United States Museums and Collections

Unlike what happened in Europe, in the S. they began to collect works of art of the Middle Ages only relatively late, in the century. 19th, and this was mainly due to the impact of the Gothic revival. In 1873, at the urging of his American friend Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), first professor of Fine Arts at Harvard University, John Ruskin (1819-1900) bought three sculptures by Giovanni Pisano from the pulpit in Pisa (New York, Metropolitan Mus. Of Art) It was largely American aristocrats who spent long periods in Europe who cultivated an interest in medieval art. Although there were no systematically organized collections until the end of the century, individual collectors included in their collections a choice of medieval works: one of these was William Ponytell (1756-1811), of Philadelphia, who bought a group of panels from the Sainte-Chapelle (Filadelfia, Mus. of Art) in Paris. In 1896 Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), under the influence of Norton, Ruskin and Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), collected medieval and Renaissance architectural elements from Venice, including eight balconies of the Ca ‘d’Oro which were to be included in her Venetian-style palace at Fenway Court (Boston), completed in 1903. In addition to the French Romanesque sculptures of Notre-Dame de la Couldre in Parthenay and the monumental stained glass windows of Soissons Cathedral, she had placed the Presentation at the Giotto’s temple and in the room of the first Italian art the Virgin and Child with saints by Simone Martini. Similarly, his creation of an environment in which elements of medieval sculpture were inserted anticipated the construction of the Cloisters of New York by George Gray Barnard (1863-1938). Another American friend of John Ruskin was Jackson Jarves (1818- 1888), who during his stay in Florence built a collection of early Italian painting to balance his Renaissance painting collection (New Haven, Yale Univ., Art Gall.). His goal was to document the chronology, motifs and technical progress of the art.John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), financier, collector and president of the Metropolitan Mus. of Art in New York, dominated medieval art collecting at the turn of the century, with the purchase not only of individual works of art and illuminated manuscripts, but also of entire collections (Oppenheim, Gréau, Hoentschel, Mannheim, Swenigorodskoi). In 1917 his large collection, which included over three thousand objects, was donated by his son to the Metropolitan Mus. of Art; it included works of art from prehistoric Europe, from the period of the Migrations, sculptures, bronzes, tapestries, majolica, ivories, enamels and goldsmiths. Other parts of Morgan’s great collection, including works from Antiquity to the century. 19th, they went to the Morgan Memorial at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut. The only exhibition of this impressive collection of works of all kinds was organized in 1913-1914 at the Metropolitan Mus. of Art. The illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, together with the bindings, rare books, the drawings and prints in the collection formed the basis of Pierp. Morgan Lib. of New York, where many significant works of art are also preserved, such as the famous Mosan triptych in enamel from the Stavelot abbey and a tabernacle of the Virgin (14th century), in translucent enamel and silver, coming from a Parisian workshop of the time of Charles V. At the end of the century Henry Walters (1848-1931), a wealthy railway industrialist, set up a collection comprising over three hundred works of art, Byzantine and medieval, and over two hundred manuscripts, many of which purchased from the Parisian merchant Léon Gruel. Unlike Morgan, Walters bought the works individually and had a particular interest in small objects. The strong points of the collection – which also includes some monumental works such as the stained glass panels from Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris and two heads of the western portal of the abbey of Saint-Denis – are constituted by the illuminated manuscripts, by the objects of early Christian art, in particular silver, and with ivory carvings from the Gothic period. The entire collection was left to the city of Baltimore and formed the core of the Walters Art Gallery. George Gray Barnard (1863-1938), American sculptor, collector and dealer, created the first museum dedicated exclusively to medieval art. After studying in Paris, he became a teacher of sculpture in New York, where he promoted a ‘direct sculpture technique’ which placed a strong emphasis on the knowledge of Romanesque and Gothic masters. Since the original models could not be found in America, he returned in 1903 to Europe, where he remained until 1907, starting to accumulate one of the largest collections of medieval sculpture, including also significant parts of four cloisters, those of Saint-Michel -de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Trie-en-Bigorre and Bonnefont-en-Comminges, which he had reassembled in his Manhattan residence, called The Cloisters. This architectural setting became the setting for his vast collection of sculptures (including numerous tomb effigies) and works of art, which was opened to the public in 1914. In many ways, Barnard’s presentation echoed that of Mus. des Monuments Français by Alexandre Lenoir (1761-1839), whom he had known when he was studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, in the 1880s. In 1925 Barnard sold the entire collection to John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937), who donated it to the Metropolitan Mus. of Art in New York. Barnard’s Cloisters assumed the function of a section of the museum, but because they were not physically connected to the museum itself, in 1930 Rockefeller designed a park at the northern end of Manhattan to build an entirely new museum. and commissioned Boston architect Charles Collens (1873-1956) to design the structure, with the assistance of Joseph Breck (1885-1933), associate director, and James Rorimer (1905-1966), superintendent. While the new museum was being built, Barnard put together a second large collection of Gothic monuments, consisting of over six hundred works of art. His goal was to also sell this collection to the museum and to collect medieval monuments in a single setting, in order to propose a unitary perception of the artistic culture of the Middle Ages. The new collection was housed in a building that he had erected in 1914 giving it the name of L’Abbaye. It was only open to the public for a short time, from 1937 to 1940, and after Barnard’s death it was dispersed and the bulk of it went to the Mus. of Art of Philadelphia. Both Barnard’s collections were remarkably ambitious feats, and the critical acclaim for his displays directly influenced those of numerous American museums in the following decades, such as the Mus. of Art of Cleveland (Ohio), the Mus. of Art of Toledo (Ohio), the Glencairn Mus. to Bryn Athyn (Pennsylvania) and the Mus. of Art of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania). Raymond Pitcairn (1885-1966), starting from 1916, purchased over three hundred and thirty sculptures, two hundred and sixty stained glass panels and numerous objects of sumptuary art. He built his remarkable collection primarily for two reasons: such objects were to serve as examples of religious art, to inspire and stimulate the artists working on his neo-Gothic cathedral of the General Church of the New Jerusalem in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and to encourage the production of quality art by showcasing the best works of the past. Today beautifully housed in his Romanesque residence, called Glencairn Mus., This collection constitutes one of the most important ensembles of Romanesque and Gothic art in the United States. Unlike what happens at the Cloisters, in the staging of the Great Hall works of monumental sculpture and authentic stained glass are juxtaposed with excellent copies and variations produced by the cathedral workshop, including full-scale copies of the transept windows of Chartres Cathedral. Particularly rich in important examples of French sculpture (from the churches of Saint-Lazare in Autun, Notre-Dame de la Couldre in Parthenay, Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, Saint-Thibault in Provins and Cluny III), the collection is complemented by windows of fundamental importance (from the abbey of Saint-Denis, from the cathedrals of Soissons, Rouen and Amiens and from Saint-Etienne to Troyes). Among the splendid objects of sumptuary art we must remember the ivories of the Romanesque period from Spain, Limoges enamels and sheets taken from Gothic manuscripts. The focus of his collection on the arts related to architecture, a rare fact among private collectors, places Pitcairn, like Barnard, in the tradition of museum collecting. The core of the Metropolitan Mus collections. of Art and the Cloisters section of New York was initially made up of gifts from major private collections, such as those of John Pierpont Morgan, George Blumenthal (1858-1941), Frederic Pratt (1865-1935), Irwin Untermyer (1895-1973), George Gray Barnard and John Rockefeller (1874-1960). Taken together they provided the great majority of the nearly ten thousand works in the composite collections covering European prehistory, the Byzantine world, the Mediterranean basin and Western Europe up to about 1500. Among the objects of the most ancient acquisition are the famous silver plates with the stories of David, a Constantinopolitan work made at the time of the Emperor Heraclius, the silver treasure of Antioch, the gold treasure of the Avars and important examples of all the cultures of the European Early Middle Ages. Among the works of the Middle Byzantine period, the enamel stauroteca, called Fieschi-Morgan, of the 10th century stands out. 9 ° and the ivories of Joshua’s casket, while for the French area there are sculptures from Saint-Denis, from Notre Dame to Paris, stained glass windows from Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the beautiful Madonna Morgan, a wooden sculpture from Auvergne from the Romanesque period, which has reached an extraordinary state of conservation. The series of German sculptures is opened by the Visitation from Cathrinthal on Lake Constance and from one of the first Virgin ouvrantes. The great patrimony of important objects of sumptuary art includes Ottonian ivories, Limoges enamels, a large silver processional cross from the Romanesque period from Oviedo and the reliquary head of S. Aredio, silver produced by Limousin from the proto-Gothic period. other sections host medieval works: the Arms and Armor Dep. it has a rich collection of shields and saddles in bone decorated from the Gothic period; there are also works from the era of the Migrations and reproductions of coats of arms in stained glass windows and miniatures. Robert Lehman Coll. owns important works of early Italian painting and numerous aquamanili, including a one-of-a-kind example depicting Phyllis and Aristotle. The Cloisters mainly house monumental works of art from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, organized around the original cloisters of George Gray Barnard; among the works added later are the Romanesque apse of San Martin in Fontidueña, near Segovia (permanent loan from Spain), and the Romanesque chapter house from Notre Dame de Pontaut (Gascony). In this setting are placed the monumental Castilian murals from San Pedro de Arlanza and San Baudelio de Berlanga. The most complete Gothic portal of the S. is a large Burgundian specimen from Moutiers-Saint-Jean with the figures of the presumed founders Clovis and Clotaire. Important international Gothic stained glass windows from the castle chapel of Ebreichtsdorf (Austria) and from the Carmelite convent of Boppard am Rhein and a group of circular stained glass windows are distinguished. The Cloisters also possess an extraordinary collection of sumptuary works ranging from the Carolingian to the late Gothic period. The ivories of the court school of Aachen and Metz are represented by a plaque with St. John the Evangelist and by the casket panel with scenes from the Apparition of Christ on the road to Emmaus. The so-called cross of the Cloisters, in walrus ivory, considered one of the key works of European Romanesque, finds its complement in the rich goldsmith works from the treasury of the Strasbourg cathedral and in the Burgundian enamel called the monkey cup. The treasure contains two extraordinary illuminated manuscripts: the precious Book of Hours of Giovanna d’Evreux (Acc. 54.1.2), the work of the Parisian illuminator Jean Pucelle, and the Belles Heures, made for Jean de Berry by the Limbourg brothers (Acc 54.1.1). The two most famous cycles of tapestries preserved in the S., respectively called the Hero and the Unicorn, are exhibited in the galleries. of Fine Arts in Boston in Massachusetts is mainly due to two important European medievalists, Georg (1876-1957) and Hanns Swarzenski (1903-1985). Among his most important works of sculpture are an Ottonian crucifix from Salzburg, a Virgin enthroned from the Romanesque period, in polychrome stone, from Lombardy, a marble tetramorph that belonged to a Tuscan pulpit, a head from the Strasbourg cathedral and a Romanesque portal from San Miguel de Uncastillo. To these works are added enamels and metal objects from the main production centers of the Middle Ages. The Catalan frescoes of the Majesty, from the church of Santa Maria de Mur, represent the most important example of mural painting preserved by the museum; the Narcissus tapestry emerges from the collection of fabrics. In the second and third decade of this century, the main nucleus of the Mus. of Art of Cleveland (Ohio) initially consisted of a small group of extremely refined Byzantine ivories, such as the Virgin enthroned with the Child (10th century; from the Stroganoff collection), from Limoges enamels, including a precious cross from the workshop of the abbey of Grandmont, and from works of Gothic sculpture. L’ purchase, in 1930, of the most important works of gold and ivory from the so-called Guelph treasury (Welfenschatz) determined the rapid growth of the international reputation of the Cleveland collection: the complex in gold and enamels consisting of the portable altar and the crosses of Gertrude I of Brunswick (c. 1040), and a book-shaped reliquary, produced in Liège around 1000, testify to the exceptional quality of the treasure. An energetic acquisition activity under the direction of William Miliken (1889-1978) and then of William Wixon (born in 1925) resulted in the creation of one of the most significant collections of medieval art in the United States. An icon of the Virgin in fabric, of Coptic production, early Christian marbles of a cycle of Jonah and a refined processional cross of Middle Byzantine silver form the nucleus of the recently set up early medieval galleries. The art of Europe around 1000 is superbly represented by pieces from the Welfenschatz and other Ottonian works, including an imposing ivory with the Missio apostolorum. The large collection of loose sheets from illuminated manuscripts is enriched by numerous Gothic manuscripts, including the book of hours for Charles III the Noble (64.40). The art of the Gothic age is represented by polychrome wooden angels from Reims and by the wooden sculpture, datable to about 1240, with Christ and St. John the Evangelist from the Lake Constance region. The so-called international style is attested by works of the importance of the pleurants of Claus Sluter and Claus de Werve, coming from the tomb of Philip the Bold in Dijon, and a Parisian table fountain, in silver and translucent enamel, the only preserved example of this kind. The late Gothic sculpture collection features three important works by Tilman Riemenschneider (1460 ca.1531); Finally, the important collection of fabrics should be mentioned. The purchase of the second collection by George Gray Barnard contributed to the establishment of the Mus. of Art in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), which also houses many loans from the Glencairn Mus. by Bryn Athin. Together with parts of the Romanesque cloister of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines and elements of the early Gothic period from the abbey of Saint-Remi in Reims, the monumental works of art culminate in the choir enclosure, of Mosan production, with the depiction of the Calvary from Saint-Nicholas of Oignies. The Nat. Gall. of Art in Washington retains a small, but significant group of objects of sumptuary art constituted by the collection of Joseph Widener (1872-1943), whose main piece is the chalice in agate and gold, which belonged to Abbot Suger and comes from the royal abbey of Saint-Denis. Other works include an all-round enamel with the Trinity, a Parisian work of around 1400, and numerous aquamanili. The Dumbarton Oaks Research Lib. and Coll. of Washington was formed as a research department of Harvard University in the residence of Robert Woods Bliss (1875-1962), around a nucleus formed by his personal collection. The aim is to illustrate the art of the Byzantine Empire in all its expressions, but the collection is also famous for its silver, ivories and jewels and also includes a number of important western medieval works, including an ivory casket from Melk (11th century), an ivory with the Majesty from the reliquary of s. Emiliano in San Millán de la Cogolla (11th century), and also the so-called Queen of Heaven by Tilman Riemenschneider. With the purchase, in 1983, of the collection of illuminated manuscripts by Peter Ludwig (1925-1997), the J Paul Getty Mus. of Malibu (California) immediately became an important place of conservation of medieval works of art. Among the most significant manuscripts are the Sacramentary of Mainz / Fulda (Ludwig V 2; 11th century), the Apocalypse Dyson Perrins, from St Albans (Ludwig III 1), an English work of the mid-century. 13 °, and the Life of Blessed Hedwig (Ludwig XI 7), work of fundamental importance for Central European painting. Since then the collection has grown exponentially with acquisitions of great works from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, such as Heinrich de Midel’s famous Hildesheim Missal (also called Stammheim Missal; 64), a book of hours by Simon de Varie ( 57), the work of Jean Fouquet, the prayer book of Charles the Bald (37) and the De cas des nobles hommes et femmes by Giovanni Boccaccio, a Parisian work of 1415 (63). Morgan Lib. of New York, which became famous for Morgan’s acquisition of the Carolingian gospel book (M.1) from the monastery of Lindau, on Lake Constance, accompanied by an extraordinary gold and enamel cover, today constitutes, with over twelve hundred codes, the largest and most important collection of illuminated manuscripts in the United States. The St. Peter’s Gospels in Salzburg, from the 13th century. 11 ° (M.781), and Iolanda di Soissons’ Book of Hours (M.729) represent only some of its richest properties. Formed with funds from a substantial donation, the Nelson-Atkins Mus. of Art of Kansas City (Missouri) has a small but significant collection, which includes sculptures from Vic Cathedral, a Romanesque angel from Saint-Gengoult Abbey in Toul, a Virgin and Child, a beautiful ivory Gothic statue and marble angels of the century. 14 ° of Giovanni and Pacio Bertini from Florence. The medieval collection of the Inst. of Arts in Detroit (Michigan) did not reach an international level until the arrival as director of William Valentiner, in 1924. Trained in Berlin with Wilhelm von Bode (1845-1929), he acquired Romanesque and Gothic sculptures, especially Italian, such as a magnificent Virgin with Child, in marble, by Nino Pisano. The Gothic ivory collection is the third largest in the S. and includes a beautiful Franco-Flemish counterpart representing a Memento mori and a French casket lid with the Siege of the Castle of Love, a subject derived from chivalric literature. museum collections mentioned, in universities and municipal museums there are numerous single works or small groups of medieval objects of good artistic importance. Buckingham Coll. in the Art Inst. in Chicago (Illinois) houses an imposing head of an apostle from the facade of Notre Dame in Paris, one of the most beautiful enamels of the colonial Romanesque, which presents the image of Archbishop Brunone of Cologne as a donor and which once adorned the chest of s. Albino, an extraordinary proto-Gothic ivory with the Virgin and Child and an ivory reliquary casket from the Romanesque period from Spain The most important ivory work representing the Virgin preserved in the S. and coming from the Saint-Denis treasure is found in the Taft Mus. of Cincinnati (Ohio). The Mus. of Fine Arts in Houston (Texas) contains numerous works, including a reliquary from the Welfenschatz and a mid-Byzantine ivory plaque with the Kóimesis, during the period in which Arthur Kingsley Porter (1833-1933) was a professor at Harvard Univ. of Cambridge (Massachusetts), the Fogg Art Mus., associated with the same university, it was characterized by a feverish work of collecting sculptures from the medieval era. The Burgundian Romanesque capitals from Moutiers-Saint-Jean are among the most beautiful preserved outside of France; this also applies to the Virgin of the Annunciation, a Catalan work from Santa Maria di Tahull. The Rhode Island School of Design in Providence (Rhode Island) has a collection of beautiful sculptures, the most important of which is a St. Peter from the facade of Cluny III The Art Mus. of Princeton (New Jersey), attached to the local university, and Yale Univ. Art. Gall. of New Haven (Connecticut) both host important collections with educational purposes. The Duke Univ. Mus.

United States Museums