Thank You

Curator of American sculpture Thayer Tolles contemplates art created out of gratitude.

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Ever since I was young, manners have been beaten into me. I listened for years and years to my grandmother telling me to hold the door open.

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  • Thayer Tolles
    1280852
  • [Three Little Girls Having a Tea Party]  |  1920s  |  Unknown Artist (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.3)
    1280896
  • Madame Georges Charpentier (née Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier, 1848–1904) and Her Children, Georgette-Berthe (1872–1945) and Paul-Émile-Charles (1875–1895)  |  1878  |  Auguste Renoir (French)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 78.  |  Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1907 (07.122)
    12671024
  • Anna's Birthday Party  |  1896  |  Julius Goldschmidt (American)  |  Albumen silver print  |  Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.9)
    12751024
  • [Metal Sign: "THANK YOU"]  |  1973–74  |  Walker Evans (American)  |  Instant color print  |  Purchase, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.245.62)
    9951024
  • Bacchante and Infant Faun  |  1893–94; this cast 1894  |  Frederick William MacMonnies (American)  |  Bronze  |  Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
    5141024
  • Bacchante and Infant Faun  |  1893–94; this cast 1894  |  Frederick William MacMonnies (American)  |  Bronze  |  Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
    10241024
  • Portrait of Pietro Aretino (probably after a design by Sebastiano del Piombo)  |  ca. 1517–20 or 1524–25  |  Marcantonio Raimondi (Italian)  |  Engraving  |  Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.40)
    7181024
  • Leaf of divani calligraphy  |  dated 1075 A.H./1644 a.d.; Ottoman  |  Signed by Khwaja  |  Turkey  |  Ink on paper  |  Purchase, Richard S. Perkins Gift, 1986 (1986.216.1)
    1280763
  • Sampler  |  December 23, 1813  |  Charlotte Gardner (American)  |  Silk on linen  |  Purchase, Anna Glen B. Vietor Gift, in memory of her husband, Alexander Orr Vietor, 2009 (2009.413)
    9111024
  • Sampler  |  December 23, 1813  |  Charlotte Gardner (American)  |  Silk on linen  |  Purchase, Anna Glen B. Vietor Gift, in memory of her husband, Alexander Orr Vietor, 2009 (2009.413)
    1280984
  • Pair of vases  |  1824 and 1825  |  Thomas Fletcher (American) and Sidney Gardiner (American)  |  Silver  |  Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)  |  Gift of the Erving and Joyce Wolf Foundation, 1988 (1988.199)
    8151024
  • Bowl  |  1888  |  Tiffany & Co. (American)  |  New York City, New York  |  Silver and silver gilt  |  Purchase, Cranshaw Corporation Gift, 2004 (2004.273)
    1280903
  • Tea or hot water urn  |  1799  |  John McMullin (American)  |  Silver with ivory handle  |  Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)
    7051024
  • Ritual Vessel (Paccha)  |  15th–early 16th century  |  Peru; Inka  |  Ceramic  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1149)
    1280926
  • Torque (Neck Ring)  |  ca. 600 b.c.; Late Bronze Age  |  Scandinavian  |  Copper alloy  |  Purchase, Nathaniel Spear Jr. Gift, 1987 (1987.395)
    10241024
  • Statue of a bearded man with votive offerings  |  ca. 475–450 b.c.; Classical  |  Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi  |  Limestone  |  The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2461)
    6941024
  • Lady at the Tea Table  |  1883–85  |  Mary Cassatt (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Mary Cassatt, 1923 (23.101)
    8391024
  • Lady at the Tea Table  |  1883–85  |  Mary Cassatt (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Mary Cassatt, 1923 (23.101)
    12051024
  • Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park  |  1886  |  William Merritt Chase (American)  |  Oil on panel  |  The Chester Dale Collection, Bequest of Chester Dale, 1962 (63.138.2)
    1280890
  • Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park  |  1886  |  William Merritt Chase (American)  |  Oil on panel  |  The Chester Dale Collection, Bequest of Chester Dale, 1962 (63.138.2)
    1280804
  • The Cup of Tea  |  ca. 1879  |  Mary Cassatt (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922 (22.16.17)
    7241024
  • Thayer Tolles
    1280852
  • My name is Thayer Tolles, I'm a curator in the American Wing and my topic today is thank you.

  • Ever since I was young, manners have been beaten into me. I listened for years and years to my grandmother asking me

  • to hold the door open or telling me to hold the door open for her. In having children, I want them to understand that concept as well. When my kids were little I always used to laugh at the thank you notes we'd get from

  • birthday parties where it was literally fill in the blank like, "Dear fill in the blank. Thank you so much for the fill in the blank. It makes me feel fill in the blank."

  • I like how gratitude can be just the very simple gesture of saying "thank you" or something much larger.

  • Sometimes it seems to me that the "thank you" is disproportionate to the actual gift received. Frederick MacMonnies received fifty dollars from Charles McKim when he wanted to go to Paris to study. McKim received as a thank you gift

  • a life-size bronze sculpture, which to me seems really disproportionate in generosity.

  • I'm very interested in the stories that are associated with the objects that express gratitude. This piece, it's a little wacky in a sense because the patron had negotiated the engraver's release from prison after a scandal he had been involved in, so, when he got his feet on the ground this is what he did.

  • I think email thank you notes are now quite acceptable, but I actually really like getting a written thank you note in the mail, I mean who gets real mail anymore.

  • I really like this sampler done by a young girl, expressing thanks to the benefactress of this school. At this time, it was hard

  • for poor girls to get an education. I'm a knitter myself so I always joke that I'm knitting love into every stitch and maybe she was stitching gratitude.

  • There are a lot of presentation objects that are given from groups of people

  • to a single individual or by the maker to a client.

  • This tea urn was given to a Philadelphia doctor for helping citizens who were ravaged by yellow fever. I like how such a beautiful object comes out of this really awful event.

  • There is the issue of spirituality in thanks. There are objects that are really offerings, in hopes that something good will happen.

  • In the case of this torque or neck ring, it's fun to think of people casting these into the peat bogs where they thought that the gods would find them.

  • And then there are objects that they think that the gods could use. Here we have a sculpture who's offering objects to the gods, he's holding a dove. It's almost as if you see this whole act of thanks playing out.

  • A very interesting story is the case of Mary Cassatt's Lady at the Tea Table. She made this portrait because the Riddle family had given the Cassatt family this tea set as a gift, but this was a thank you gift that was rejected. As a matter of fact, the sitter's daughter thought

  • her mother's nose looked too big and gave the portrait back. I bet she had really good manners though, 'cause she certainly knew how to serve tea properly.

  • On the simplest level, "thank you" is a universal expression. Everyone at one point or another feels gratitude towards

  • a god, an individual, some good thing that's happened to them and

  • I'm just interested in the ways that people express thanks or gratitude.I'm not gonna beat anyone down for failing to thank me, but

  • I don't forget sometimes.

  • 1976.600.3
    [Three Little Girls Having a Tea Party], 1920s, Unknown Artist (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.3)
  • 07.122
    Madame Georges Charpentier (née Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier, 1848–1904) and Her Children, Georgette-Berthe (1872–1945) and Paul-Émile-Charles (1875–1895), 1878, Auguste Renoir (French), Oil on canvas, Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 78. Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1907 (07.122)
  • 1976.600.9
    Anna's Birthday Party, 1896, Julius Goldschmidt (American), Albumen silver print Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.9)
  • 1994.245.62
    [Metal Sign: "THANK YOU"], 1973–74, Walker Evans (American), Instant color print Purchase, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.245.62)
  • 97.19
    Bacchante and Infant Faun, 1893–94; this cast 1894, Frederick William MacMonnies (American), Bronze Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
  • 17.50.40
    Portrait of Pietro Aretino (probably after a design by Sebastiano del Piombo), ca. 1517–20 or 1524–25, Marcantonio Raimondi (Italian), Engraving Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.40)
  • 1986.216.1
    Leaf of divani calligraphy, dated 1075 A.H./1644 a.d.; Ottoman, Signed by Khwaja, Turkey, Ink on paper Purchase, Richard S. Perkins Gift, 1986 (1986.216.1)
  • 2009.413
    Sampler, December 23, 1813, Charlotte Gardner (American), Silk on linen Purchase, Anna Glen B. Vietor Gift, in memory of her husband, Alexander Orr Vietor, 2009 (2009.413)
  • 1982.4a,b_1988.199
    Pair of vases, 1824 and 1825, Thomas Fletcher (American) and Sidney Gardiner (American), Silver Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2) Gift of the Erving and Joyce Wolf Foundation, 1988 (1988.199)
  • 2004.273
    Bowl, 1888, Tiffany & Co. (American), New York City, New York, Silver and silver gilt Purchase, Cranshaw Corporation Gift, 2004 (2004.273)
  • 2009.420.2
    Tea or hot water urn, 1799, John McMullin (American), Silver with ivory handle Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)
  • 1979.206.1149
    Ritual Vessel (Paccha), 15th–early 16th century, Peru; Inka, Ceramic The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1149)
  • 1987.395
    Torque (Neck Ring), ca. 600 b.c.; Late Bronze Age, Scandinavian, Copper alloy Purchase, Nathaniel Spear Jr. Gift, 1987 (1987.395)
  • 74.51.2461
    Statue of a bearded man with votive offerings, ca. 475–450 b.c.; Classical, Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi, Limestone The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2461)
  • 23.101
    Lady at the Tea Table, 1883–85, Mary Cassatt (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Mary Cassatt, 1923 (23.101)
  • 63.138.2
    Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park, 1886, William Merritt Chase (American), Oil on panel The Chester Dale Collection, Bequest of Chester Dale, 1962 (63.138.2)
  • 22.16.17
    The Cup of Tea, ca. 1879, Mary Cassatt (American), Oil on canvas From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922 (22.16.17)
  • [Three Little Girls Having a Tea Party], 1920s, Unknown Artist (American), Gelatin silver print Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.3)
    Madame Georges Charpentier (née Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier, 1848–1904) and Her Children, Georgette-Berthe (1872–1945) and Paul-Émile-Charles (1875–1895), 1878, Auguste Renoir (French), Oil on canvas, Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 78. Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1907 (07.122)
    Anna's Birthday Party, 1896, Julius Goldschmidt (American), Albumen silver print Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.9)
    [Metal Sign: "THANK YOU"], 1973–74, Walker Evans (American), Instant color print Purchase, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.245.62)
    Bacchante and Infant Faun, 1893–94; this cast 1894, Frederick William MacMonnies (American), Bronze Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
    Portrait of Pietro Aretino (probably after a design by Sebastiano del Piombo), ca. 1517–20 or 1524–25, Marcantonio Raimondi (Italian), Engraving Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.40)
    Leaf of divani calligraphy, dated 1075 A.H./1644 a.d.; Ottoman, Signed by Khwaja, Turkey, Ink on paper Purchase, Richard S. Perkins Gift, 1986 (1986.216.1)
    Sampler, December 23, 1813, Charlotte Gardner (American), Silk on linen Purchase, Anna Glen B. Vietor Gift, in memory of her husband, Alexander Orr Vietor, 2009 (2009.413)
    Pair of vases, 1824 and 1825, Thomas Fletcher (American) and Sidney Gardiner (American), Silver Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2) Gift of the Erving and Joyce Wolf Foundation, 1988 (1988.199)
    Bowl, 1888, Tiffany & Co. (American), New York City, New York, Silver and silver gilt Purchase, Cranshaw Corporation Gift, 2004 (2004.273)
    Tea or hot water urn, 1799, John McMullin (American), Silver with ivory handle Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)
    Ritual Vessel (Paccha), 15th–early 16th century, Peru; Inka, Ceramic The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1149)
    Torque (Neck Ring), ca. 600 b.c.; Late Bronze Age, Scandinavian, Copper alloy Purchase, Nathaniel Spear Jr. Gift, 1987 (1987.395)
    Statue of a bearded man with votive offerings, ca. 475–450 b.c.; Classical, Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi, Limestone The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2461)
    Lady at the Tea Table, 1883–85, Mary Cassatt (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Mary Cassatt, 1923 (23.101)
    Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park, 1886, William Merritt Chase (American), Oil on panel The Chester Dale Collection, Bequest of Chester Dale, 1962 (63.138.2)
    The Cup of Tea, ca. 1879, Mary Cassatt (American), Oil on canvas From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922 (22.16.17)
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    [Three Little Girls Having a Tea Party]
    1920s
    Unknown Artist (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.3)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Madame Georges Charpentier (née Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier, 1848–1904) and Her Children, Georgette-Berthe (1872–1945) and Paul-Émile-Charles (1875–1895)
    1878
    Auguste Renoir (French)
    Oil on canvas
    Signed and dated (lower right): Renoir. 78.
    Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1907 (07.122)
    Not on view
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Anna's Birthday Party
    1896
    Julius Goldschmidt (American)
    Albumen silver print
    Gift of Peter Oldenburg, 1976 (1976.600.9)
    Not on view
    The Costume InstituteSecond Floor
    [Metal Sign: "THANK YOU"]
    1973–74
    Walker Evans (American)
    Instant color print
    Purchase, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.245.62)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Bacchante and Infant Faun
    1893–94; this cast 1894
    Frederick William MacMonnies (American)
    Bronze
    Gift of Charles F. McKim, 1897 (97.19)
    On view: Gallery 700
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Portrait of Pietro Aretino (probably after a design by Sebastiano del Piombo)
    ca. 1517–20 or 1524–25
    Marcantonio Raimondi (Italian)
    Engraving
    Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1917 (17.50.40)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Leaf of divani calligraphy
    dated 1075 A.H./1644 a.d.; Ottoman
    Signed by Khwaja
    Turkey
    Ink on paper
    Purchase, Richard S. Perkins Gift, 1986 (1986.216.1)
    Not on view
    Islamic ArtSecond Floor
    Sampler
    December 23, 1813
    Charlotte Gardner (American)
    Silk on linen
    Purchase, Anna Glen B. Vietor Gift, in memory of her husband, Alexander Orr Vietor, 2009 (2009.413)
    Not on view
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Pair of vases
    1824 and 1825
    Thomas Fletcher (American) and Sidney Gardiner (American)
    Silver
    Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)
    Gift of the Erving and Joyce Wolf Foundation, 1988 (1988.199)
    On view: Gallery 731
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Bowl
    1888
    Tiffany & Co. (American)
    New York City, New York
    Silver and silver gilt
    Purchase, Cranshaw Corporation Gift, 2004 (2004.273)
    On view: Gallery 706
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Tea or hot water urn
    1799
    John McMullin (American)
    Silver with ivory handle
    Purchase, Sansbury-Mills Fund and Frank P. Stetz Gift, 2009 (2009.420.2)
    On view: Gallery 704
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Ritual Vessel (Paccha)
    15th–early 16th century
    Peru; Inka
    Ceramic
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.1149)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Torque (Neck Ring)
    ca. 600 b.c.; Late Bronze Age
    Scandinavian
    Copper alloy
    Purchase, Nathaniel Spear Jr. Gift, 1987 (1987.395)
    On view: Gallery 301
    Medieval Art and The CloistersFirst Floor
    Statue of a bearded man with votive offerings
    ca. 475–450 b.c.; Classical
    Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi
    Limestone
    The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2461)
    On view: Gallery 175
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Lady at the Tea Table
    1883–85
    Mary Cassatt (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Mary Cassatt, 1923 (23.101)
    On view: Gallery 768
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Mrs. Chase in Prospect Park
    1886
    William Merritt Chase (American)
    Oil on panel
    The Chester Dale Collection, Bequest of Chester Dale, 1962 (63.138.2)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    The Cup of Tea
    ca. 1879
    Mary Cassatt (American)
    Oil on canvas
    From the Collection of James Stillman, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, 1922 (22.16.17)
    On view: Gallery 768
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors

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