Lavoisier painting returns to Rockefeller
by ZACH VEILLEUX
For more than 50 years, a dramatic life-size painting of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, considered by many to be the father of modern chemistry, hung in Welch Hall. Painted in 1788 by Jacques-Louis David, it depicts Lavoisier seated at his workbench, lab notebook in hand, surrounded by scientific apparatuses and conversing with his wife and collaborator Marie-Anne Pierette Paulze. It’s a dramatic and inspirational work of art, but since 1977 viewing it has required a long walk to Fifth Avenue. The university sold it 34 years ago and it now hangs in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Originally a gift from John D. Rockefeller, who bought it (via a dealer) from Mr. Lavoisier’s family, the painting was one of several valuable works sold in the seventies. The proceeds from its sale — about $4 million — were used to endow two professorships and four graduate fellowships. Maclyn McCarty and Norton Zinder were the first recipients of the professorships.
Although there is no getting it back from the Met, Paul Nurse, the university’s outgoing president, has had made and framed a full-size reproduction. The copy, an ultra-high-resolution photograph which Dr. Nurse has presented to the university as a gift, is temporarily on display in the lobby of the Rockefeller Research Building. It will be relocated to Welch Hall, near the spot where it hung for half a century, after construction work is completed in Welch. (A second copy, also purchased by Dr. Nurse, will be hung in his new office at the Royal Society in London.)
Lavoisier, a French nobleman, is best known for his discovery that matter is indestructible, a key tenet of chemistry and physics. He also assembled the first comprehensive list of chemical elements, helped construct the metric system and demonstrated the role of oxygen in rusting and respiration. He was a rigorous and meticulous experimenter who overturned many of the era’s scientific beliefs but also made numerous enemies. He was branded a traitor and beheaded via guillotine during the French revolution.
“The portrait of Lavoisier and his wife has long been one my favorite works of art,” says Dr. Nurse. “It is wonderful to be able to have this magnificent painting — even a reproduction — back on display at Rockefeller.”
|Nurses donate to CFC|
Anne Nurse, a former nursery school teacher in the U.K., formed her relationship with the university’s Child and Family Center soon after arriving from London back in 2003.
“We were a little nervous when we heard that the new president’s wife wanted to come visit the CFC,” recalls Marjorie Goldsmith, the school’s director at the time. “But Anne turned out to be amazing. She read and told stories to the kids, organized cooking projects, and accompanied us on outdoor adventures. She became close friends with many of the teachers and the kids.”
During the seven years that the Nurses lived on campus, Ms. Nurse devoted hundreds of hours to the CFC, and was instrumental in helping set up the children’s garden, located between Caspary Auditorium and Philosophers Garden. She spent many spring mornings working shoulder-to-shoulder with the preschoolers as they dug up worms, plucked weeds and ultimately harvested green beans, basil and tomatoes.
Although Ms. Nurse, who moved back to London last fall, is no longer able to regularly spend time at the CFC, her presence continues to be felt. In December, the Nurses announced they would donate $15,000 to the CFC to help ensure that the community’s children continue to have new opportunities to explore nature.
“Although Anne will be sorely missed, it’s wonderful to be able to expand our outdoor education program thanks to the Nurses’ generous gift,” says Karen Booth, the center’s director. “Anne shared her deep sense of wonder and delight in learning with the children, whether making gingerbread cookies, telling stories, going out to the library or dancing and singing in music class. She made a real difference in the children’s lives.”
New employee discount available for event tickets. Discounted tickets to Broadway shows, as well as to theme parks and events in Orlando, Las Vegas and elsewhere are now available through ticketsatwork. The Web site also offers discounted movie tickets at several theater chains. Use company code “ROCKU” to register.
Spring Insight lectures scheduled. Speakers in the campus lecture series on sciences, arts and humanities will be: Claudia Dreifus, adjunct associate professor at Columbia University and contributing writer to The New York Times; George Amato, Ph.D., director of the Sackler Insistute for Comparative Genomics, American Museum of Natural History; and Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project. For dates and times, go to featuredevents.rockefeller.edu.
Campus celebration February 25. A campus-wide celebration will be held next week to honor individuals who have won major scientific awards, and to say farewell to Paul Nurse. All are invited. The event will take place in Weiss Café at 2 p.m.
Town Hall meeting scheduled for March 21. Incoming president Marc Tessier-Lavigne will hold a town hall meeting for all members of the campus community at 3 p.m. on March 21 in Caspary Auditorium. Dr. Tessier-Lavigne will speak about his vision for the university and will take questions. Additionally, Dr. Tessier-Lavigne will give the Friday Lecture on March 4. His talk, titled “Wiring the Brain: Common Mechanisms of Axon Guidance, Regeneration and Degeneration,” will be at 3:45 p.m. in Caspary.
Bring your child to work. In celebration of national “Take Your Child to Work Day,” Human Resources is hosting activities from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. Children between the ages of 8 and 12 who are accompanied by an adult are welcome. The registration deadline is Friday, April 8. Contact HR at x8300 or email@example.com.