Rachel Kline ’20 Studies Armor for a Painting

I’m pictured here in one of my favorite galleries in the museum featuring Renaissance art from across Europe. The structure behind me is a sixteenth century choir screen from a chapel in France.
Photo by Patrick Montero

Hello! My name is Rachel Kline ’20, and this Summer I am interning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). I am working in the European Painting Department as a Curatorial Intern, but I have been able to meet and work with staff in several other departments as a part of my research projects. I grew up going to the PMA with my family on a regular basis, so this opportunity is especially close to my heart because I am finally able to work in the institution that has helped shape my passion for art history. My internship involves a few different research assignments which allow me to explore the geographic and chronological diversity of our department’s collection. As a double major in history of art and anthropology, I am particularly enjoying researching the sociological and cultural environments that inspired the creation of the paintings I am focusing on. I am hopeful that some of my research this summer will give rise to some ideas for my senior thesis this coming semester!

Portrait of a Man in Armor: a painting that fueled three weeks’ worth of art historical research.

One of my main research projects, which has taken up several weeks of work, was to investigate a painting from our collection of Spanish art that had virtually no previous research about its history. The goal of this research is to eventually compile information about our Spanish paintings to create a digital publication available to art history scholars and the general museum-going public. With the especially nondescript title of Portrait of a Man in Armor, the painting offered me an exciting mystery to solve surrounding both the artist and the subject of the portrait. The painting was dated to the late sixteenth century and had been bought in 1922 at the auction of a collection from a castle in Piedmont, Italy. Some of the curators in our department along with the curator of arms and armor suggested that I begin my research by first looking into the unique armor worn by the subject of the painting. Luckily, the PMA has an incredible collection of armor and literature about the history of armor, so my research was off to a great start. I was able to collaborate with the European Decorative Arts and Sculpture Department to utilize some books in their curatorial library. After many trips to the museum library, reading Italian catalogues of armor, contacting the Royal Collection of Britain, and researching Italian orders of knighthood, I was able to tentatively identify the subject of the portrait as a particular Duke of Savoy from the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the artist remains elusive, but this experience diving into the history of one particular painting reinforced my passion for research and especially art historical scholarship of the Early Modern period.

Utilizing the PMA’s awesome collection of arms and armor to compare the
painting I’m researching with some armor from the same time period.

Overall, this internship has demonstrated to me the challenges and rewards of a career in the arts. I am hoping to pursue a PhD in art history and enter the museums field as a curator, and my position this summer has given me an invaluable entry point into the curatorial career path. My particular area of interest is the Early Italian Renaissance, and so being given an opportunity to research paintings from a similar period has taught me even more about this interesting time in history. I am an avid reader and writer, and being able to practice the art historical research process in a real museum setting has not only helped me become a better student but has also been an incredibly enjoyable and enlightening experience. I am so thankful to Bryn Mawr’s History of Art and Italian departments for preparing me for my position this summer. I have realized that what I am learning in my coursework is truly significant and applicable to my educational and professional goals. 

Written by Rachel Kline ’20, history of art and anthropology double major, Italian minor

Edited by Emily Dombrovskaya ’19