood said the print is a great addition to the museum.

“The print fills gaps in the museum’s collection while simultaneously complimenting current strengths,” she said. “This work presents a subject for student scholarly exploration, and figures well into a number of possible exhibitions.”

According to Wood, Castiglione’s work explores concepts like magic and metamorphosis. His pieces also explore philosophical topics, such as the frailty of human life and the search for truth.

Block Museum is currently closed to change exhibitions. It is set to reopen April 7.

Reach Patrick St. Michel at [email protected]