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Acquisitions of the Month: November 2023

1 December 2023

A round-up of the best works of art that have recently entered public collections

Bargello Museum, Florence
Madonna of via Pietrapiana (c. 1450–55), Donatello

After nearly two years of negotiations, the terracotta relief Madonna of via Pietrapiana (c. 1450–55) by Donatello has been acquired by the Italian Ministry of Culture for the Bargello National Museum. It is the only autographed work by the Florentine master to have remained in private hands and shows the expressiveness and detail typical of the artist. The sculpture, which was originally placed in a tabernacle on the facade of a building at 38 via Pietrapiana, will go on permanent display in the Bargello’s Salone di Donatello.

Madonna of via Pietrapiana (c. 1450–55), Donatello. Bargello National Museum, Florence

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Peasant Spreading Manure (1851), Jean-François Millet

As a young artist, Van Gogh collected reproductions of landscape paintings by Jean-François Millet; in later years, he drew on this collection when seeking inspiration for his own images of rural life. To illustrate how the French artist influenced his practice, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam have purchased Peasant Spreading Manure (1851): the first work by Millet to enter its collection. The work depicts figures labouring in a field at twilight, painted in earthy tones that informed Van Gogh’s own palette in works such as The Potato Eaters (1885).

Peasant Spreading Manure (1851), Jean-François Millet. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Brooklyn Museum, New York
More than 300 works by Black and Asian American artists

As part of the Brooklyn Museum’s ongoing efforts to expand its holdings of work by Black and Asian American artists, the New York institution has announced the acquisition of some 300 works – many of which were given as gifts to the institution, and span many periods and genres. Highlights include Golden Gate, Yellowstone (1889) by Grafton Tyler Brown, the first Black artist to paint the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and California, and Satoshi Studying (1945–54) by Hisako Hibi: the first work by a female Asian American painter to enter the American Art section of its permanent collection. The works are set to go on show in the newly rehung American Art galleries, which are due to open in October 2024.

Laro City (Village Scene) (1968), Twins Seven Seven. Brooklyn Museum, New York

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Gift of 15 artworks by modern and contemporary Haitian artists

The NGA in Washington D.C. has recieved the first works by Haitian artists to join its holdings, courtesy of two collecting couples, Kay and Roderick Heller and Beverly and John Fox Sullivan. The gifts comprise 13 paintings and two textiles, which date from the 1940s through to the early 2000s. Highlights include works by self-taught artists Philomé Obin, Rigaud Benoit and Wilson Bigaud, as well as beaded flags by the textile artist Myrlande Constant. The works will form the centrepiece of the exhibition dedicated to Haitian art currently titled Spirit and Strength, which opens in September 2024.

President Tiresias Sam entering Cap-Haitien (1958), Philomé Obin. Photo: Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden, Los Angeles
Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice (1807), Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

Goya’s Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice (1807) has been purchased by the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Garden in Los Angeles with support from the Ahmanson Foundation. The work, which shows the secretary of state decorated with military regalia, exemplifies Goya’s early career as a portraitist in the years prior to the Napoleonic War. It is the first oil painting by the Spanish artist to enter the Huntington’s collections, where it joins a series of Goya’s etchings already within its holdings.

Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice (1807), Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Saint Louis Art Museum
More than 100 works by 20th century Native American artists from the William P. Healey Collection

A gift of more than 100 drawings, paintings and sculptures from William P. Healey’s collection of Native American art has been donated to the Saint Louis Museum. The gift comprises work by some 62 Indigenous artists, 55 of whom were not previously represented in the collection, and features a particular focus on artists based in Oklahoma and New Mexico. A rare panel painting by Tonita Peña titled Eagle Dance (c. 1932–33) is among the earliest pieces to join the collection, while later works include the abstract Ephemeration (1962) by the painter George Morrison.

Eagle Dance (c. 1932–33), Tonita Peña. Photo: courtesy Saint Louis Art Museum; © estate of Tonita Peña

National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
Silver-gilt ewer and basin, 16th century 

The National Museums Scotland has purchased two related pieces of 16th century silverware: a roughly 437-year old set known as the Panmure ewer and basin, which had previously been held in the collection of the Earls of Dalhousie. As most examples dating prior to 1600 were melted down – fewer than a dozen are still extant – this silver-gilded set decorated with dolphins, fish and assorted sealife is a rare survivor. They will now go on permanent display in the Art of Living gallery at the National Museum of Scotland.

The Panmure basin (16th century). Photo: © National Museums Scotland

Musée d’Orsay, Paris
La Verrerie (1900), Georges de Feure

A decorative panel that once adorned the exterior of a pavilion at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 has been added to the collection of the Musée d’Orsay. La Verrerie (1900) by the Art Nouveau painter Georges de Feure joins two other panels he created for the L’Art Nouveau Bing pavilion: a showcase organised by the dealer Siegfried Bing, who popularised the name for the then-new art movement. The three are the only such panels known to have survived. 

La Verrerie (1900), Georges de Feure. Photo: © Musée d’Orsay/Sophie Crépy