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Two erotically charged works by the French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard have been reunited at the Toledo Museum of Art for the first time in 25 years. ‘Blind Man’s Buff’ and ‘The See-Saw’ are the centerpieces of the exhibition ‘Love and Play: A Pair of Paintings by Fragonard,’ which is the first show in the museum’s ENCOUNTERS series that pairs exceptional works of art in new and inventive ways.

‘Blind Man’s Buff,’ which is part of the Toledo Museum’s collection, and ‘The See-Saw,’ which is on loan from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, were painted in Paris during the early 1750s and were most likely commissioned by Baron Baillet de Saint-Julien. The works passed through a number of private collections until they appeared on the market in 1954 and were ultimately separated. The companion paintings were reunited several times for temporary exhibitions in 1968, 1987 and 1988. In addition to the paintings, the Toledo Museum’s exhibition will include two engraved copies of the canvases, a Rococo terracotta sculpture by the French sculptor Clodion, and a small selection of French decorative arts.

Fragonard was one of the most celebrated artists of the 18th-century Rococo era of French painting and was known for his risque depictions of love and courtship. ‘Blind Man’s Buff’ and ‘The See-Saw’ epitomize the exuberance and hedonism that attracted Fragonard’s patrons.

‘Love and Play’ will be on view at the Toledo Museum through May 4, 2014.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is hosting the exhibition ‘Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters,’ a focused presentation of the Early Renaissance painter’s devotional works. The exhibition was organized in collaboration with New York’s Foundation for Italian Art & Culture to celebrate the opening of the Met’s New European Paintings Galleries, 1250-1800.

‘Personal Encounters’ presents four devotional paintings by Francesca that have never before been exhibited together. ‘Saint Jerome and a Supplicant’ is on loan from the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice; ‘Saint Jerome in the Wilderness’ is on loan from the Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino loaned ‘Madonna and Child with Two Angels’; and the private Alana Collection in Delaware loaned ‘Madonna and Child.’  

‘Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters’  will be on view at the Met through March 30, 2014.

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One of only 11 surviving copies of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in the United States, sold for $14.2 million on November 26 at Sotheby’s in New York. The book, which was purchased by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, set a new world auction record for any printed book. Rubenstein plans to loan the book to libraries across the country before putting it on long-term loan at one of them.

The Bay Psalm Book’s selling price soared past the previous auction record for a printed book, established in December 2010 at Sotheby’s London when a copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America sold for $11.5 million. The last time a copy of the Bay Psalm Book appeared at auction was in January 1947 when it sold at Sotheby’s for $151,000.

The Bay Psalm Book was published in Cambridge, MA by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony about two decades after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. Approximately 1,700 copies of the book were printed.

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While preparing for the exhibition John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston discovered photocopied letters that Jacqueline Kennedy had written to the museum’s former director, Perry Rathbone. The letters, which were found in the museum’s archives, were written two months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The correspondence was spurred by Rathbone’s offer to extend the loan of four of the six Sargents that hung in the Kennedys’ private sitting room in the White House. Jackie responded by saying, ““You cannot imagine what they mean to me – or perhaps you can because you extended their loan so chivalrously. But they were in the room — the only room in the White House which was our private, happy sitting room — where the children tumbled around — where we sat with friends. And the ones I chose were on the wall opposite where I sat. The President sat under them. Whenever I think of all our happy days and evenings in this strange house … I think of him sitting in his favorite chair with the Sargents over his head. Perhaps it is a way to cling to a past that can never be the same again — perhaps in a few months they will make me so sad that I will want to send them back to you … But right now they are a consolation.”  

Jackie Kennedy eventually returned the works to the MFA; they are currently on display as part of the Sargent’s Watercolor exhibition, which is on view through January 20, 2014.

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Tuesday, 29 October 2013 17:46

Rare Vermeer Painting on View in Philadelphia

Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, one of only 36 known paintings by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, is currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The canvas, which is on loan from the private Leiden Collection, will remain on view through March 2014. The painting is the only remaining work by the artist still in private hands.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, which boasts the largest collection of 17th century Dutch paintings in North America, has given Young Woman Seated at a Virginal its own wall in the museum’s galleries of European art. The work is accompanied by the Leiden Collection’s own Portrait of Samuel Ampzing by Frans Hals, another master of 17th century Dutch painting.

Scholars have long known about Vermeer’s rendering of a solitary woman but disagreed over its authenticity. Scientific and art historical studies started in the 1990s ultimately proved that Vermeer was, in fact, the painting’s creator. Recent analysis has provided further proof, finding that its canvas is from the same bolt of cloth that Vermeer used for his famous painting Lacemaker, which currently resides in the Louvre.

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents the exhibition Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, an interdisciplinary show that sheds new light on the experimental decade of the 1920s in Paris. During that time, Fernand Léger, a French modernist painter, played an important role in redefining painting by engaging with the urban environment as well as mass media.

The cornerstone of the exhibition will be Léger’s The City (1919), which is also a pivotal part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s collection. The show will include other works by the artist that explore the city theme as well as film projections, theater designs, architectural models, and print and advertising designs by Léger as well as his contemporaries including Piet Mondrian, Le Corbusier and Many Ray.

Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis, presents over 120 works, including loans from American and European public and private collections. The exhibition will be on view through January 5, 2014.

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Monday, 14 October 2013 12:50

Currier Museum Loaned European Masterpieces

The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH has been loaned two significant impressionist landscape paintings – one by Vincent van Gogh and another by Pierre-August Renoir. The works will be on view at the museum through the end of January.

The van Gogh painting was created in 1887 and features a peasant in a field near a country road, with Paris off in the distance. The painting illustrates how contemporary impressionist and neo-impressionist artists living in Paris affected van Gogh’s work. The Renoir painting shows a woman holding a parasol and a bouquet of flowers, with another behind her, emerging from the trees. Although there are figures in the painting, the composition is highly influenced by the landscape.

The two masterpieces will be exhibited alongside Claude Monet’s The Seine at Bougival, which is a part of the Currier’s collection.

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Earlier this month Italy’s Culture Ministry said that it would delay the loan of Sandro Botticelli’s The Annunciation of San Martino alla Scala (1481) to the Israel Museum because the timing was “not appropriate.” Following the announcement, Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat did all she could to assure her Italian counterpart that there was no danger in the artwork going on view in Israel. While many speculated that Italy’s decision to delay the loan was due to conflict in Syria, museum officials claimed that conservation issues were to blame for the near postponement.

Ultimately, on Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the work went on view at the Israel Museum as planned. The Annunciation is a large fresco that was originally painted on a hospital wall in Florence. After suffering significant damage, it was removed in 1920 and transferred to the Uffizi Gallery, where it underwent restoration. James Snyder, the Israel Museum’s director, said that the work has a deep connection to the Holy Land since the annunciation story took place in Nazareth, and “the landscape in the fresco is the landscape of this ancient land.”  

The loan is part of celebrations in honor of Israel’s 65th anniversary.

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is currently presenting a single-work exhibition devoted to the rare Renaissance painting Senigallia Madonna by Piero della Francesca. The show, titled An Italian Treasure, Stolen and Recovered, recounts the fascinating story of the work’s theft and recovery in the 1970s. On loan from Italy’s Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, this is the first time that Senigallia Madonna has been on view in the United States.

The exceptional tempera and oil on panel painting was one of three paintings stolen in 1975 and recovered the following year by Italy’s famed Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Command, which specializes in the protection of the country’s cultural heritage on national and international levels. The loan is part of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Visiting Masterpieces series as well as Italy’s initiative, 2013–Year of Italian Culture in the United States, which was organized to nurture the close bonds between Italy and the U.S.

Senigallia Madonna will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through January 6, 2014. A video chronicling the efforts of the Carabinieri will complement the work.

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Thursday, 12 September 2013 18:47

Italy Postpones Botticelli Loan to Israeli Museum

Amid Syria fears, Italy’s culture ministry in Rome announced that it will delay its loan of a famous 15th-century painting by Sandro Botticelli to Israel because the timing is “not appropriate.” The Renaissance masterpiece The Annunciation of San Martino alla Scala was supposed to be sent to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for inclusion in an exhibition opening on September 17, 2013.

The culture ministry said that it would send another painting of equal cultural and artistic content. The Uffizi Gallery organized the loan as part of celebrations for Israel’s 65th anniversary.

The Annunciation is a large fresco that was originally painted on a hospital wall in Florence. It was removed in 1920 and transferred to the Uffizi, where it underwent restoration.

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