By Josephine Johnson
With all of the press about the recent blockbuster movie The Monuments Men, directed, written, and produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, imagine our surprise when we learned that there is a hooked rug in the Museum Textile Services study collection made by a monuments man!
In 2012, Victoria Blair-Smith brought a beautiful green velvet dress belonging to her mother to be conserved at MTS. The blog about the project, called Portrait of a Lady, discusses the dress's owner, Carla Meeks, née Marie Caroline Silvester, and her husband Carroll L. V. Meeks (Yale class of 1928), who taught architectural history at Yale University. The hooked rug above was made for the couple, who married in 1934, by Yale colleague Theodore "Tubby" Sizer.
Thanks to documentation recently sent to us by Blair-Smith, we learned that Theodore Sizer was the first chief of operations for the Monuments Men in Germany in 1944. Back home, Sizer pursued rug hooking as therapy for the head injury he acquired during the war. Carol Meeks' love for trains is clear in this rug, and Sizer included much personal information, including birth and graduation dates, along with the year of the couple's betrothal. If you look closely in the above photo of Sizer, you can see an oval hooked rug of a fish with the date 1951 on it behind him.
That is not the only connection between Museum Textile Services and the Monuments Men. The inspiration for George Clooney's character Frank Stokes was a well-known art conservator from Harvard Art Museums, George Stout. Stout spent many years in Europe and Japan rescuing artwork jeopardized by the war. Back at home, Stout was one of the founding members of the American Institute of Conservation, our primary membership organization. Stout was also a major proponent of creating formalized training programs for art conservation.