Published: June 19, 2007
A Sixteenth Century Florentine painting of the Virgin and Child by Francesco d’Ubertini Verdi, called Il Bachiacca, has been added to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection. Experts call it the Renaissance artist’s masterpiece.
Also new to VMFA are a late Nineteenth Century oil on canvas by American expatriate artist Charles Sprague Pearce and a rare Eighteenth Century genre scene in oil on canvas by Benjamin West.
The museum trustees approved acquisitions including an American early Nineteenth Century monumental urn, watercolors from India depicting the creation of the universe and a female figure after her bath, two light-based works by living American artists, and a signature work by contemporary American sculptor Robert Lazzarini.
“The works of art approved recently by our board of trustees both strengthen and add depth to areas of the museum’s collection in ways that will magnify the VMFA experience for scholars and visitors today and in years to come,” says Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s director.
The oil on panel by Il Bachiacca (Florence, 1494‱557) is a large painting, nearly 6 feet tall. “The Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist,” from about 1540, is the artist’s “best-preserved large-scale figural composition and is also his masterpiece,” says Dr Mitchell Merling, head of VMFA’s European art department and the museum’s Paul Mellon curator. He says the altarpiece “fills a major gap in our museum’s European collection.”
Charles Sprague Pearce (American, 1851‱914) was among many American artists who settled in France in the second half of the Nineteenth Century. A Boston native, he moved to Paris and became a key figure in expatriate circles, exhibiting in the Paris Salon nearly every year from 1876 to 1906.
The Pearce painting, an oil on canvas, was a prizewinning and well-known picture in the artist’s day.
“Peines de Coeur (“Heartbreak”), painted about 1884, is a large work, measuring about 62 by 48 inches. It was the first Pearce produced following his move to the French countryside. Two female figures in the foreground draw viewers in to share an intimate moment. The landscape conveys an expansive rural setting.
Benjamin West (1738‱820), a Quaker from Pennsylvania, was the first American artist to train in Europe. West was known for history and religious paintings and portraits produced for King George III and other powerful patrons. The painting now at VMFA, “Three Ladies Making Music,” 1798, is a rare genre scene that reveals another side of the revered and canonical artist. The painting, which is 13 by 18 inches, contrasts starkly with VMFA’s 1769 history painting by West, “Caesar Reading the History of Alexander’s Exploits.”
The museum’s new monumental urn was made at the Tucker Factories (active 1826″8) of Philadelphia between 1827 and 1831. It represents the dual poles of taste in early Nineteenth Century America and is decorated with neoclassical motifs and dramatic pictorial scenes in the concurrent Romantic style. It stands 21 inches tall.
Two watercolors from India were added to the collection. One is “The Creation of the Universe: Vishnu and Lakshmi on Sesha, the Cosmic Serpent, Floating on the ‘Multitudinous Seas,'” and was executed about 1770‷5. The other is “A Lady after Her Bath, Holding a Lotus Bud that She Has Received from a Winged Messenger,” and dates to the early 1800s. The first is from Guler or Kangra in the Punjab Hills, and the latter is from Jaipur in India’s Rajasthan region.
“The Creation of the Universe” depicts an important episode in Hindu myth †the moment when Lakshmi arouses Vishnu from his slumber by tenderly massaging his feet. The well-known and widely published miniature painting, in opaque watercolor and gold on paper, measures about 11 by 8 inches.
John Ravenal, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family curator of modern and contemporary art, calls Robert Lazzarini (b 1965), whose 2000 work “Skulls” was added to the collection, “one of today’s most interesting sculptors.” Lazzarini’s work was the subject of a solo exhibition at VMFA in 2003.
The VMFA is at 200 North Boulevard. For information, www.vmfa.state.va.us or 804-340-1400.
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