HARTFORD, CT.- With the return of its Old Master paintings from a three-year national tour, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art will present the glories of its collections in Faith and Fortune: Five Centuries of European Masterworks, March 2 through December 9, 2007.
Drawing upon the fine and decorative arts of the Renaissance through the Neo-Classical and Romantic eras, Faith and Fortune will showcase approximately 500 treasures: more than 125 paintings; exquisite objects made of bronze, silver, ivory, ceramics, and glass; and select sculptures.
These paintings and other two- and three-dimensional objects will be shown as never before, intermixed and arranged by chronology, geography, and theme, to provide windows into the historical and cultural realms where these works originated.
"While these remarkable collections have lived together under the Atheneum's roof for many decades," said Director Willard Holmes, "this will be the first time visitors will see them presented in a unified approach, telling the story of western artistic genius over five centuries."
Recurring themes include the creation of art as an expression of religious faith and its display for devotional purposes; art as a symbol of personal honor, reputation, and wealth, with some being objects of practical use; and art as a demonstration of intellectual achievement. Other leitmotifs include exploration and discovery, invention and trade, historicism, and a taste for the exotic, such as Chinoiserie.
The Atheneum's European art collections have their origins in bequests from J. Pierpont Morgan and from Frank C. Sumner, who established The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner acquisition fund in 1927. Other generous donors have contributed to the growth and quality of these collections.
The Wadsworth Atheneum's Renaissance, baroque, and rococo masterpieces are world famous. A. Everett "Chick" Austin, Jr., museum director from 1927 to 1944, began this collection when such works were out of fashion. The Atheneum acquired notable examples by Strozzi, Luca Giordano, and the first authentic Caravaggio in an American museum-The Ecstasy of St. Francis. Spanish and Northern paintings of the 17th century also were purchased, including works by the great French landscape painter Claude Lorraine and unusual works by Sweerts and Valdés Leal.
Austin's successor, Charles C. Cunningham, built on this foundation, adding baroque and rococo treasures by Frans Hals, Zurbarán, and Panini. More recently have come examples by Vouet, Cigoli, Cuyp, Valerio Castello, and Goltzius. The result is a collection beginning with Renaissance masters, such as Piero di Cosimo and Sebastiano del Piombo; continuing with the finest examples of Baroque painting; and culminating in a blaze of rococo splendor with Tiepolo, Canaletto, Guardi, Meléndez, Greuze, and Goya.
Holdings from the Neo-Classical and Romantic eras feature works by Delacroix, Ingres, Turner, Corot, and Crolla; theatrical subjects by Fuseli and Maclise; and sculptures by Gérôme, Barye, and Rodin.
J. Pierpont Morgan Collection
At the bequest of the famous financier and ambitious collector J. Pierpont Morgan (who was born and raised in Hartford), 1,325 works of art arrived at the Atheneum in 1917. These include ancient bronzes and glass, but the majority are European decorative arts objects: Renaissance majolica; baroque glass, silver, mounted ivories, nautilus cups, and other Kunstkammer objects; Meissen porcelain; and French 18th-century porcelain. The museum continues to acquire superb objects to complement and augment the Morgan Collection.
Elizabeth B. Miles Silver Collection
This collection illustrates the mastery of British silversmiths and the stylistic evolution in English domestic silver over three centuries, from the early sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Elizabeth B. Miles, a native of New London, Connecticut, who was the daughter of Theodore Bodenwein, the owner and publisher of The Day newspaper, began collecting English silver in 1956. She made her first gift to the Atheneum in 1965; the bulk of her collection was bequeathed to the museum in 1979.
The Richard and Georgette A. Koopman Collection of Dutch Delft
Composed of more than sixty pieces, the majority made in Delft in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Koopman Collection represents numerous forms and styles of both Western- and Asian-themed decoration. There are plates, bowls, tiles, plaques, tulip vases, strawberry dishes, butter tubs, cow creamers, and tobacco jars. Some pieces are decorated in polychrome enamels. The collection came to the Atheneum in 2004, at the bequest of Georgette A. Koopman, a long time member of the museum's board of trustees and curatorial committee. An enormously generous and supportive individual, she remained closely involved with the museum until her death.
Faith and Fortune: Five Centuries of European Masterworks is organized by Linda H. Roth, the Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts, and Eric M. Zafran, the Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art.
The Presenting Sponsorship is provided by the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The Lead Sponsorship is provided by The Larsen Fund, the Decorative Arts Council of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and Genomas, Inc. This exhibition is supported in part by the Greater Hartford Arts Council's United Arts Campaign and by the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.