Materials Matter: Copper Surfaces

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If you have been inside the historic kitchen at the Hammond-Harwood House you have seen the museum’s extensive collection of kitchen implements, including the copper items (fig 1) that glisten above the venerable old hearth. These items make an artistic picture; however, there are more benefits to them than meets the eye.

Copper has long been admired for its beauty and has a variety of uses including jewelry, makeup, and building material. In the Renaissance painters like Leonardo DaVinci used copper as canvas, and in 18th century America artists like Boston-based John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) produced miniatures on copper, which he called portraits “in Little”.[i] In this post you will learn about the intersection of decorative arts and health, and why the materials around you matter now more than ever.

If you have ever watched the 1987 romantic comedy “Moonstruck” starring Cher, you may remember that her father, Cosmo Castorini (played by Vincent Gardenia), a highly successful plumber in New York City, advocated using copper pipes (video 1). In his famous line, “There are three kinds of pipe. There’s what you have {aluminum}, which is garbage and you can see where that’s gotten you. There’s bronze, which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Then, there’s copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money.”  Moonstruck – Copper Pipes

There are far more than three kinds of pipes and it is pretty clear Mr. Castorini’s advice is financially motived, yet, copper is worth exploring.

By Rachel Lovett, Curator


Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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