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Gifts from Mrs. Charles Wrightsman—Antico Sculpture, Boilly Painting, Ingres Drawings, and Other Exceptional Works of Art—Enrich Metropolitan Museum’s Collection

(New York, May 2, 2012)—Several recent gifts of works of art from Mrs. Charles Wrightsman—including a sculpture of Spinario (Boy Pulling a Thorn from His Foot) by the Renaissance artist known as Antico; Léopold Boilly’s 1810 canvas The Public Viewing David’s “Coronation” at the Louvre; and nine portrait drawings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres—have entered the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum announced today. The Antico sculpture has just been installed in the gallery of bronzes within the Museum’s European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries, and the other works will be put on view in the coming months.

Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, known as Antico (ca. 1455-1528), probably modeled Spinario—depicting a nude youth seated on a tree stump, engaged in extracting a thorn from the sole of his left foot—by 1496. The bronze figure, which was cast ca. 1501, has mercury-gilt hair, worn long, and silvered eyes, and is based on an ancient sculpture of extraordinary importance now in the collection of the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The work was likely made for a member of the Gonzaga family. According to Luke Syson, the Museum’s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts: “Antico lived up to his nickname by bringing the art of ancient sculpture into the Renaissance. By thinking intensely about a famous Greco-Roman bronze of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot, he gave his own Spinario a psychology and energy that even the great original lacks. Antico was the pioneer of a technology that allowed him to reproduce his bronzes, and we think this is the first and finest of the three best versions in existence today.”

Painted by the leading exponent of genre scenes and small-scale portraits, The Public Viewing David’s “Coronation” at the Louvre (1810) is Léopold Boilly’s most ambitious work and shows the exhibition of David’s enormous painting of Napoleon’s coronation in the Salon Carré of the Louvre. In the crowd, standing in animated admiration of David’s painting, are a number of portraits, including Boilly’s own. This work adds a major painting of the Napoleonic era to the Museum’s holdings and touches on all of the most appealing themes found in Boilly’s imagery: modern life, public spectacle, portraiture, genre, and trompe-l’oeil.

Mrs. Wrightsman’s gift to the Department of Drawings and Prints is an impressive group of nine portrait drawings by Ingres (1780-1867), who was the greatest portrait draftsman of the 19th century and one of its greatest portrait painters. These works encompass a wide range of subjects, from a formal portrait from 1818 of General Dulong de Rosnay (1780-1828), a Napoleonic war hero bedecked with medals and standing astride a Roman hilltop, to more intimate portraits such as Monsieur Armand Bertin and Madame Armand Bertin (1842 and 1843) and a touching portrait of Ingres’s protégé, the artist Henri Lehmann (1850). These works of exquisite beauty and grace enhance greatly the Museum’s collection of 17 Ingres portrait drawings—already including three gifts to the Met by Mrs. Wrightsman, among them the spectacular triple portrait of The Kaunitz Sisters (Leopoldine, Caroline, and Ferdinandine) of 1818. All together, the collection of 26 Ingres portrait drawings now at the Museum comprises one of the strongest such collections outside France.

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May 2, 2012

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