Home is the sailor, home from the sea … and the poet returned to the gallery.
In the summer of 1997, I was invited by Norman and Judith Topper to visit their home at Fearrington Village. Originally from New York, the Toppers had embraced the Triangle and especially the Museum. Both were dedicated, enthusiastic docents at the NCMA. They invited me over that August morning to talk about their art collection and specifically if there was anything of interest to the Museum.
Their collection was modest, mostly European and Japanese prints and Chinese export porcelain. While not for us, they would be welcome in the collections of several local museums, and I gave the Toppers names and phone numbers of the curators. However, there was one item that I very much coveted. Leaning on a shelf was a bronze portrait medallion of the Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson by the American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. That was a keeper! The Toppers happily offered to leave the portrait to the Museum in their wills. The next day Norman called to say that he and Judith had changed their minds: they wanted to donate the portrait right away. In such moments curators are allowed to be giddy. Read More