Strake Jesuit’s Art Treasures

Quinten Bright ’19

Many students tend to walk through the halls focused on where they’re going, or where they’ve been, never stopping to wonder about the story behind each priceless ancient artifact or work of modern art.

“Every piece is like its own little investigation,” said Gabriella Scott, Strake Jesuit’s Art Curator.

For instance, when I asked about the golden frame in the 800 building, titled “Eidolon #1110” by Christian Eckart, Ms. Scott told me, “One particular man donated much of the artwork Strake Jesuit had for some time, and, since a great many of the things he gave were just on loan, when he passed away his family took many things back, and he had made some commitments to other charities that were supposed to be paid with proceeds from his artwork. When people found out that a lot of artwork was missing from our campus, quite a few people donated art, and that empty frame was one of the pieces. So, while there is no limit to what one might envision in the unusually shaped frame, one uplifting possibility is that the void in the frame filled a void at Strake.”

Of course, we also have many relics from thousands of years ago in the Antiquities Hall in the Parsley Center, the oldest being a small tablet from the Middle Elamite people, during the period of 1275-1240 B.C. As it says in the Art Museum database, “The complete brick was oblong with six long lines inscribed […] It comes from a temple built by King Untash-Napirisha […] Because much is still unknown about the Elamite language, not everything can be translated with certainty.” However, other copies of this transcription were found at the site, which were translated by a British scholar, we can assume the tablet reads:

“Untash-Napinish, son of Hubannumena, King of Anshan and Susa, have enjoyed a long life, my health is good, there will be no end to my lineage. Now, for this reason, a shrine of colored bricks, a magnificent holy place I constructed, to Inshushinak of the sacred shrine I gave it. The ziggurat.”

This is a description of the temple that was built for their God, Inshushinak.

But none of these rich pieces of history would be here without the Art Museum Department. They carefully preserve each piece by deciding three times a year which go into view and which go back into storage. In fact, some of the most interesting and personal pieces aren’t even on display right now, including a few pieces that got moved out of the library when it got remodeled.

“The artist, Madeline Stanley-Jossem was a Jewish woman who lived in France,” Ms. Scott told me. “She lived through World War I, and in World War II her sister Suzanne had married Marcel Heyman, who had brought his wife and the rest of her family to Houston to keep them safe, so when the artist passed away, her family got to bring the art to Houston. Each of the art pieces is named after different children’s songs, and obviously, it was her dealing with war and destruction and loss.” Although she was a well-renowned artist who had even been awarded a Le Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, “The reason why these pieces weren’t someplace before her daughter and son in law gave them away after her death was because she kept them in her bedroom.”

Each and every piece at Strake Jesuit has a rich backstory, and while the Art Museum Department keeps a database for each one, Ms, Scott tells me that they are working to put labels next to the various sculptures and paintings to give more context to students if they are interested.