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Four Extraordinary Sculptures Acquired and On View

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010

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From left to right: Monstrous male figure; The Three Graces, Child Saint Sambandar; and A Hypocrite and Slanderer. See complete caption information below.

«Each year, the Met holds four meetings at which curators present works of art to a special committee of Trustees for possible purchase by the Museum. It is a thoughtful and rigorous process, and it is always a thrill to see the acquired objects when they finally arrive in our galleries. This past year's purchases included four exquisite works of sculpture spanning from the ancient world to the mid-eighteenth century.»

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At just four inches high, this Monstrous Male Figure—now on view in the Ancient Near Eastern Art Galleries—defies its stature by combining human and animal features to indicate potent supernatural power. Dating from the late third–early second millennium b.c., the figure comes from Eastern Iran/Bactria-Margiana. It has mysterious scars and a pierced mouth, suggesting that the lips may have at one time been literally sealed. It is plausible to think that the figure, having served its purpose, was ritually "killed" by scarring it and making it mute.

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It is always exciting when the Museum has the chance to acquire an important object that has been on loan to us and it formally enters the collection. The Three Graces is an exquisite second-century a.d. copy of a Greek sculptural group from the second century b.c. The  fluid pose of these three nude figures is one of the most famous compositions known from antiquity, and this exceptional example remains one of the centerpieces of the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court for Hellenistic and Roman art. It has been on loan to the Met since 1992, and we are delighted that its recent purchase now makes it part of our permanent holdings. (Read the press release and a related article.)

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Among the most beautiful objects presented at the acquisitions meeting this June was this Indian bronze Child Saint Sambandar from the late eleventh century. Between the tenth and late twelfth centuries, the Chola Dynasty of Southern India produced the greatest bronze statues to be seen anywhere in the medieval world. (See the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History to learn more about this period.) This superb example is now on view in our Asian Art Galleries, and I encourage you to spend some time with its graceful lines and iconic form.

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Another remarkable acquisition installed earlier this spring in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries is a powerful character study entitled A Hypocrite and Slanderer by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, an Austrian artist working in the eighteenth century. It is strikingly modern for its period, and looks all the more so among the more traditional objects that surround it in the gallery. Read a related article about this incredible sculpture.

I invite you to come and explore our galleries this summer to find these exceptional new additions to our collection.

Above, from left to right: Monstrous male figure, Late 3rd–early 2nd millennium B.C. Chlorite, calcite, gold, iron; H. 4 in. (10.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, 2009 Benefit Fund and Friends of Inanna Gifts; Gift of Noriyoshi Horiuchi, 2010 (2010.166). The Three Graces. Roman, 2nd century A.D., copy of a Greek work of second century B.C. Marble; 48 7/16 x 39 3/8 in. (123 x 100cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Philodoroi, Lila Acheson Wallace, The Jaharis Family Foundation Inc., Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Shelby White, The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Moran, Jeanette and Jonathan Rosen, Malcolm Wiener and Nicholas S. Zoullas Gifts, 2010 (2010.260). Franz Xaver Messerschmidt (Austrian, 1736–1783). A Hypocrite and Slanderer. Tin alloy; Overall: 14 9/16 x 9 5/8 x 11 5/8 in. (37 x 24.4 x 29.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Fund; Lila Acheson Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Richardson Gifts, 2010 (2010.24). Child Saint Sambandar. India (Tamil Nadu), Chola period, late 11th century. Copper alloy; H. 29 3/8 x W. 14 5/8 x D. (rectangular base) 12 5/8 in. (74.6 x 37.1 32.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2010 (2010.230).

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About the Author

Thomas P. Campbell is the director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

About this Blog

Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.