In 1892, the Savannah Morning News published a transcription of Telfair Director Carl Brandt’s annual report to the Georgia Historical Society. The Society at that time held the Telfair Academy of Arts in Sciences in trust as a bequest from Mary Telfair. A highlight of the report was Brandt’s account of a new treasure he had purchased for the museum on a buying trip to Europe the previous year, Nach dem Sturm (After the Storm), by Eugen Ducker of Düsseldorf. This canvas, a calm afternoon scene depicting the German Ocean near Holland after a squall, was an exceptional work in Brandt’s opinion, worthy of any museum gallery. Little did he know that almost seven decades later this lovely painting would be the subject of a tragicomedy.
When the Telfair scheduled a local gun show in 1958 to be accompanied by a lecture and promised demonstration, news reporters gathered. Concerns and apprehensions were expressed. But fascination with the subject, the history of the gun, with special emphasis on the American gun, outweighed the concerns. Such a demonstration in the venerable Telfair Academy’s main picture gallery, the Rotunda, hung with Carl Brandt’s 19th-century purchases, a gallery filled with the crème de la crème of the Telfair’s collection, would be unthinkable — one would think.
But on the night of February 13, 1958, a lecture on firearms was underway in this gallery. Suspecting, hoping, for the worst, more reporters than usual were present. As an antique matchlock “broomstick” gun was demonstrated, a foil “bullet” was discharged, piercing Brandt’s prize 1891 purchase. Cameras flashed, newspaper articles began to germinate. Two artists themselves, Anna C. Hunter and Ray Dilley, writers for the Savannah Morning News and Savannah Evening Press, caught the action, put it into words, and illustrated it with photographs taken by not-too-surprised photographers. The Telfair’s director responded graciously that the painting was in need of cleaning anyway.
Happily, Nach dem Sturm’s “wound” has been so expertly conserved that it is virtually impossible to spot.
- “The New Picture Hung. Ducker’s ‘Nach Dem Sturm’,” Savannah Morning News, December 30, 1891.
- Transcript of the Director’s Report from the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Historical Society, 8; Savannah Morning News, February 18, 1892.
- “Report of the Committee on the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences to The Georgia Historical Society, January 2nd, 1893”, 9; Savannah: The Morning News Print, 1893.
- “Gun Exhibition is Scheduled,” Savannah Morning news, January 8, 1958. Photograph by Rich for the Savannah Morning News, caption: Famous Dueling Pistols.
- Ray Dilley, “Matchlock Works Well: Telfair Painting Unfortunately Is Target,” Savannah Evening Press, February 14, 1958
- Anna Colquitt Hunter, “Masterpiece Victim in Gun Demonstration,” Savannah Morning News, February 14, 1958