Collection Spotlight: St. George Collection of Cornelia Steketee Hulst

The St. George Collection of Cornelia Steketee Hulst

Recently, while moving around some mounted prints in the VRC, an interesting image of St. George caught my eye.  After looking at the stack of prints below it, I discovered they were all images of St. George slaying the dragon– from old stamps, menus, and other sorts of ephemera.  Mounted on hard, gray board, the century-old images are in amazingly good condition.  I had found the small, forgotten collection of Cornelia Steketee Hulst, a renowned Michigan educator who had a special fondness for the legends of St. George of Cappadocia. 

In total, there are 153 pictures of St. George depicted in paintings, sculpture, architecture, and books that Cornelia collected over time. Some were sent to her by friends travelling abroad who knew she would love to add a certain piece to her collection.  Several of these have personal notes, saying things like ‘Dear Cornelia, this was all I could find, but I am sure you will like it’.  Our imaging department was careful to capture these notes along with the images.  Some of the text notations on the pictures are in English, Italian, German, and Dutch.  Few of the pictures are attributed with the artwork’s title, artist’s name, or date.

How did we come to house this collection in the VRC?  The collection was acquired through a donation to the University of Michigan in 1928.  In a letter found in the VRC archives dated October 6, 1975, Harriet C. Jameson, Head of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, asks the Curator of Slides and Photographs in the History of Art Department, Linda J. Owen, if she would be interested in having the pictures here, since there was no use for them in the rare book room.  A copy of the letter in response to Ms. Jameson says, yes, indeed we can use the pictures and that it would supplement what we already have in the collections of iconographical representations of St. George.  A bit more research shows that many of Cornelia Steketee Hulst’s papers and letters are in the archives at the Bentley Historical Library on campus.  It is known that she was researching for her book St. George of Cappadocia in Legend and History

The collection is being partially digitized and accessible through the Visual Resources Collections UMDL image catalog:  http://quod.lib.umich.edu/h/hart (key word search: hulst).  They can also be viewed in person by appointment in room 45 of Tappan Hall.

The collection offers students, researchers, and educators the opportunity to study the depiction of St. George of Cappadocia throughout history in painting, sculpture, miniatures, architecture, and cartoons, and also examples of the stories that inspired the St. George romances.

Biography of Collector:

Cornelia Steketee Hulst (1865-1957) was born in America to Dutch immigrant parents and was raised as a Dutch Calvinist.  Not much is known about her early days, but she lived quite a notable life.  She was a teacher in Grand Rapids, MI, and in 1913 she was elected unanimously as the president of the Michigan State Teachers’ Association, now better known as the Michigan Education Association (Journal of Education, p. 645).  Hulst was the first female president of this organization. She exhibited a great interest in ancient myths and mythology and wrote books on the subject of Perseus and poetry based upon Nordic mythology.

Hulst’s book St. George of Cappadocia in Legend and History (1909) sprung from her fascination with images of the saint and took shape as a book when she realized that sources were scattered and incomplete. She also seems to be one of the earliest scholars to attempt to compile all the various legends, myths, and deeds of St. George and describe how his story was shaped and disseminated throughout the world.  Her probing into the history of St. George resulted in her collection of images of the saint in various forms, which the Visual Resources Collections at the University of Michigan now holds.  Her papers can be found at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.

By Cathy Pense

 

Sources:

Hulst, Cornelia Steketee. (Use italics, not underlining, for bibliographies.) Perseus And the Gorgon. La Salle, Ill.: The Open Court Publishing Co., 1946. 

                http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/001392665

Hulst, Cornelia Steketee. St. George of Cappadocia In Legend And History. London: D. Nutt, 1909.

                http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015068200412;view=1up;seq=5

Hulst, Cornelia Steketee. St. George of Cappadocia In Legend And History. London: D. Nutt, 1909.

                http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/003935918

Hulst, Cornelia Steketee, and Harry B Hutchins. Cornelia Steketee Hulst Papers, 1898.

                http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu/Record/002739761

Journal of Education. (1913, December 18). “Educational News” vol. 58(2) p. 645. Retrieved from: http://books.google.com/books?id=Ob4BAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false