Curators At Work III: Recent Acquisitions


Less than two weeks after their largest blockbuster exhibitions ever, the Muscarelle Museum will welcome patrons for their next exhibition Curators at Work III: New Acquisitions. For this show, the Museum will display a number of masterpieces that have been newly acquired for the Muscarelle Permanent Collection. The show will span seven consecutive centuries of art and a variety of media. These works are not featured merely for their significance to the art community at-large, rather these works were carefully selected to highlight two of the most significant philosophies underlying the operation and acquisitions of the Museum.

Foremost amongst these philosophies is the recognition of the Museums role as a learning laboratory for the entire College of William & Mary. The Director and Chief Curator target works for acquisition that will invigorate intellectual life at the College. As Director De Groft notes, this acquisition philosophy allows “Faculty from across the campus to use works of art on view at the Museum to enhance and amplify classroom curriculum.” De Groft explains how the works allow the Museum to become a learning laboratory because the works “were created within the cultural, political and social climate of their time, and thus are primary source documents.”

The works on display will span from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Featured in this show will be a number of the most important prints from the Renaissance era. This includes The Deposition in the Tomb, the earliest masterpiece in Italian printmaking by Andrea Mantegna. The print on display is in exquisite condition, the light inking indicates it may have been an early proof of Mantegna’s masterpiece dated to around 1470. Mantegna is not the only renaissance master on view in the show. The iconic woodcut Melancolia I by the German printmaker Albrecht Dürer was also added to the Muscarelle Collection this year. Other works by Dürer, including The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from his acclaimed Apocalypse series were also acquired and will be on view.

Prints in the show are not limited to the Renaissance period. Etchings from renowned printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi have also been added to the collection and will be on view. Piranesi’s most significant influence was how he shaped the world’s impressions of Ancient Rome. His depictions of the Monuments and City of Rome captured the imagination of his generation. As student research of the pieces revealed, Goethe, the great German thinker had memorized the plates made by Piranesi. When Goethe visited Rome, he was disappointed to learn that the city did not live-up to Piranesi’s romanticized visions of the vibrant and powerful ancient capital. Muscarelle acquisitions from Piranesi include these moving depictions of Ancient Rome, such as his etching of the Colosseum, Veduta dell’ Anfiteatro Flavio Detto il Colosseo.

Although the printmakers have a strong representation, the balance and depth of Curators at Work III: New Acquisitions demonstrates how these works add to numerous areas of intellectual life at the College. An exquisite painting by the contemporary Venezuelan born figurative painter Ángel Ramiro Sanchez will also be on view. The work, A Tu Lado Quiero Estar (By Your Side I Want to Be), demonstrates how Ramiro rebukes the modernist trends and returns to the realist perspective. Adding to the depth of this astounding collection, Tania Brassesco and Lazlo Norberto’s Pen and Ploma, a photograph on Kodak Endura paper challenges many conceptions of art. These photographers create their set to mirror works from the turn of the 20th century. Chief Curator, Dr. John T. Spike, eloquently describes the work and how Brassesco and Norberto “dissolve the boundary between painting and photography, contemporary and the past.” He explains how they “create sets complete with live models based on paintings from 1890-1910 and photograph the scene as it is painted which astonishingly adds new levels of depth and expression to the original work.”

The second aspect of the acquisition philosophy from Drs. De Groft and Spike is best described through the oil painting by the American born painter Benjamin West. This painting, like other important acquisitions recognizes the historical significance and realties of The College of William & Mary. The Messiah, was painted by Benjamin West, who was born in America in 1738. West moved to London, which is where The Messiah was painted. The painting was then given by West’s sons as a gift to the United States government. Following the War of 1812, the painting was sold by the government to a private collection in Britain. No doubt this move at least recognized the significance of West leaving America as an expatriate in a period of bitter tension after the war. The Muscarelle is proud to have recognized this work as one of the most important from the Colonial epic and reclaimed this masterpiece, returning it to the United States.

Curators at Work III: New Acquisitions will be accompanied by a catalogue of 43 memoranda written by students in Dr. Spike’s class in the Art History Department, Curating & Connoisseurship. These memoranda demonstrate the Museum’s integral role in the intellectual life of the College by demonstrating the student’s academic and personal growth through working with these works. This exhibition of masterpieces will only be on view for one month from April 26 to May 26. The Museum will be closed during the summer for scheduled facility inspections.

During this exhibition, there is an admission fee $10, Admission is free for Museum members, The College of William & Mary faculty, staff, and students, as well as children under twelve.

Betsy Moss for Muscarelle Museum of Art
Phone: 804.355.1557


Muscarelle Museum of Art
Lamberson Hall

The College of William & Mary
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795

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