NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on September 23 that it has received a gift of a rare American weathervane from Michael and Patricia Del Castello. Produced by an unidentified maker between 1909 and 1913, it was likely commissioned for the Poland Spring House in Poland Spring, Maine, where it was installed on its rooftop by 1914 and remained on view until 1973. The commanding and distinctive weathervane joins the Met’s growing collection of American vernacular sculpture and will be on view in Gallery 732 in the American Wing starting September 29.
“This weathervane is an extraordinary example of American vernacular sculpture,” stated the Marina Kellen French Director of the Met, Max Hollein. “The gift marks an important development as the museum continues to evolve the breadth of its collecting, especially as the American Wing approaches its centennial year in 2024. We are deeply grateful to Michael and Patricia Del Castello for their generous gift of this unique work of art.”
Primarily used to indicate and measure wind direction, weathervanes represent an American sculptural tradition that dates back to the early 18th century. This weathervane was modeled after the Bleriot Model XI Monoplane, a small plane that the French aviator and engineer Louis Bleriot (1872–1936) flew across the English Channel on July 25, 1909, marking the first airplane flight across the channel, 25 miles from Calais to Dover. Bleriot helped design the plane and put it into production, setting records for flying speed, altitude and distance. The plane was popular in races in both Europe and the United States. The weathervane representing the monoplane presumably was made in response to races held between French and American aviators in Poland Spring and Portland, Maine, sometime after Bleriot’s historic 1909 flight across the English Channel.
“The gift of the Bleriot Model XI Monoplane weathervane is transformative as it adds to the collection one of the most sophisticated examples of American weathervanes ever produced,” said the Marica F. Vilcek Curator of American Painting and Sculpture, Thayer Tolles. “The weathervane is distinctive not only for its commanding scale and complexity of assembly, but also its reference to a historical event.”