Year in review: 2021 additions to the collection
This painting by British artist William Holman Hunt depicts Jesus Christ as a young carpenter in his father’s workshop, stretching and giving thanks to God after his day’s work. Holman Hunt was a devoted member of the Pre-Raphaelites, a group of artists, writers, and critics, whose work was often inspired by Christian themes and who believed that art should be precise and true to nature. These ideals come to life in Hunt’s painting, which is rendered in almost mind-blowing detail. The painting is one of the artist’s most famous compositions and is now one of the most important Pre-Raphaelite paintings in North America.
Created during the Yongle period (1403-1424), the golden age of porcelain-making in China, this moon flask is an elegant adaptation of a shape long popular in West Asia. Cobalt pigments, imported from Iran, were used to create the spacious and naturalistic arrangement of blooming flowers that represents a new style of porcelain decoration. The exquisite workmanship of the bottle, as well as the harmony of its shape and decoration, reflects the fundamental strengths of porcelain production in China at that time. Only one other example of the same size, quality and design survives; it is kept in the Ottoman Royal Collection in Istanbul, Turkey. The similarities between the two works suggest that they could have been a pair.
This textile work was created by Marguerite Thompson Zorach, painter, textile artist and modern graphic designer who, through her multimedia practice, advocated the integration of art into everyday life. Here, she used large stylized flowers, foliage and seashells surrounding the nude figure to accentuate the multisensory and multidimensional experience of the work. Often described largely as a rug, a work like this could have been hung on the wall or used on the floor, reflecting both modernist creative expression and modern interior design. This textile joins two of the artist’s landscape paintings in our collection and, through its subject matter and material composition, helps expand the history of 20th century American modernism.
This photograph by James Van Der Zee captures the excitement of a parade in Harlem in 1924 hosted by Marcus Garvey, the black Jamaican-born nationalist who contributed to the emergence of Pan-Africanism. Van Der Zee was prolific in documenting Harlem’s Renaissance cultural and social scene in the 1920s and 1930s. He photographed thousands of black individuals from all walks of life – working class subjects and well-to-do, civic and political leaders, athletes and celebrities and intelligentsia – mostly in the studio but also in documentary footage, like this one, made in and around Harlem. .
This pair of mounted vases is part of the long and rich history of great creativity, commercial and cultural exchanges between China and Europe. The porcelain body of each vase was made in China in the early 18th century, almost certainly in the kilns of Jingdezhen. When they later traveled to Paris, the vases were turned into highly marketable European objects by the great French Rococo sculptor, designer and silversmith Jean-Claude Duplessis, who shortened the ship’s high collars and added richly modeled gilt bronze mounts. . The addition of these objects to our collection reflects our continued expansion of narratives of intercultural dialogue and aesthetic exchange.
All directions at once is the first work of art on the Internet to enter the museum’s collection. This book traces the colonial and postcolonial histories of fertility, contraception and reproductive control in Brazil through an animated graphic essay. Created by artist and scholar Luiza Prado de Oliveira Martins, the website layers vibrant, flashing colored GIF images and provocative texts in endless varied combinations, making each user experience unique. This acquisition also includes a multimedia installation with a video demonstration of the interactive website and a wallpaper featuring the artist’s flowery GIF graphics, including images from the ayoowiri peacock shrub and flower, plants known to induce abortion that were used by enslaved indigenous and African peoples to resist colonial control over their bodies.
The expert ceramist Mncane Nzuza, the creator of this pot, is famous for her know-how; his innovative designs are deeply appreciated in Zulu society and highly sought after at home and abroad. Serve and share a ceremonial beer, made with sorghum malt, from a ukhamba the pot is an integral and traditional way of honoring ancestors during communal celebrations. A member of the Zulu community in Nzuza ordered this pot directly from the artist for this purpose. Historically, ukhamba the pots were made by women, who build the pots by hand using a combination of coils and slabs and scrape the walls of the vessels into thin shells when the terracotta is as hard as leather. This ukhamba is a testament to the dynamic nature of the art form as Nzuza flattens and widens the profile of a standard ship and playfully adapted a traditional triangular diamond pattern tied to historical Zulu designs. This addition to our collection is part of our ongoing work to emphasize individual contributions of creativity and craftsmanship, especially by women artists and artists of color.
This sculpture, which also serves as a fully functional inkwell, is one of the few sculpted self-portraits made by a woman before 1900. French actor and artist Sarah Bernhardt portrayed herself as a chimera, a mythological creature made up of animal parts disparate. Here, his human head has the body of a lion with bat wings and a dragon’s tail. The female chimera had often been used by male artists of Bernhardt’s time in connection with the idea of the “femme fatale” – an attractive woman who attracts men into dangerous situations. Bernhardt skillfully shakes up this misogynistic fantasy in the service of positive self-shaping, even ingenious self-promotion.
Featured in our 2020 exhibition Malangatana: Modern Mozambique, this painting is an important example of Malangatana’s unique painting style. Known for his dense assemblages of figures, his fantastic depictions of animals, humans and supernatural creatures, and a highly contrasting color palette, Malangatana’s work embodies the new artistic vocabularies that emerged in Mozambique in the 1960s, in tandem with the struggle for liberation from colonial rule. In Final judgment, a black priest is surrounded by monstrous faces, perhaps suggesting an account. The painting, along with a suite of Malangatana drawings in our collection, is the largest representation of the artist’s work outside of Mozambique.
This painting is by 19th-century American artist Lilly Martin Spencer, the only nationally recognized female genre painter in her day. A true pioneer, Spencer knew how to bring her large family to life with her art and became one of the most popular artists of the time in the United States. Throughout his career, Spencer has placed women at the center of his vivid representations of the daily activities of white, urban, and middle-class households like his own. In this work, she skillfully depicts a mother and child (modeled by artist and her son William Henry) playing a nursery rhyme, a game celebrating their emotional connection while also hinting at the larger world the boy will eventually join. The composition has been well known since the 1850s through engravings and two painted copies, but this original work was not found until recently, when it came up for auction in 2019.
This exceptionally large and fine example of ancient jewelry is a carnelian stone carved with a depiction of the Roman god Mars. Better known as the god of war and commonly equated with the Greek god Ares, Mars was also worshiped as a god of agriculture and vegetation and therefore associated with cleansing the earth, preventing disease, and protecting crops, livestock and home. For the Romans, whose lives centered on farm labor and military service, Mars was one of the oldest and “most genuinely Roman” deities in their pantheon. Here, the figure of Mars is engraved in stone by the intaglio method. Intaglio, from the Italian word intaglio Means “engrave” or “cut” and is one of the two main gemstone carving techniques invented in ancient times. It was often used for rings and sealing devices, although this one, due to its large size, was probably a pendant.
Faith Ringgold dedicated this work to the men who died while demonstrating against the appalling conditions at Attica Correctional Facility in New York City in 1971. She used bright red, black, and green – colors derived from the black national flag. by activist Marcus Garvey – to represent a map of the United States. Dates and other details on the card record infamous acts of violence that have occurred in every state, such as race riots, witch hunts, presidential assassinations, lynchings and wars against indigenous people. Although this work was Ringgold’s most widely circulated political poster of the 1970s, our collection version comes directly from the artist’s archives and is a perfect example of this iconic image.
Peruvian artist Kukuli Velarde creates ceramic and multimedia works that celebrate indigenous cultures and explore the consequences of colonialism. In her CORPUS series, she reimagined the Christian statues that are part of the Corpus Christi feast in Cusco as ancient Andean deities. In this work, she transforms the famous statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in the cathedral of Cusco, called La Linda, into an ancient goddess Nasca. The figure features the traditional halo and crescent moon of Virgo as well as an array of Nasca iconographies. In this way, Velarde explores the dual identities that many modern Andeans can adopt.
This sculpture of Ganesha, the early auspicious and barrier-removing Hindu god, is an extraordinarily energetic and elaborate depiction of the elephant-headed god. Not only is he shown dancing happily, which he, as his father Shiva, was known to love, but unlike many depictions of the dancing Ganesha, he is shown here with 20 arms, a more cosmic manifestation of the God. Each hand holds a different instrument, and all around it are musicians, servants, and his mount, a rat. Carved in a circle, the sculpture was probably once placed in its own sub-sanctuary within a larger temple complex dedicated to the god Shiva.