Acquisition of the Year
The Nimrud Ivories form the largest acquisition the British Museum has made since the Second World War, and were secured following a public fund-raising campaign. These exquisitely carved decorative objects have been
in storage since 1963, and can finally be studied and enjoyed by all
Rosanna Negrotti, Thursday, 1st December 2011
2. Musée du Louvre, Paris
Etruscan bust, 3rd–2nd century BC
Canino (?), central Italy Terracotta, ht 68cm
Purchased with museum funds
This Etruscan bust presents a detailed anatomical study of the stomach of a man, and is exceptionally rare. It is more common to find representations of organs and body parts – the head, foot, uterus and so on. Some anatomical busts have survived, but they tend to be smaller (the Louvre has one such example), and are often damaged. This piece is the largest example known to exist, and is also intact. Dating from the 3rd–2nd century BC, it is thought to originate from Canino, the site of the Etruscan city of Vulci, north of Rome. The bust was probably part of a shrine, which Etruscans would have visited to seek a cure or to give offerings in thanks following recovery. As well as offering insight into Etruscan rituals of worship, this object will enable scholars to further their under-standing of the history of medicine in the ancient world. It comes to the Louvre from the private collection of a doctor, who owned it for over 50 years.
3. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, MA Standing Buddha Sakyamuni in Varada Mudra, c. 8th–10th century Copper alloy with traces of gilding and black pigment, ht 26.5cm Partial gift of an anonymous donor and partial purchase through the generosity of Alan J. and Suzanne W. Dworsky, Dorothy Tapper Goldman, David M. Leventhal, Christina Marcove, Alan L. and Jacqueline B. Stuart, and the Ralph C. Marcove International Understanding Through Arts and Crafts Foundation, Inc.; through the bequest of William S. Lieberman, by exchange; through the gift of Langdon Warner and H.H.F. Jayne, by exchange; and through the Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for the Acquisition of Oriental Art, the Eric Schroeder Fund, the Louise Haskell Daly Fund, and the Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund
Few early Nepalese bronze sculptures of the Buddha survive, and most are in Tibetan monasteries. A figure of outstanding quality, this the most significant work of Asian art Harvard has acquired in the last 10 years.
4. Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio Round box with decoration of birds and peonies, late 13th century China, late Southern Song to early Yuan dynasty Carved lacquer, 40320cm Purchased with museum funds
This round box is an early example of Chinese carved lacquer, and offers insights into the technique’s history. It combines naturalistic and abstracted forms of decoration, with its pattern of scrolls and peonies, which provide a floral background for the central motif of two birds in flight. The box encompasses the stylistic shifts in lacquerwork that took place in China in the late 13th century. Surfaces are cut deeply, consistent with the Southern Song tradition, but the dense composition is characteristic of Yuan and Ming carved lacquer, which developed later. One of the most exquisite examples of its type, the box will take pride of place in the museum’s reinstallation of its Asian collection, due to be completed in 2013.
5. The Frick Collection, New York
Recto: Head of a Man Verso: Sketch for the Façade of the Palazzo Borghese, Siena; Seated Putti, c. 1512–14 Domenico Beccafumi (1486–1551) Recto: red chalk on paper Verso: pen and brown ink and black chalk, 21313.3cm Gift to the Frick Collection from Mrs Barbara Fleischman, in honour of Colin B. Bailey
Lightly drawn in red chalk, the upturned face and open mouth on this lyrical study suggests a moment of spiritual transcendence. This double-sided drawing originates from a bound sketchbook, and illustrates the diversity of one of the greatest draughtsmen of the cinquecento. The verso of the sheet reveals the classical, analytical strands to Beccafumi’s work. Fluidly executed in pen and ink, the long-vanished façade of the Palazzo Borghese (for which Beccafumi created the plasterwork in 1512–14) is oriented horizontally on the sheet.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) marked its 150th anniversary in May with a wealth of acquisitions, among them this early 16th-century masterpiece by Correggio. The painting bridges a gap in the NGV’s collection, and enables the museum to present a full history of Renaissance art from the 14th to the 17th centuries – the only gallery in Australia able to do so. Purchased at Sotheby’s London in July, it is the only authenticated Correggio sold on the auction market in half a century, and is the single highest priced acquisition in the NGV’s history. Recently discovered, the oil has been housed in a private collection in Switzerland for over a century. It is remarkably well preserved, though the original varnish has darkened. Painted on a poplar panel, the surface layers have been spared the wear and tear which would have accrued on canvas. The portrait is on display until next year, when it will be removed for cleaning and restoration. Correggio is one of the key Renaissance painters, alongside Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. The naturalism and tenderness in this Virgin and Child with John the Baptist was radical at the time it was painted.
7. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, c. 1525 Pietro Buonaccorsi, known as Perino del Vaga (1501–47) Oil on wood, 88.3365.1cm Purchased with the assistance of the Acquisitions Fund, Mr and Mrs Mark Fisch, Denise and Andrew Saul, Friends of European Paintings Gifts, Gwynne Andrews Fund, Mr and Mrs J. Tomilson Hill, Jon and Barbara Landau, Charles and Jesse Price, Hester Diamond, and Fern and George Wachter Gifts
One of the leading exponents of Italian Mannerism, it is believed this painting was executed relatively early in Perino’s career, when he was engaged by the Papal court and Curial elite in designing and executing frescoes, stucco reliefs and tapestries. This private devotional image is rare in his oeuvre; although Perino went on to oversee an industrious workshop, fewer than 10 of his easel paintings survive, and most of these date from the last decade of his life. This previously unknown Holy Family was uncovered at a sale in Genoa in 2009. Perino greatly admired Raphael, and the composition’s shadowy darkness recalls the Renaissance master’s late style.
8. Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Plate Depicting the Dream of Astyages, 1535 Francesco Xanto Avelli da Rovigo (c. 1492–c. 1542) Majolica, tin-glazed earthenware Lustred by Vincenzo Andreoli, known as Maestro Cencio (active 1524–75) Diam. 26.5cm Purchased through the Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund and Joseph M. de Grimme Memorial Fund
In the 16th century the best pottery painters were considered on a par with Raphael and Michelangelo, and their istoriato wares (painted narratives based on mythological and biblical stories) were prized at the Urbino court. This majolica plate is unusual in that it is signed by both Maestro Cencio and Xanto. Of exceptional quality, it is lustred in two iridescent colours, rather than a single shade, as was more typical.
9. Birmingham Museum of Art, AlabamaJar, 15th–16th century Vietnam, Le dynasty (1428–1788) Glazed stoneware, 61.6338.1cm Purchased with funds provided by the Estate of Mr William M. Spencer III
This large jar is a rare example of Le dynasty Vietnamese pottery. It is elaborately detailed, with a painted, incised and carved surface, blue cobalt oxide underglaze and colourful, overglaze enamel decorations. Several smaller, glazed stoneware Le dynasty jars are already in the museum’s collection – but this is by far the most intricately decorated example. This jar was made using the smooth grey-white clays found in the
Red River Valley, from which Vietnamese potters produced amazingly light and thin-walled vessels.
10. Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day, c. 1565–68 Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525/30–1569) Glue-size tempera on linen, 1483270.5cm Purchased for the State Museums by the Ministry of Culture
11. Victoria & Albert Museum, London Ottoman tankard, late 16th century Jade, emeralds, rubies and gold, ht 19.7cm Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Estate Duty and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2010. Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), the Geoffrey Akerman Bequest, the Friends of the V&A and the Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation
Originally created for an Ottoman sultan, this jewelled tankard was made by imperial craft workers, and is one of only a handful that have survived. It is the first example to enter a British national collection. Like many pieces made for the Ottoman court, its shape imitates more humble objects – in this case the leather drinking containers carried by nomads in their saddlebags – but its jade body would have been imported at great expense from Central Asia.
This gem of a painting by Nicolas Hilliard, the official painter to the Elizabethan court, is the finest portrait miniature to enter the Nationalmuseum’s collection. Hilliard was a goldsmith, limner and painter of miniatures of the finest calibre, and this example is unusual in that the queen is depicted from the side (she is more commonly seen en face). Hilliard painted around 20 portraits of Elizabeth I, and this one dates to c. 1586–87, when she was in her fifties.
Poussin’s Seven Sacraments is one of the most celebrated series in art, so much so that when the 18th-century British prime minister Robert Walpole tried to buy the paintings, the Pope stepped in to forbid their export from Rome. Acquired by the 4th Duke of Rutland in 1785, they have been on display at Belvoir Castle for over 200 years (though Penance was lost in a fire, and Baptism was acquired by the National Gallery of Washington in 1946). This painting depicts the sacrament of ordination – the taking of Holy Orders to become a priest – signalled by the handing over of the keys of Heaven and Earth to the Apostle Peter. It joins the Kimbell Art Museum’s earlier Poussin, Venus and Adonis (c. 1628–29).
Gift of funds from Mary Agnes and Al McQuinn
Nautilus shells from the Indo-Pacific Ocean were imported into Europe from the end of the 16th century, where they were outfitted with mounts of silver, gilt silver and gold figures alluding to the sea or elements of water. Mathematicians were fascinated by the fact that their interior chambers follow a regular logarithm. This nautilus cup displays a rare iconography, blending biblical history with classical elements. A putto sits astride the whale, in whose fanged mouth Jonah can be seen. The stem is formed from Neptune riding a seahorse, while a crab and turtle decorate the body of the cup. A medley of biblical, mythological and zoological forms coalesce in this trophy object. It would have been highly sought after for one of the many cabinets of curiosities fashionable amongst the elite during the Renaissance.
The Mauritshuis already holds 14 paintings by Steen, but until now it lacked a history painting by the artist. The Flemish Golden Age master is celebrated as a painter of chaotic households and drunken merry-making, but he also produced around 70 history paintings with biblical and mythological narratives. Here, the young Moses has ominously trampled on the Pharaoh’s crown, and his fate rests in the hands of the Egyptian ruler. He must choose between hot coals or gold, and depending on his choice will live or die. Steen depicts the moments that follow the young prophet’s decision: he has reached out for the coal and burnt his mouth. The shadowy advisers throng in the background in schematic form, while the whimpering Moses and his foster mother, at the centre of the painting, are more subtly rendered.
This secrétaire à abattant, made by the leading cabinetmaker under Louis XV, joins the decorative arts collections at the Legion of Honor. Designed in the mature rococo style of the mid-18th century, this desk complements the Bernard II van Risenburgh (known as B.V.R.B.) pieces already held by the museum. It is elaborated with a flora marquetry that B.V.R.B. invented, and has a clear provenance since the original bill of sale survives. It was bought in 1763 by the 6th Earl of Coventry for the tapestry room at Croome Court, his country house in Worcestershire, England.
This lead glass goblet is engraved with a scene from a sugar plantation in Surinam, a former colony of the Netherlands. It is inscribed with the words ‘t welvaren van Siparipabo’ (the prosperity of Siparipabo), and would have been used to toast the plantation’s success. It was probably ordered by Siparipabo’s owner, Catharina Marcus, in the early 18th century. The detailed engravings are finely polished, and depict a female slave resting under a tree, and a male slave with a shovel and a sheaf of sugar cane. The sugar mill, the slave huts and the plantation huts can also be seen. These scenes were copied from a book of engravings represtenting life at Surinamese plantations, entitled Beschryvinge van de volks-plantinge Zuriname by J.D. Herlein, published in 1718. Only a few glasses depicting Surinamese plantations are known to exist, and this one is especially rare given the prominent depiction of the slaves.
This is the first piece of Sèvres hard-paste porcelain to enter the Frick’s collection and, despite its name, is an interpretation of a Chinese Yu vase from the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). The shape derives from a woodblock print in an 18th-century catalogue of the Imperial collections, compiled for the Qianlong emperor. A Jesuit missionary sent a copy of this catalogue to Henri Bertin, Secretary of State for France, who had recently been appointed commissaire du roi at the Sèvres manufactory. Bertin was a collector of Chinese art, and it was during his tenure that the Vase Japon was created. Based on an antique prototype, this baluster-shaped vessel is markedly different from the chinoiserie objects produced at Sèvres in that it is free of a fanciful depiction of China and the Far East.
The Strathallan Castle Wallpaper, c. 1790 China, Guangzhou (Canton) Opaque watercolour on paper 18 rolls, each roll approximately 3.531.2m Purchased in honour of William R. Sargent with funds donated in part by the Lee and Ju liet Folger Fund, 2006
This hand-painted Chinese wallpaper hung on the walls of the Ladies’ Salon at Strathallan Castle in Scotland for nearly 175 years. It was commissioned in around 1790, and would have been a highly expensive and luxurious addition to the room. Chinese artists painted the continuous scene in opaque watercolour, over a traced outline in ink or pencil. Parts of it are glazed for greater depth. It was removed in the 1980s, following a deterioration in its condition. After acquiring the wallpaper, the museum commissioned a nine-month process of restoration that has seen the tears and folds repaired, and the faded sections repainted. The panorama of the ‘hongs’, or foreign factories, on the banks of the Pearl River in the old city of Canton, can now be viewed in all its glory. Nine panels from a total of
18 are on display.
Museum Painted from memory 10 years after his second visit to Rome, Turner’s elegiac masterpiece is one of the Getty’s most significant acquisitions in recent years. After the hammer came down at Sotheby’s London in 2010, the museum had to wait months to learn if its offer would be matched by a British museum. The painting was finally granted an export licence in February. This view from the Capitoline Hill is in pristine condition; it has been under glass since 1878, and is still in the original neo-rococo frame chosen by the artist. It joins three other paintings by the English master in the Getty’s collection, one of which is the important historical oil of 1844, Van Tromp, Going About to Please His Masters.
Caillebotte’s provocative life-sized portrait of a naked man drying himself after a bath is the first Impressionist nude to enter Boston’s collection. The museum deaccessioned eight 19th-century works to acquire this painting – including oils by Monet, Gauguin and Pissarro. As well as painting domestic, familial and interior settings, the artist is celebrated for his Parisian street scenes. Man at His Bath brings an indoor, urban accent to Boston’s Impressionist holdings, which complements the pastoral works. Caillebotte is less well known than his fellow Impressionists; he exhibited and sold less in his lifetime, perhaps because he was independently wealthy, and died when he was just 45.
This large work by Christopher Wood was painted at the peak of his career, shortly before his untimely death at the age of 29. It depicts an African rug seller, peddling his wares to locals in a tiny fishing village. The painting was created in 1930, on the artist’s second visit to the Cornouaille region of Brittany. It reflects Wood’s engagement with the Celtic culture and his fascination with the Bretons’ way of life. A significant figure in the British modern movement of the 1920s, Wood spent time in Paris and his naive style was influenced by Picasso and Alfred Wallis. This work has been in a Welsh private collection since 1948, and is a superb example of the primitivitism for which the artist is renowned.
23. Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois Painterly Realism of a Football Player – Colour Masses in the 4th Dimension, 1915 Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935) Oil on canvas, 70.2344.1cm Through prior gift of Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, Art Institute of Chicago Acquisition Funds
This is the first Russian Suprematist painting to enter Chicago’s collection, and it bridges one of the few gaps in the museum’s holdings of European modern art. The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York is the only other public institution in the United States to feature one of Malevich’s Suprematist works in its collection. Acquired through Gagosian from the heirs of Kazimir Malevich, the acquisition is notable given the caution in the art market for 20th-century Russian works. Included in the artist’s seminal 1915 exhibition ‘0,10’ (Zero–Ten), Malevich eradicated all references to the recognisable world in this key work, presenting instead bold lines and floating planes of colour. Only 12 paintings from this show survived the cultural ravages of the Soviet Union, so this presents a rare and significant addition to the museum’s holdings. The painting is also in extremely good condition.
24. The Courtauld Gallery, London Self-Portrait, 1911 Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957) Pencil, watercolour and gouache on paper, 31.3324.3cm Acquired for the Samuel Courtauld Trust by Daniel Katz, 2011
This early drawing reveals the influence of Cubism on Wyndham Lewis’ artistic development. The angular contours of this self-portrait reveal how he interpreted the cubist style for the Vorticist movement, which burst onto the English art scene three years later. The Courtauld has one of the most significant collections of Lewis’ work, the majority of it on long-term loan from the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust. This work on paper is the centrepiece in a room devoted to the English artist, and in February goes on show at Tate Britain in ‘Picasso and Modern British Art’.
To celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, the National Gallery of Victoria unveiled 173 Indigenous works dating from the last two centuries. This is the most significant gift of Indigenous art to the museum since it first opened its doors (see Apollo’s July/August issue). The Felton Bequest was established in 1904 by the philanthropist Alfred Felton, and the 2011 gift encompasses 63 19th- and 20th-century wood shields, and 107 21st-century paintings from the Far Western Desert, including Tommy Mitchell’s Kurlilypurru. Three contemporary artists – Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew and Jonathan Jones – have also been commissioned to create works that pay homage to the 19th-century Wurundjeri artist, William Barak.
Nine works by Cy Twombly have entered the holdings of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), three of which are promised gifts. The two paintings and seven sculptures are already on show, and mean that all six decades of the artist’s career are now represented at the museum. One of the two paintings, Tiznit (1953), is a promised gift, and will become the earliest work by the artist in MoMA’s collection. Academy, created two years later, reveals the birth of Twombly’s artistic language, with the appearance of letters, words and scrawlings. These are the first sculptures by the artist (including the two untitled promised gifts) to enter the collection.
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