Explore Art \\ Collection
Reflecting PEM's long history, our diverse holdings of European art foster connections across the museum.
PEM’s diverse holdings of European art reflect the unusual nature of the institution’s long history. The collection, comprising important works from the East India Marine Society and the Essex Institute, helps tell the story of early European settlers in and around Salem.
Although European art was not the primary focus of the East India Marine Society’s early collecting efforts, the society displayed European art from its inception in 1799. Their carefully selected acquisitions illustrate Salem’s early prominence as a cultural and trade capital. These early objects included functional decorative arts such as glass wall sconces and chandeliers that lit East India Marine Hall, and a treasured early 16th-century carved rosary prayer bead donated in 1806 by Elias Hasket Derby Jr., son of one of the country’s wealthiest citizens.
From its founding, the Essex Institute collected relics brought to the region by European settlers, as well as decorative arts — including British and French textiles, English silver, Liverpool and Staffordshire earthenware, Dutch delftware and English and Irish glassware — transported by ships from Europe to local consumers.