Curator Frances Marzio and widow of MFAH director has died

Opera theater

Frances Marzio, curator emeritus of the Glassell, Africa, Oceania, Americas and Antiquities collections at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and widow of the late MFAH director Peter Marzio, has died.

His death was announced Friday night, on the opening night of Houston Grand Opera’s “La Traviata” at a gala dinner in the plaza of the Wortham Theater Center.

“Frances Marzio was an incredible person and I treasure our friendship. She was an incredible confidant, wise and brilliantly insightful. I will always miss her,” said HGO Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers. “She was a particularly valuable member of the board of directors of Houston Grand Opera, a relationship that only began after the death of her beloved husband Peter in 2010. Frances loved the scope of opera and she loved coming to rehearsals with me, where she would sit quietly and take it all away.”

Frances and Peter Marzio married in 1979 and remained married until his death in 2010. He became director of the MFAH in 1982.

In 2011, as Curator of Antiquities at the MFAH as well as the Glassell Collections, Frances presented at the museum “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs”, an exhibition featuring over 100 objects from ancient Egypt; a feat of 19 years in the making.

She has written two books, “Miniature Size, Magical Quality: Nasca Art from the Glassell Collection” and “The Glassell Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Masterworks of Pre-Columbian, Indonesian, and African Gold”, and co- author “Akan Gold from the Glassell Collection” with Doran Ross.

In 2013, she presided over the opening night of HGO, the premiere of Jo Davies’ production of Giuseppi Verdi’s “Aida,” directed by José Maria Condemi.

The following year, Frances chaired the Grand Gala Ball for MFAH. She hosted six screenings of artist Jennifer Steinkamp’s “Mike Kelley” at Cullinan Hall and raised $1.63 million.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact Frances Marzio has had on our institution over four decades – as a partner of Director Peter Marzio; as an advisor to many of our trustees, especially President Alfred Glassell, Jr. ; as Curator of Antiquities and Glassell Collections. ; and finally as Curator Emeritus,” said Gary Tinterow, Director of MFAH.

“Peter and Frances Marzio were a legendary partnership, both deeply intellectual and genuine, and their passion for the museum is one of the main reasons why it is such an amazing place today under the leadership of Gary Tinterow” , Summers said. “The lives of countless Houstonians have been positively and quietly impacted by Frances’ love of the arts.”

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