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Acquisitions of the Month: February 2015

1 March 2015

Some extraordinary objects have entered museum holdings around the world recently, from the first printed bibles to contemporary Inuit sculpture and astrophotography. We’ve rounded up a few of the most significant new acquisitions.

Princeton University

Around 2500 rare books and manuscripts from the collection of William Scheide

William Scheide’s collection of rare books and manuscripts is valued at $300 million, but many would describe it as priceless: among its holdings are the first six printed editions of the Bible, a handwritten speech by Abraham Lincoln on the problem of slavery, the first printed edition of the American Declaration of Independence, and autograph music manuscripts by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner. Scheide, who died last year at the age of 100, was an alumnus of the university and had housed the collection there since 1959. His bequest is the largest in the Ivy League school’s history.

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Art and documents from the collection of Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg

(1966), Bruce Nauman.

Failing to Levitate in My Studio (1966), Bruce Nauman. Photo by Gianfranco Gorgoni.

The artists Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009) and Claes Oldenburg (b. 1929) have given 175 artworks by 34 different artists to the Stedelijk, as well as related documents, correspondence and ephemera. Despite living in the United States, the pair maintained a close relationship with the museum, and several of the artworks and artists represented in the gift are historically connected to Amsterdam.

Nationalmuseum Sweden

The Artist’s Nephew. Johan Jacob Krohn, Author and Scholar, as a Child (1846), Christen Købke

(1846), Christen Købke.

The Artist’s Nephew. Johan Jacob Krohn, Author and Scholar, as a Child (1846), Christen Købke. © Cecilia Heisser/Nationalmuseu, all rights reserved

This striking portrait by Christen Købke is typical of his work; crisply painted, it creates a sense of intimacy without slipping into sentimentality. Købke was one of the most celebrated artists of the Danish Golden Age, a period of significant artistic and scientific achievement in the first half of the 19th century. His nephew, shown here at the age of five, would go on to be a renowned writer and thinker himself. The Nationalmuseum, which has no budget of its own for acquisitions, bought this work using a bequest from the Wiros Fund.

Rockwell Museum, Corning

Birds, Animals, and Spirits (2014), Abraham Anghik Ruben

Inuit artist Abraham Anghik Ruben created this work specifically for the Rockwell Museum after showing 20 of his sculptures there last summer. The beautiful soapstone carving depicts a shaman transforming into a falcon during a ritual dance, while the human and animal figures on its wings symbolise the female deity Sedna, who is being called upon to bless the tribe with favourable hunting and fishing.

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Belfer Collection of more than 350 ancient Greco-Roman and Near-Eastern glass vessels

Robert and Renée Belfer’s collection of ancient glass vessels and other antiquities (including Graeco-Roman sculpture, pottery, and mosaics) is among the most significant of its kind. The Belfers are long-term supporters of the Israel Museum, and this gift coincides with its 50th anniversary celebrations. A selection of items from the collection will be on display from June this year, as part of an exhibition about connoisseurship in ancient Rome.

Royal Museums Greenwich

Three photographic prints from Wolfgang Tillmans’ ‘ESO Series’

Wolfgang Tillmans has been fascinated with astronomy since childhood and often explores the field of astrophotography in his work. The artist used the facilities at the European Southern Observatory in Chile to produce his ‘ESO Series’, which reveals how digital images of distant galaxies are processed in stages to make them legible. The prints are a fitting acquisition for the Royal Museums Greenwich: the Royal Observatory was the first to use astrophotography to monitor the sun; and in 2013 the National Maritime Museum staged the photography exhibition ‘Visions of the Universe’, to which Tillmans contributed.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A collection of 186 objects originally owned by Baron and Baroness Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild of Vienna

Many of the fine and decorative art objects in Alphonse and Clarice de Rothschild’s collection were seized during the Naxi annexation of Austria in 1938, but have since been restored to the family through the efforts of their heirs. Select items from the gift, which includes furniture, jewellery, and rare books as well as paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, are now on display at the museum until 21 June.