Apollo’s monthly survey of the most exciting works to enter public collections shines a light on the gaps museums have been able to plug and the new stories they are looking to tell.
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery
17th-century pietra dura table-top
Thanks to support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, this spectacular 17th-century pietra dura table-top has entered the collections at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The table-top was originally commissioned by a member of the Paston family, the great patrons of the arts in the region, and their coat of arms has been incorporated into circular shapes in four corners of the central design. Created in a workshop in Florence, the table-top is decorated with intertwining patterns of fruit, birds and flowers made from inlaid semi-precious stones set in the traditional pietra dura technique.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Grotesque Head of an Old Woman (1489–90), Leonardo da Vinci
This sketch of a women with exaggerated features is one of more than 30 studies of human physiognomy completed by Leonardo da Vinci. Depicted wearing a small tiara and with an elaborate hairdo, Leonardo’s imaginary subject possesses physical eccentricities that would pave the way for caricaturists of the 18th century. Donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C by Dian Woodner, the daughter of the property developer Ian Woodner, this small sketch becomes just one of ten drawings by Leonardo held in public collections in the United States.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wedgwood tea and coffee set from the estate of Karl Lagerfeld (c. 1923)
Previously owned by the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, this rare art nouveau tea and coffee set was designed by the French designer Paul Follot for Wedgwood. Follot was recommended to Cecil Wedgwood in 1911 and created a series of designs for the manufacturing house which were in production until the early 1920s. As many of these designs were labour-intensive to produce, they were made in small quantities and few remain. Bearing the unusual Campanula design, distinguished by a scrolling handle and an elaborate long, fluted finial topped by a fleur-de-lis, this monochromatic set is an important addition to the V&A’s collection of Wedgwood porcelain and is thought to the be the only set of its kind in existence.
Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, San Marino
Portrait of Joseph Hyacinthe François-de-Paule de Rigaud, comte de Vaudreuil (c. 1784), Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun
As the court painter to Marie Antoinette, Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun made her name as one of the leading portraitists of the Ancien Régime in the late 18th century. This painting depicts Joseph Hyacinthe François-de-Paule de Rigaud, comte de Vaudreuil, in ornate, ceremonial dress on the occasion of his knighthood by Louis XVI in 1770; the red rosette and ribbon denote military honours. Made possible by the support of the Ahmanson Foundation, which funds cultural projects in Los Angeles, this portrait becomes the second work by Vigée Le Brun to enter the collection of the Huntington.
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
Still Life with a Bowl of Strawberries, Basket of Cherries, and Branch of Gooseberries (1631), Louise Moillon
This vivid still life painting by the French baroque painter Louise Moillon is one of few by the artist in American museum collections. Depicting wild strawberries and other fruits in a delicate blue and white Wanli bowl, the painting has been read as evidence of 17th-century French agricultural reforms and the Parisian appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. The nobility, in particular, took great pride in growing fresh produce on their country estates, which were picked by by women and children and transported to the city to be sold at market. In this work, Moillon emphasises the ripeness of the red berries through the contrast of the dark, shadowy background. The painting was acquired by the Kimbell to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the musuem.
Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans,
Eight works from the Brooks Beaulieu collection
Following the redevelopment of the museum’s 19th-century galleries, the Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans has purchased eight works from the Brooks Beaulieu collection in a sale at Artcurial on 10 November. Among the works acquired is a rare painting by the 19th-century French engraver Tony Johannot and a set of seven medallions, one by the French romantic sculptor Jean Bernard Duseigneur and six by David d’Angers.