Recent Acquisitions - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Yale University Press
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A Selection, 1986-1987
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It is tempting to revert to the former title of this publication, Notable Acquisitions, because of the outstanding quality of the works that have come into the collections this past year. Yet with acquisition funds remaining so deplorably inadequate, I prefer simply to applaud the generosity of many friends and the astuteness of our curators, who have elevated the level of our acquisitions above all reasonable expectations. I know this feat can be repeated; it has been in the past. By way of illustration, I need only mention Mrs. Charles Wrightsman's superb gift last year of Lorenzo Lotto's Venus and Cupid, one of the finest Renaissance paintings. Although we were unable to include the Lotto in last year's issue of Recent Acquisitions, it receives the attention it is due in this volume.
Acquisitions throughout the year have been exceptional by any standard. The Department of Asian Art has acquired two important and very distinct collections. The first, from Robert Ellsworth, is of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese paintings. These complement our strong holdings in classic Chinese painting prior to 1800 by providing us with major works by practically every important painter during the last 150 years. The second is the gift and purchase of over 425 pieces of Indian and Southeast Asian art from the collection of Samuel Eilenberg, former chairman of the Department of Mathematics at Columbia University. Assembled over a period of thirty years by one individual, it stands out as one of the four greatest "early" collections and at a stroke has provided the Museum with the best representation of Javanese bronzes outside Jakarta and of minor Gandharan arts outside of Pakistan, in addition to important Indian, Nepali, and Thai works. It will be a centerpiece in the new galleries of Indian and Southeast Asian art scheduled to open to the public early in the next decade.
To the Department of Prints and Photographs has come an exceptionally fine impression of Andrea Mantegna's engraving Bacchanal with a Wine Vat. The extreme rarity of the work, which dates from the late fifteenth century, is underscored by the fact that only three other impressions survive: two in Berlin and one in Vienna. Thanks to the generosity of the Ford Motor Company—an unprecendented grant from a corporation for an acquisition—the department was also able to acquire John C. Waddell's collection of 500 modernist photographs. It is especially rich in the work of such avant-garde artists as Man Ray, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Alfred Stieglitz, and Paul Strand.
In touching briefly on a few of the other curatorial departments that acquired significant works in the last year, I must not neglect the Department of Medieval Art, which had the good fortune to purchase a superbly carved ivory plaque with glass inlay from an eleventh-century Spanish reliquary of Saint Aemilianus. The piece is of particular interest to medievalists as it is based on a seventh-century literary account of the saint's life. And lastly, the Department of European Paintings has received—among many exemplary works—a most generous bequest from Mrs. Harry Payne Bingham: Degas's The Dance Class, a work completed by the artist in 1874. It is one of his greatest ballet paintings and is featured on this year's cover.
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