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Kimbell Art Museum
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Fort Worth, Texas 76107-2792
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Exhibitions

Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society

Michelangelo’s First Painting: The Torment of Saint Anthony

Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)

Current Installations

About the Collection


Events

Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society
June 27 through September 5, 2021

The Kimbell Art Museum presents Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society, on view June 27 through September 5, 2021. Co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Asia Society Museum, this exhibition showcases the extraordinary range of sculptures, bronzes, ceramics and metalwork that John D. Rockefeller 3rd (1906–1978) and his wife, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller (1909–1992), thoughtfully assembled between the 1940s and the 1970s.

With highlights including spectacular Indian Chola bronzes, impressive Southeast Asian sculptures and exquisite East Asian ceramics, the exhibition reveals great achievements in Asian art spanning more than two millennia. Comprised of masterpieces drawn from Asia Society’s permanent collection, this visually stunning presentation illuminates social and artistic histories from across Asia and underscores the visual arts’ capacity to encourage cross-cultural dialogue.

“We are thrilled to welcome this extraordinary collection to Fort Worth,” said Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “The breadth and diversity of works representing many cultures across Asia are a testament to the Rockefellers’ vision of promoting cross-cultural understanding and respect—a charge that remains important and relevant today.”

This exhibition also represents a special opportunity for museum visitors to experience the unparalleled quality of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection outside its home at Asia Society Museum in New York City. In addition to investigating themes of Buddhist sculpture, Hindu sculpture and East Asian ceramics and metalwork, the show examines the Rockefellers’ connoisseurship as well as their collecting and exhibition practices in an age when political and economic circumstances shaped the reception and availability of Asian artworks in the United States.

Superlative Works on View
Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society is the fifth exhibition of Asian art at the Kimbell Art Museum in the last 20 years, following the recent exhibitions From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection (2018) and Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection (2014).

“Every piece in the exhibition is an absolute jewel,” said Jennifer Casler Price, curator of Asian, African and Ancient American art at the Kimbell Art Museum. “This show is a wonderful opportunity to explore a concentrated and superb selection of outstanding artworks from one of the greatest collections in the world.”

“Within the range of themes, cultures, periods and styles that are represented, there is something of wonder and discovery for everyone—whether you’re familiar with Asian art or are seeing these fascinating and remarkable works for the first time,” Casler Price noted.

Emphasizing beauty, the balance between ingenuity and tradition, and an awareness of the faiths its objects represent, Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society manifests the dynamic ideas and philosophies that animate the many histories of Asian art. At the same time, it attests to the Rockefellers’ vision of promoting deep cross-cultural understanding through direct encounters with astonishing works of art.

The Rockefeller 3rd Collection
When John D. Rockefeller 3rd and his wife, Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, began collecting Asian art in the years after World War II, they chose to prioritize classical masterpieces that represented the great technical skill and creative breadth of Asian artistic practice. From the start, the couple believed that sharing this grouping of exceptional artworks with the public could act as a catalyst for increasing understanding of Asian cultures and create the foundation for future economic and sociopolitical engagement between the United States and the countries of Asia. They selected objects from across the continent—Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam—ranging from everyday food wares to imperial dining vessels and from ceremonial Buddhist statuary to private devotional Hindu sculptures. These artworks come from a range of cultural contexts and reflect the diversity of Asia and its vast artistic achievements.

Buddhist Sculpture
John D. Rockefeller 3rd was raised in homes where his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, sought to recreate the atmosphere she had admired during her travels to Asia, particularly the serene balance of Buddhist temples. The opening section of the exhibition, Buddhist Sculpture, includes works that capture the beauty and compassionate ideals embodied by the Buddhist art of Asia.

Superb South Asian bronzes and stone sculptures of the ancient region of Gandhara, the Gupta period and the Pala period demonstrate styles that had a profound impact on the arts of East and Southeast Asia, as Buddhism was transmitted across the continent, from India in the south to Japan in the north, over hundreds of years. Nepalese, Sri Lankan, Thai, Cambodian, Chinese and Japanese works reflect both these stylistic traditions and transformations. A splendid stone head of a Buddha fashioned in the late second to early third century by sculptors in Gandhara is a classic example of the earliest images of the Buddha, with almost Grecian facial features that reflect Gandhara’s status as a crossroads where East met West.

Hindu Sculpture
Rockefeller as equally drawn to the sensual aesthetic of Hindu sculpture. Another section of the exhibition, Hindu Sculpture, features a number of outstanding pieces the Rockefellers acquired from India and Cambodia Among the striking selection of five Chola-period bronzes is a magnificent image of the Hindu god Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja), dating to around 970. Exemplary among several monumental Southeast Asian sculptures is a Khmer sandstone image of a four-armed Shiva that features the smooth body and fine details found in the best carved figures of the Angkor period, from the late 10th or early 11th century.

Ceramics and Metalwork
The collectors shared wide-ranging tastes, which the Ceramics and Metalwork section of the exhibition will reveal. Like his father, John D. Rockefeller 3rd passionately collected Chinese porcelains, particularly from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and the Kangxi period of the Qing dynasty (1662–1722), though the son formed a broader appreciation of East Asian ceramics than had the father. An impeccable blue-and-white 15th-century flask decorated with dragons epitomizes the finest porcelains used at the Ming court as gifts from the emperor to his attendants and to foreign rulers and dignitaries.

Demonstrating the Rockefellers’ diverse but discerning taste in Japanese ceramics, sophisticated Arita wares represent some of the most esteemed Japanese porcelains ever exported to the

West, and Mino wares and Kyoto wares reflect aesthetics tied to the tea ceremony. One remarkable example, a large tea-leaf storage jar decorated with a group of crows, can be attributed to Nonomura Ninsei, one of only a handful of 17th-century potters whose name is now known.

Rounding out this section of the exhibition, a splendid Chinese bronze food vessel (gui) from the sixth century BC and an elegant seventh-to-eighth-century Tang dynasty silver stem cup represent high points of the metalworking tradition in China. These two objects reveal both local innovations and the stylistic impact of international exchange of goods and ideas, the time-honored concepts the Rockefellers endeavored to emphasize through their collecting of Asian art.

EXHIBITION CREDITS
This exhibition is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Asia Society Museum

EXHIBITION CREDITS
This exhibition is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Asia Society Museum.

The national tour of the exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Promotional support is provided by American Airlines, NBC 5 and PaperCity.

TICKETS
Admission to Buddha, Shiva, Lotus, Dragon: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society is $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students, $14 for ages 6–11, and free for children under 6. Admission is half-price all day on Tuesdays and after 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Tickets are $3 for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and all family members present with a valid SNAP Card. Additional discounts do not apply. Reduced admission tickets are available with valid ID exclusively at the museum box office.

Tickets are available at the museum box office and on the museum’s website, kimbellart.org.

CATALOGUE
A fully illustrated catalogue written by Adriana Proser, the Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Quincy Scott Curator of Asian Art at the Walters Art Museum and the former John H. Foster Curator for Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society Museum, will accompany the exhibition. The catalogue is available for $50 in hardcover at the Museum Shops or online at kimbellart.org.

Michelangelo’s First Painting: The Torment of Saint Anthony
Currently On View

Beginning September 26, 2009, Michelangelo’s first known painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony, will be on view among the permanent collection of the Kimbell Art Museum. The Kimbell Art Museum acquired the painting in May 2009. The work is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, through September 7, 2009. It will be featured in a focus exhibition including a facsimile of the Schongauer engraving on which it is based and the recent technical examinations and scholarly analyses that identify it as the painting described by Michelangelo’s biographers.

Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, commented, “I am delighted with the reception that The Torment of Saint Anthony received in New York and look forward to welcoming Michelangelo’s painting to its new home at the Kimbell Art Museum. I can hardly wait to see the painting hanging in the galleries of Louis Kahn’s landmark building.”

This work was executed in oil and tempera on a wooden panel in 1487–88, when the artist was only 12 to 13 years old. It is the first painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) to enter an American collection, and one of only four known easel paintings generally believed to come from his hand. The others are the Doni Tondo in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and two unfinished paintings in London’s National Gallery, The Manchester Madonna and The Entombment.

The painting was offered at Sotheby’s in 2008 as “workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.” The Sotheby’s entry noted that Everett Fahy, curator emeritus of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who had known the work since 1960, believed it to be by Michelangelo. Purchased by Adam Williams Fine Art, New York, the panel was brought to the Metropolitan, where it underwent conservation and technical research.

The recent cleaning of Michelangelo’s Torment of Saint Anthony at the Metropolitan has revealed the quality of the small panel. Michael Gallagher, conservator in charge of paintings conservation, removed the layers of yellowed varnish and clumsy, discolored overpaint that obscured the artist’s distinctive palette and compromised the illusion of depth and sculptural form. The technical study accompanying the cleaning has provided evidence of artist’s changes, signifying that the painting is an original work of art and not a copy after another painting.

Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists (1550, second edition 1568), and Ascanio Condivi—Michelangelo’s former student whose information for his biography of the artist (1553) came directly from the master—both recount how the young Michelangelo painted a copy of the engraving Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons by the 15th-century German master Martin Schongauer. Vasari relates that Michelangelo bought fish with bizarrely colorful scales so that he could render the strange forms of the devils. Condivi also wrote that in order to give the demonic creatures veracity, Michelangelo went to the fish market to study the shape and color of the fins, eyes, and other parts of the fish. The spiny, long-snouted demon with brilliantly colored scales (the scales are absent from the engraving) particularly associates the Kimbell panel with these descriptions. The work probably dates from the time Michelangelo was informally associated with Ghirlandaio’s workshop, just before he began his brief apprenticeship with this important master.

The rare subject is found in the life of Saint Anthony the Great, written by Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century, which describes how the Egyptian hermit saint levitated into the air and was attacked by demons, whose torments he resisted. According to Condivi, it was the artist Francesco Granacci, Michelangelo’s older friend, who gave him access to some of the prints and drawings in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio. In an effort to try his hand at painting, Michelangelo reportedly took Schongauer’s print and produced a mesmerizing rendition of it on a wooden panel that earned him great repute and fame.

Michelangelo
Born in 1475 near Florence, Michelangelo is universally acknowledged as one of the towering geniuses of the Renaissance. Already by his teenage years, he had proven himself a superlative sculptor and painter. Best known for his mature works such as the ceiling frescoes in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, he evolved a forceful, muscular style that gripped the imaginations of artists for decades to come. First and foremost, Michelangelo thought himself a sculptor, and many of his works in marble are icons of Western art: his Vatican Pietà, his vigorous David in Florence, and his tragic, unfinished Rondanini Pietà in Milan. As a painter, Michelangelo was equally influential. As The Torment of Saint Anthony proves, he was drawn to painting at an early age, and by the time of his later masterpiece, The Last Judgment, also in the Sistine Chapel, he had presided over a vast revolution in Italian painting.

Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)
Ongoing

The Kimbell Art Museum announced today one of the most important acquisitions in its history: French painter Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter). The painting is from Poussin's famous first set of the Seven Sacraments, which has been universally acclaimed, virtually since its creation, as a landmark in the history of art. The series was commissioned by the prominent Roman collector Cassiano dal Pozzo between 1636 and 1642. In 1785, the 4th Duke of Rutland purchased the paintings and brought them to England, after which Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy of Arts, declared: "I think upon the whole that this must be considered as the greatest work of Poussin, who was certainly one of the greatest Painters that ever lived."

"This is among the most significant old master paintings to have become available in decades," commented Eric M. Lee, the Museum's director. "I'm thrilled about the acquisition. Poussin's harmonious painting, with its frieze of colorfully dressed figures set against a landscape, will beautifully complement the serene Louis Kahn-designed galleries of the Kimbell, and vice-versa—a perfect union of painting and architecture. The classical sense of restraint in this work makes for an interesting contrast to the Poussin already in our collection, the earlier, more sensuous, Venetian-inspired Venus and Adonis."

Cassiano dal Pozzo, who commissioned the Sacrament series, was secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, and is often referred to as the father of modern archaeology. Cassiano immersed himself in the study of natural sciences and the philosophy, customs, and monuments of antiquity, to which end he amassed a "Paper Museum," an encyclopedic collection of drawings and prints that recorded the material evidence of the life and works of the ancients. He met Poussin soon after the artist's arrival in Rome from France, in 1624, and became one of his most important patrons. Eventually he owned (along with his brother) some 50 Poussin paintings. Cassiano's learned interests undoubtedly inspired the unprecedented subject of the sacraments as individual scenes—a theme that explored the core rites of Christian life leading to salvation. Poussin created narratives with an extraordinary attention to historical accuracy, bringing to life rituals of the early Christians and infusing each picture with a profound yet powerful pictorial structure. Cassiano's Sacraments were admired by scores of artists and connoisseurs, including Paul Fréart de Chantelou, for whom Poussin created a second set of Sacraments between 1644 and 1648; these paintings are currently in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

To illustrate the sacrament of ordination—the taking of Holy Orders to become a priest, deacon, or bishop—Poussin depicted the gospel account of Christ giving the keys of heaven and earth to the kneeling apostle Peter, showing the authority vested in him as head of the Roman church: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:18–19). Poussin charges his magisterial composition with the varied emotional reactions and gestures of each apostle, setting the figures against an airy landscape. Probably among the earliest completed in the series, the painting is in excellent condition.

Sir Robert Walpole, the early 18th-century British prime minister whose extensive art collection was later acquired by Catherine the Great of Russia and would become the nucleus of the Hermitage Museum, attempted to acquire Poussin's Sacraments from the heirs of Cassiano dal Pozzo, but the pope at that time, Benedict XIV, considered them too important to the cultural patrimony of Rome to leave the city and stopped their export. It was in 1785 that James Byres, agent in Rome of Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, finally succeeded in securing the series, which the Duke had some years earlier expressed a desire to purchase. The Duke consulted Sir Joshua Reynolds, who enthusiastically endorsed the purchase as "a great object of art...perhaps a greater than any we have at present in this nation. Poussin certainly ranks amongst the first of the first rank of Painters, and to have a set of Pictures of such an artist will really and truly enrich the nation." When the paintings arrived in London, Reynolds attended to the cleaning of the paintings and arranged for them to be exhibited with great fanfare at the Royal Academy in 1787 before their installation at the Duke of Rutland's Belvoir Castle, in new frames—ordered by Reynolds himself—which remain on the paintings to this day.

The Dal Pozzo Sacraments were on display at Belvoir Castle for over 200 years and from 2003 until last year on loan to the National Gallery, London. Of the original seven works, the Duke of Rutland retains Confirmation, Eucharist, Extreme Unction, and Marriage. Penance was destroyed in a fire, and Baptism was acquired by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in 1946. The Sacrament of Ordination was offered for sale by the trustees of the Belvoir Estate, and the proceeds will support the renovation and long-term preservation of Belvoir Castle and Estate.

The Kimbell Art Foundation was represented in the negotiation of the painting's purchase by Robert Holden Ltd. and Sotheby's. The Kimbell secured an export license in August. In documents made public, the expert advisor for the British Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest wrote, "Poussin's depictions of these sacred ceremonies represent one of the supreme artistic, intellectual and spiritual achievements in Western art and thought."

Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) occupies a central place in the history of art. Born in France, he spent most of his career in Rome. Esteemed as both a painter-poet and painter-philosopher, Poussin was an artist whose work encompassed the full range of human expression, imaginative, and intellectual. He attracted a number of important patrons, including Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII, who recalled him to France as First Painter in Ordinary to the King, though the artist soon chose to return to Rome. He was admired by Bernini as an incomparable storyteller. Poussin's works range from youthful mythological paintings and sensuous bacchanals to austerely rigorous history paintings and devotional works, from bucolic pastoral landscapes to the epic, pantheistic landscapes of his old age. His paintings provided the foundation for the great French tradition of classical art, in turn nurturing the neoclassicism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Generations of artists, from David to Delacroix to Cézanne and beyond, have drawn inspiration and measured their own achievements in relation to the towering art of Poussin.

Permanent Collection
In its short history of 36 years, the Kimbell Art Museum has come to occupy a distinctive place in the international community of museums. Leaving to older and larger institutions the role of collecting broadly and in depth, the Kimbell has chosen as its primary collecting aspiration the pursuit of quality over quantity. Particularly in its holdings of European painting and sculpture, the Kimbell possesses a core of works that not only epitomize their eras and styles, but also touch individual high points of aesthetic beauty and historical importance.

In the years leading up to the Grand Opening in 1972, members of the Kimbell Art Foundation and the first director, Richard F. Brown, laid out broad parameters for the Museum’s collecting. Over time, the strategy has become more focused. Today the Museum does not collect American art, nor works created after 1950, in order to more effectively complement the offerings of its neighbors, the Amon Carter Museum, which is devoted to American art, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which focuses on art since World War II.

Visitors to the Kimbell during the inaugural year were greeted by more than 125 new acquisitions, extending back as far as early antiquity and medieval times and as late in history as the early 20th century, as well as a generous representation of British 18th and 19th-century portraits that reflected Kay and Velma Kimbell’s legacy and taste. Goya’s Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero, executed at the height of the artist’s career as a court painter; Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Bruns’s immensely confident self-portrait at 26 years of age; and Monet’s La Pointe de la Héve at Low Tide, one of the painter’s first large showpieces: these were among the paintings that thousands of Americans encountered for the first time in the natural light of Louis I. Kahn’s barrel-vaulted galleries. Visitors to the smaller non-Western collections encountered works collected according to the highest connoisseurial standards, ranging from a rare Cycladic female figure to important Greek and Roman statuary to Buddhist deities crafted of stone or bronze. In the years directly following the Grand Opening, the Museum added still more masterworks, including Duccio di Buoninsegna’s emotionally expressive panel painting The Raising of Lazarus, and El Greco’s magisterial Portrait of Dr. Francisco de Pisa.

In 1980, several months after the Board of Directors acquired Cézanne’s Man in a Blue Smock in memory of Brown, who had died the previous year, Edmund P. Pillsbury, previously director of the Yale Center for British Art (another Kahn building), was appointed Brown’s successor and initiated a second very active period of acquisitions. Guided by Pillsbury, the Board’s purchase of La Tour’s Cheat with the Ace of Clubs in 1981 set the stage for an inspired pairing when, six years later, Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps entered the collection. Nowadays these two masterpieces—which warn of the dangers of indulgence in wine, women and gambling, while evoking those activities in seductive color and form—often hang in close proximity to Murillo’s Four Figures on a Step, also thought to encode a morality tale. Fra Angelico’s minutely limned The Apostle Saint James the Greater Freeing the Magician Hermogenes, Velázquez’s imposing Don Pedro de Barberana, and Caillebotte’s pivotal On the Pont de l’Europe are among other noted works acquired during Pillsbury’s tenure. These acquisitions were supported partly by selective deaccessioning of works, including all of the Museum’s drawings and prints.

Pillsbury also extended the Museum’s coverage of Impressionist and modern art with paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Miró, Matisse, and Mondrian. Overall, by the end of his directorship in 1998, the collection had been reduced in size but enhanced in quality.

During the tenure of Timothy Potts (1998–2007), the Museum particularly sought out important examples of European sculpture, until then still a relatively small category within the collections. A number of these works are now highlights of the permanent collection, among them Gianlorenzo Bernini’s 1653 presentation model (modello) for the Fountain of the Moor in Piazza Navona, Rome—which the Museum acquired in 2004, shortly after its dramatic rediscovery—and a rare and important portrait bust of a woman, probably Isabella d’Este, c. 1500, attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano. The Moor is probably the finest surviving terracotta by Bernini’s hand, and the Romano, the finest terracotta female portrait of the period in this country. Other major sculptures to enter the collections during this period represent the art of ancient Greece (Head of an Athlete), Renaissance Italy (Michelozzo, Saint John the Baptist), and Late Gothic Germany. The German work is a Virgin and Child crafted of silver, gilt, and precious stones, and, as such, a rare survivor of the Reformation.

In 2006 a rare terracotta relief by the early Renaissance master Donatello entered the permanent collections. The Borromeo Madonna, dating to about 1450, is a tender depiction of one of the most popular subjects of the Renaissance, and one that Donatello did more than any other artist to develop—the Madonna and Child. Although long known to scholars, the relief had been hidden beneath as many as ten layers of stucco and paint applied over the last 500 years, obscuring its beauty and history. A significant cleaning allowed the attribution to Donatello to be made. The Borromeo Madonna forms a new historical starting point and context for such other recent acquisitions as the Saint John the Baptist mentioned above. Michelozzo, its creator, was Donatello’s contemporary and collaborator.

The Museum never ceased to value the grand British portraiture that was Mr. Kimbell’s original enthusiasm. In 2003 it was able to identify and purchase a remarkable double portrait from the early 1790s by Sir Henry Raeburn. The Allen Brothers is a large canvas upon which the Scottish artist conjures an endearingly playful, informal scene of two boys of the upper class with confident, free brushwork. Malcolm Warner, acting director of the Kimbell since September 2007 and senior curator since 2002, brings his particular expertise in British art to acquisitions and exhibitions in this area.

A year after the Raeburn purchase, the Kimbell acquired the German painter Lucas Cranach’s The Judgment of Paris, c. 1512–14, the first of his several versions of this tale from classical mythology (one of the later depictions may usually be found in the Northern European painting galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Remarkably for a painting of this age, the Kimbell’s Cranach has never suffered from overzealous cleaning. All the glazes, modeling, and fine details are intact, preserving the rich colors and enamel-like surface that are synonymous with Northern Renaissance oils.

The Kimbell continues to collect. This summer it placed its latest acquisition on view. Vase of Flowers with a Curtain, created by Jacques de Gheyn II in 1615, is a landmark in the history of flower painting, even though it was a “lost” work, kept in a British private collection since 1924, never exhibited in public, and known only in the form of old, black-and-white reproductions. Its acquisition by the Kimbell is a significant event in the study of Dutch art.

Currently On View

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