Captain, U.S. Army, Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archive (MFAA) Sectio
Born in Nova Scotia and raised in England and Ireland, Edith Standen became an American citizen in 1942, at which time she joined the Women’s Army Corps and was stationed with the Air Force in Ohio. Because of her scholarly background and association with Harvard University and Paul Sachs, she was an ideal candidate for the MFAA in Germany, arriving there in June 1945. Like her colleagues, Standen signed the Wiesbaden Manifesto in November 1945 in protest of the United States’ decision to transfer 202 German-owned artworks to the National Gallery in Washington for safekeeping. Less than a year later, she was the Officer-in-Charge at the Wiesbaden Collecting Point until August 1947 when her service ended. In this post, Standen supervised the organization, research and ultimate restitution of thousands of artworks and other objects.
Edith Standen was educated at Oxford, where she earned a B.A. with honors in 1926. In 1928, she immigrated to the United States and began work with the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. She also completed Paul Sachs’ museum studies course at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, where she volunteered to work in the photographic collection area. From 1929-42, Standen was Secretary to the Widener Collection at Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, overseeing the transfer of the collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1942 upon its gift to the nation by Joseph Widener.
After she returned from her MFAA service, Standen was named the Curator of Textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1949-70. Although she didn’t have a particular interest in tapestries at the onset, she quickly became an expert in her field. Standen wrote the two-volume catalogue European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1985, along with over fifty other articles. She then served as a consultant to the museum until 1988, the same year that she received the Honor Award for lifetime achievement by the Women’s Caucus for Art. Standen donated her MFAA papers to the National Gallery in 1979 and, after her death in 1998, additional documents and records were added to the collection. The Edith A. Standen Papers are today conserved in the Gallery Archives of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.