On a rainy day in January, the art classes visited the billiard room to watch and talk with Alexandra "Alex" Thrapp '06. Alex is a graduate of Laurea and holds a degree in Art Restoration and Conservation Science from Scuola Lorenzo de Medici and is here at the mansion restoring some of our older paintings.
In 2006 three days after her graduation from Mercy Alex Thrapp moved to Italy! During her junior year at Mercy she was part of the Lyons Youth Exchange Program and fell in love with Italy. She came back and vowed that she would go to college in Italy, and in fact applied to no US Colleges!
She moved to Florence intending to study photo journalism, but as the iPhones were just coming into play – now it seemed that everyone could be a "photo journalist." Not sure of her next career step, Alex happened to walk by the Conservation Labs and as they say...the rest is history!
In order to be accepted into the program, she needed to speak Italian, and for the next 6 months went to school from 8-3 to learn Italian in an intensive language program. Never learning a Romance Language, and having only had sign language before, Alex found that her skill in sign language actually helped her out. Sign language was originally developed in France and follows the same wording as the French language, and it allowed her to use this signing skill to help to learn Italian.
In about 2007 on a visit home, she sent an email to James Pennuto, the father of Celine Pennuto '09 asking him if she could stop by and visit his studio, just to see what he did as an Art Restorer and Conservator. This chance email worked into an internship, a job working under a Master Restorer and Conservator and a career that she absolutely adores and has a passion for!
While at Mercy, Alex will be working on three portraits that were recently decommissioned by the De Young Museum. Alex plans to work on these paintings for the next 3-4 months, and is currently working on the portrait of Frederick "Freddie" Kohl painted by Gerard Barry in 1912 and will then go on to the portraits of his parents.
The Kohl Mansion was originally built for the "smart set" to have a place to entertain and throw lavish parties on the Peninsula for the World's Fair of 1915. These painting of Frederick Kohl, and his parents originally hung on the walls of the Kohl Mansion, in the Reception Room and Entrance/Foyer When the mansion was sold to the Sisters of Mercy in 1924, the Sisters donated the portraits to the then Pioneer Society of California (which is now the De Young Museum and Legion of Honor).
A recent Mercy graduate, Bridget Bell '16, began working with her father Gary Bell on a documentary of the Kohl Mansion and its paintings, and this research led to finding these painting at the De Young. As Frederick Kohl had no heirs, the Sisters of Mercy are the official caretakers of these portraits and they were decommissioned by the De Young and returned to Mercy.
Working in the Billiards Room Alex told the story of the Kohl family to the students, and said that it is fitting that she is restoring "Freddie" to his former glory in what was said to be his favorite spot in the house! Saving history for the next generation is a real joy for Alex and we are thrilled to have her here to impart her knowledge on current Mercy students!