Frances Parker Marzio, 1947 – 2022

by Jessica Fuentes November 23, 2022

Frances Parker Marzio, Curator Emerita of the Glassell Collections, Africa, Oceania, the Americas, and Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and widow of MFAH director Peter Marzio, died on October 21, 2022. 

A photograph of Frances Marzio standing in front of large scale antiquities.

Frances Marzio. Photo credit: Houston Chronicle, photographer Steve Ueckert

After relocating to Houston in 1982, Mrs. Marzio and her husband, who was the longest-serving director at the MFAH, helped transform the museum over their decades with the institution.

Mrs. Marizo was born on September 13, 1947. She held a BA and MA from the University of Miami, and an additional MA from George Washington University. As a Fellow at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., she met Peter Marizo. They married in 1979 and three years later the couple moved to Houston, where Mr. Marizo accepted the position of Director of the MFAH. Together, they worked to greatly expand the museum’s collections, transform its physical spaces, and establish and grow endowments. In October 2020, the MFAH presented The Marzio Years: Transforming the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1982-2010, honoring the couple’s legacy.

A photograph of Museum of Fine Arts director Peter Marzio and his wife Frances Marzio looking at a Jesús Moroles sculpture.

Museum of Fine Arts director Peter Marzio and his wife Frances Marzio looking at a Jesús Moroles sculpture. Photo credit: Houston Chronicle, photographer Timothy Bullard

From the early 1990s through 2016, Mrs. Marzio served as the museum’s curator of antiquities. During this time there she organized important exhibitions from cultures across the world. Some highlights include Treasury of the World: The Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals; The Spirit of Ancient Colombian Gold; Pompeii: Tales from an Eruption; Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul; Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art from Ancient Nigeria; and Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Following the opening of the Audrey Jones Beck building in 2000, Mrs. Marzio oversaw the Glassell Collections which include African, Indonesian, and pre-Columbian gold pieces donated to the MFAH by Houston collector and philanthropist Alfred C. Glassell. While working with the collection, she co-authored Gold of the Akan from the Glassell Collection with Doran H. Ross (2003) and also authored Miniature Size, Magical Quality: Nasca Art from the Glassell Collection (2008) and The Glassell Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Masterworks of Pre-Columbian, Indonesian, and African Gold (2011). She organized the exhibition The Glassell Collection of African Gold, which traveled to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. 

Along with her curatorial position at the MFAH, Mrs. Marzio also served as an aide to the Board of Trustees. Additionally, she was a trustee of the Houston Grand Opera and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In an obituary published in the New York Times, a statement from The Met Opera read, “She was admired by her fellow board members for her deep knowledge and appreciation of grand opera and attended performances regularly.”

An obituary published on stated, “We at the [MFAH] in turn can say that her impact on this institution was nothing less than extraordinary — a remarkable legacy of her high standards, indefatigable energy, exceptional eye, and unwavering commitment to the Museum.”

A memorial tribute to Frances Marzio will be held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on December 13, 2022.

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