Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012
«The works of art in the recent issue of the Met's Bulletin are striking for their strength and diversity, but one familiar note plays throughout: the name of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman.» The stunning Spinario, Watteau's graceful Study of a Woman's Head and Hands, Coypel's pastel Double Portrait, Boilly's historic depiction of David's Coronation at the Louvre, Ingres's exacting portrayal of General Dulong de Rosnay, and the magnificent Gérard painting of Talleyrand: all are gifts of Mrs. Wrightsman and speak to her uncompromising eye and the intellect with which she approaches her collecting. They are also representative of her spectacular generosity toward the Met, dating back to the 1950s with her husband Charles. Indeed, Mrs. Wrightsman's recent largess has put the Met in the unique position of having the greatest collection of Neoclassical painting outside the Louvre.
Mrs. Wrightsman's engagement with the Museum goes beyond mere contributions. She is a voracious reader and self-taught connoisseur, and it is the study of art that has inspired her involvement over so many decades. It seems only fitting to recognize her singular style and vision in a publication that so clearly demonstrates her extraordinary role in building the Met's collection.
Several other great collections are also represented in the Bulletin. The sixteenth-century Deccani dagger and powerful early seventeenth-century painting attributed to Payag were both purchased from the extensive holdings of the late Stuart Cary Welch, a former Met curator and distinguished Islamic art scholar. The Salgo Collection of Hungarian silver—some 120 pieces—has single-handedly added a whole new culture to our representation of decorative arts, while the nearly two hundred important objects of American Indian art given to the Museum by the late Ralph T. Coe have significantly enhanced our range and depth in this field.
Striking portrait images are also included—even beyond Mrs. Wrightsman's considerable contributions in this area—from Albert Bierstadt's oil sketch Studies of Indian Chiefs Made at Fort Laramie, to the eighteen late nineteenth-century tintypes portraying a spectrum of human emotion, to Jenny Saville's monumental Still, a powerful painting of an anonymous head weighted by death.
Remarkably, in 2011 we acquired three objects in three different media by Perino del Vaga, one of the most gifted artists to emerge from Raphael's studio: a beautiful Holy Family in oil on wood, a highly finished study on paper for one of a set of tapestries (now lost) commissioned by the Italian naval commander Andrea Doria in 1532–35, and an exquisitely woven tapestry depicting Neptune from a series Perino designed for Doria some ten years later.
Of course, none of these objects could have entered the collection without the substantial commitment of many people. As we continue to enhance the stories we tell in our galleries, we remain grateful for the shared enthusiasm of the many donors and collectors who have supported our ambitions. A brilliant example is the exceptional group who helped us acquire the monumental Head of Zeus Ammon, perhaps the grandest sculpture of its kind and a wonderful addition to the Greek and Roman collection. In addition to those mentioned in the entries, donors of works of art and funds to purchase them are acknowledged on the gallery labels and in the Annual Report.