Virgin and Child, late 13th century. Mosan (Valley of the Meuse), Liège(?), painted and gilded oak, 32.8 x 9.4 x 6.7 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art.
CLEVELAND, OH.– Recent additions of artwork representing medieval Europe, the Ancient Americas, 20th-century photography and contemporary art further enhance the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection. World-renowned for its quality and breadth, the collection represents almost 45,000 objects and 6,000 years of achievement in the arts.
The latest acquisitions include a Virgin and Child, a rare 13th-century wooden sculpture from the Mosan region of Europe; a Standing Female Figure, a clay figure representative of the Classic Veracruz period on Mexico’s Gulf Coast; and Just the two of us, one of contemporary artist Julia Wachtel’s first paintings to employ cartoons. The museum also announced the addition of eight photographs by Ansel Adams, a gift from Frances P. Taft, a longtime museum supporter and trustee.
“Collecting remains at the heart of what we do,” said Dr. William M. Griswold, the museum’s director. “The acquisition of outstanding works of art such as these enriches our collection, allowing us to deliver even more inspiring experiences for a wide range of audiences.”
Virgin and Child
Rare carving exemplifies finest in Mosan sculpture of 13th century
This sculpture is a rare survival in wood from the Valley of the Meuse, an important region noted for the production of ecclesiastical art. Only eight such figures of the Virgin and Child in wood are known to be extant from the Mosan region, the geographical area of modern-day France, Belgium and Holland through which the river Meuse flows. A prosperous and dominant artistic center during the 12th and 13th centuries, the region was among the key European trade routes and was noted for the presence of numerous wealthy abbeys, churches and convents, most of which were major patrons of ecclesiastical art.
The Virgin and Child is elegantly draped and remarkable for the preservation of much of its original painted decoration and gilding. This includes the gilded mantle highlighted with decorative bands of geometric patterns and the green dragon on which she stands. The Virgin’s serene features and beautiful countenance are noteworthy as is the refined execution of the draperies, especially visible in the way the heavy cloth of her mantle falls in fluid and balanced folds at her feet. The carving is of the highest quality and the figure is an example of the finest Mosan sculpture of the 13th-century. This work will be on view in the museum’s medieval galleries beginning late January, 2015.
Standing Female Figure
Adornments signal high status of Classic Veracruz figure
Standing Female Figure, c. 600-1000. Mesoamerica, Classic Veracruz, Nopiloa style(?), ceramic, pigment, 10 x 10.9 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art.
Clay was the primary artistic medium in ancient Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, and artists of the Classic period (300–1000 AD) used it to create thousands of figural sculptures in a wide range of sizes, styles and types. This beautiful Standing Female Figure is an exceptionally fine example. The figure’s head and turban-like headdress project three-dimensionally above a flat, plaque-like body supported at the rear by a tripod. Her high status is signaled by her adornments: circular ear ornaments, a large necklace with oblong central pendant and elaborately decorated huipil (dress), which drapes over her outstretched arms to form a rectangle. Each of her long-fingered hands holds an unidentified plaited element that emerges from behind the head. Long tresses of hair fall to each side of the face, which has heavily lidded eyes and an open mouth with front teeth filed into a T or tau shape, which likely has symbolic import.
The figure’s closest stylistic affiliation is with a Veracruz style known as Nopiloa, which sometimes incorporates traits from Maya art and is noted for its refinement in modeling and iconographic detail. The unfinished back suggests that the figure was not meant to be seen in the round. An unusual amount of post-fire paint remains on the front, mainly white but also an earth red. Standing Female Figure will be on view in the museum’s Pre-Colombian galleries in early 2015.
Just the two of us
Contemporary artist combines Romantic imagery, cartoon character to make feminist statement
Just the two of us, 1982. Julia Wachtel, American (1956 – ). acrylic on canvas, 73.9 x 77.9 in. The Cleveland Museum of Art.
The acquisition of Just the two of us marks the occasion of Wachtel’s first institutional exhibition in more than two decades, Julia Wachtel, organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Emerging in the 1980s, Julia Wachtel became known for her paintings that employ cartoon characters appropriated from sources as everyday and relatable as greeting cards and magazines, deliberately commenting upon our quickly evolving visual culture. Often comprised of multiple panels, her later paintings also include pop stars, figurines from so-called primitive cultures and scenes from Hollywood films. In her work, Wachtel consistently displays a consciousness of the dominance of images, their penetration into all areas of human communication and the arbitrary ways in which they are juxtaposed in daily life. This consciousness—both before the internet era and in its wake—makes her work more relevant than ever.
Just the two of us is one of Wachtel’s first paintings to employ cartoons. In it we see the back view of a young woman reading a letter. Her elaborate hair style and dress suggest a princess or an aristocratic lady of another era. This portrayal is reminiscent of Romantic imagery. It is coupled with another feminine archetype: a young, seemingly naive girl dressed in a school uniform with one stocking slipping down her leg. Both figures convey a certain passiveness and subordination to a (male) ideal conception of femininity. Both of these images were originally printed on greeting cards in the 1960s, which Wachtel found in the 1980s and appropriated to her own ends.
Wachtel’s forays into feminist critique are particularly poignant in some of her earliest paintings such as Just the two of us, aligning it with the works of other female Conceptual artists of that generation, including Ida Applebroog, Sarah Charlesworth, Sherrie Levine, Adrian Piper and Laurie Simmons – all of whom coupled high and low visual tropes with feminist analysis. Just the two of us articulates how ideas related to gender influence individuals as well as public opinion and calls into question the degree to which commercial imagery influences common behavior and norms. Just the two of us is currently on view in the CMA at Transformer Station exhibition Julia Wachtel until January 17, 2015.
Eight Photographs from Ansel Adams’ Yosemite Valley Portfolio III
Each image represented ‘a moment of wonder’ for master of American landscape photography
Winter Storm, from Yosemite Valley Portfolio III, 1960. Ansel Adams, American (1902 – 1984). gelatin silver print, paper and image 18.9 x 22.9 cm, mounted 35.7 x 45.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, , Gift of Frances P. Taft.
Ansel Adams, an indisputable master of American landscape photography, had an enormous influence on future generations of photographers and also was a key figure in popularizing the medium of photography, the American National Park system and the environmental conservation movement. Between 1932 and 1976, he printed and issued seven portfolios of his work, carefully selecting the images to offer an excellent cross-section of his career.
The eight photographs donated by Frances Taft comprise half the images in Portfolio III, which was issued in 1960 and devoted to the Yosemite Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. Adams spent substantial time there every year starting in 1916 and it was his second home. A sentence from the artist’s introduction to the portfolio could serve as a description of the content of these eight images. “I know of no sculpture, painting, or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters.” Each photograph in the portfolio, Adams wrote, represented for him “a moment of wonder,” and the ensemble “a personal autobiography in photographic images.”
These prints were originally owned by noted Cleveland goldsmith and jewelry designer John Paul Miller, who studied photography with Adams and may have purchased the portfolio directly from the artist. The eight images were gifted by Miller to Taft.