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Pierpont Morgan's Study

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The Adoration of the Magi; The Dormition of the Virgin
Bohemia (Prague), ca. 1360
Tempera and gold on linen-covered panels
Each panel: 11 3/4 x 7 1/4 inches (300 x 185 mm.)
Framed: 13 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches (350 x 250 mm.)
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1931; AZ022.1-2

Crafted at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (r. 1347–1378) at Prague, these exquisite panels likely formed a diptych—commissioned perhaps by the emperor himself. In the scene of the three kings adoring the Christ Child, the second magus has the features of Charles and his red cloak bears the imperial eagle. In the panel depicting the Virgin's death, St. Peter wears the three-tiered papal tiara. These details allude to the delicate balance between sacred and terrestrial power.

Antoine-Louis Barye
(French, 1796–1875)
Candelabrum with Figures of Juno, Minerva, and Venus; Chimeras; the Three Graces, model ca. 1840, cast post-1875
36 x 16 1/8 x 36 1/2 inches (915 x 410 x 927 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1908; AZ063

Barye originally designed this candelabrum in 1840 as part of a chimney mantel decoration commissioned by the duke of Montpensier, the youngest son of the French king Louis-Philippe (r. 1830–48). The graceful composition and alluring figures rendered it a success; multiple casts were subsequently made for the market.

Workshop of Ferrer Bassa
(Spanish, fl. 1324–48)
Polyptych with Scenes from the Life of Christ, the Life of the Virgin, and Saints, ca. 1345–50
Tempera on panel
22 1/2 x 41 1/2 inches (570 x 1050 mm.)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1907; AZ071

An excellent example of Gothic painting from Catalonia, this polyptych has been recently attributed to the workshop of Ferrer Bassa. It may have been executed by Bassa's son Arnau based on Ferrer's design. Evocative of contemporary Italian painting, the four panels of this altarpiece depict scenes from the life of the Virgin (at the top), the Passion of Christ (in the center row), and saints (at the bottom). The lunettes above depict the instruments of the Passion, the mourning Virgin, Christ as the Man of Sorrows (one of the earliest examples in Spanish painting), and the mourning Saint John.

Attributed to Marco Bello
(Italian, ca. 1470–1523)
After Giovanni Bellini (Italian, d. 1516)
Virgin and Child with Four Saints and a Donor, ca. 1500
Tempera on panel, transferred to canvas
29 1/2 x 43 inches (768 x 1127 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910; AZ070

Attributed to Marco Bello, a member of Bellini's prolific Venetian workshop, this painting was likely based on different models developed by the master, which would account for the lack of consistency in scale among the beautifully conceived figures. The saints depicted include (left to right) Paul, George, an unidentified female saint, and an unidentified martyr with wreath and palm.

After Sandro Botticelli
(Italian, 1444/50–1510)
Madonna of the Magnificat, ca. 1490
Oil on panel
Panel: 37 3/8 inches (950 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911; AZ014

This is one of seven known replicas made by contemporaries of Botticelli after an original the artist painted ca. 1481. It may even have been produced in the artist's workshop. The title derives from the opening words of the Virgin's song of exaltation, Magnificat anima mea dominus (My soul doth glorify the Lord), which she is writing in the book before her.

Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
(Italian, Conegliano 1459/60–1517/18 Conegliano or Venice)
Virgin and Child with St. Catherine and St. John the Baptist, ca. 1515
Oil on panel
37 11/16 x 24 9/16 inches (957 x 624 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911; AZ013

This type of composition, in which the Virgin and Child are shown in the company of saints, is known as a sacred conversation. Such subjects became popular toward the end of Cima's career. The panel formerly belonged to Charles Fairfax Murray, the pre-Raphaelite painter and collector from whom Morgan purchased his collection of old master drawings in 1910.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.