Portrait of Yarrow Mamout (Muhammad Yaro)
The Museum has acquired the painting Yarrow Mamout, 1819, an exceptionally rare portrait of an African-American by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), one of the most renowned American artists of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Depicting an aged man (reputed to have been more than 140 years old when Peale met him), who had been born in Guinea in western Africa, taken into slavery in the American colonies and later manumitted, or freed by his owner, it is one of the very earliest known works to depict a freed slave in the United States and the earliest known painting of a Muslim in America.
Acquisition Highlights - Summer 2011
The Museum is pleased to announce the acquisition of a wide range of works of art that will significantly enhance its world-renowned collection. Ranging in date from a 10th-century Indian bronze sculpture of the Chola dynasty to Sean Scully’s monumental triptych Iona (2004-2006), these works—acquired by purchase, gift, or pledged to the Museum as donations—include several Impressionist and modern paintings by major masters as well as nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, and drawings from one of this country’s most significant private collections of work by self-taught artists.
Clocks were a luxury item in the Netherlands in the late eighteenth century and stands such as this one were used to transform portable pocket watches into decorative room clocks. The French pocket watch inserted into this stand, made around 1795, is still working! The sinuous form of the stand, and its elaborate decoration featuring naturalistic motifs, showcases the Rococo style favored in Europe during this period.
Rubens Peale’s exuberant arrangement of cut flowers displays the botanical bounty he culled from his greenhouse and garden between January 7 and December 23, 1856. Observed from nature but infused with imagination and energy, this is one of his most accomplished works.
Peale made a career of managing his family’s museums in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York, but during the last decade of his life he merged his love of gardening with his innate, although largely untutored, gift for bold artistic expression. Many of his pictures were gifts for family and friends and he dedicated this work to his son, Charles Willson Peale, the namesake of his famous grandfather.
Gallery 116, American Art, first floor
Severin Roesen's lavish tabletop array is crowded with blooms from all seasons--topped by a crown imperial and including lilacs, poppies, daylilies, tulips, irises, roses, morning glories, and nasturtiums, among others--and reflects the mid-nineteenth-century American taste for scenes of natural bounty. Strong, dense flower forms at the brightly lit center balance with more sinuous, silhouetted stems that reach outward to the edges of the composition.
Roesen simultaneously elevated still life painting in America and charted a new direction for its practice. He spent much of his career working for local patrons in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia, but his influence extended across the country.
Tokuyama Gyokuran was famous as a painter and a poet during her lifetime, but is perhaps best known today as the wife of the legendary artist Ike Taiga (1723-1776). Gyokuran learned painting from Taiga, and his influence can be seen most clearly in her landscapes. For this view, Gyokuran used a wonderful combination of dry brush and wet brush techniques, particularly in rendering the rocks, mountains, and trees. This work is significant in that it is the only one that Gyokuran signed with a specific date: the eighth month of 1770.
Gallery 107, American Art, first floor
This vase was presented to New York City District Attorney Hugh Maxwell (1787-1873) by merchants grateful for his prosecution of corrupt directors of the New York Stock Exchange. Charged with this commission, retailer Baldwin Gardiner secretly contacted Philadelphia silversmith Thomas Fletcher: "None of the silversmiths here know that I have the order, as several of them would drop the hammer for me if they knew that I sent to Philad[elphia]." Fletcher responded with one of the largest and most spectacular statements of the Classical Revival style in American silver.
Gallery 224, Asian Art, second floor
This bronze masterpiece was created under the powerful Chola dynasty, which long controlled the southern half of the Indian subcontinent. It depicts Narasimha—half man, half lion—who is the fourth of the ten avatars (earthly incarnations) of the god Vishnu. Many portable sculptures like this one of Narasimha are made for temples in southern India. At particular times of the year, the god in the temple sanctum manifests in a bronze image of him or herself. Priests adorn the sculpture with fine clothing and ornaments, wash it with various precious liquids, celebrate it, and parade it through town like a living king or queen.
Museum Grounds, exterior (d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden)
Claes Oldenburg gained notoriety in the early 1960s when he opened “The Store” in New York, where he blurred the distinction between art and commerce by selling painted replicas of everyday items. Customers found hamburgers and dresses fabricated in plaster and paint-spattered in a parody of Abstract Expressionism. The artist subsequently inflated the scale of domestic appliances, furniture, and other consumer products pointing to the fetishistic potential of commonplace objects.
The three-way electrical plug first appeared in Oldenburg's work in 1965, in a charcoal drawing that made this familiar household object look like a dripping popsicle. Oldenburg constructed a large three-dimensional cardboard plug in the same year and soon began further material exploration with versions in bronze, steel, canvas, and mahogany. In 1970, Oldenburg’s plug achieved monumental stature in this Cor-Ten steel and bronze version from an edition of three. Its magnified scale lends the original model for the three-way plug, a standard American design made of Bakelite, a formal affinity with architecture.
Gallery 290, European Art 1500-1850, second floor
In 1766, on his return to France after eleven years in Italy, Hubert Robert was made a full member of the French Academy and the following year caused a sensation at the Salon with thirteen paintings of ruins. Exhibited under the title: Un Pont, sous lequel on voit les Campagnes de Sabine, this painting was the subject of much commentary by the art critic Denis Diderot who was very taken by the grandeur of Robert’s Italian landscape.
Robert specialized in paintings of idealized landscapes and architectural fantasies and drew much of his imagery from the studies he made during his Italian sojourn. During his lifetime, Robert was recognized as one of France’s finest landscape and view painters, as well as an accomplished garden designer. A prolific artist who exhibited regularly at the Salon until 1798, Robert was imprisoned during the French Revolution but later held an official position as a curator of the Musee du Louvre where he helped to organize temporary exhibitions.
Rodin Museum, East Gallery
Auguste Rodin’s marble Young Mother in a Grotto is related to a mother-child pair found on the left panel of the Gates of Hell. The woman, crouching in a grotto and shielding her child from the elements, seems to embody maternal love and protection. The contrasting textures of the smooth figures against the rough grotto highlight the way the human forms magically emerge from the living stone in a deeply primordial way, something that Rodin learned from Michelangelo. The theme of maternal love is much less prevalent in Rodin’s work than love between man and woman. A similar work was titled both Young Mother and Woman and Love, and Rodin gave many of his drawings on the theme mythological titles. Is the baby on her knee her own child, or the personification of love, Eros?