The Getty Acquires Three Captivating Paintings by European Masters

Tuesday, December 5, 2023
The Getty Acquires Three Captivating Paintings by European Masters

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced the acquisition of three important paintings, enhancing its collection of European art.

The works include The Holy Family by Netherlandish artist Gerard David; Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handed Vase by German artist Ludger tom Ring the Younger; and Portrait of Friedrich Christian, Prince of Saxony, by German artist Anton Raphael Mengs. The three paintings were purchased individually on the European art market and will go on display at the Getty Center this week.

“We rarely are able to acquire three such significant works of art at the same time,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “These paintings will considerably enhance our presentation of northern European paintings, adding depth and variety across the genres of religious imagery, independent still life, and grand portraiture. I have no doubt that all three pictures, representing very different aspects and periods of European art, will engage and delight our visitors.”

An extremely rare work by Gerard David, Holy Family highlights the artist’s use of rich oil colors and delicate brushwork that distinguish his extraordinarily meticulous painting technique. David placed the three figures—Mary, Jesus, and Joseph—close to the viewer, underscoring their warm, familial bond. The Virgin and Child tenderly embrace as Jesus presses his cheek against Mary’s while she holds her son tightly. Joseph holds a spoon and lidded bowl, keeping the porridge-like milk soup warm for the child. Jesus holds an unblemished apple, a symbol of his role as “the new Adam;” two decaying apples sitting atop the lidded bowl offer a stark allusion to the future passion of Christ.

Typical for painters of the period, David portrayed the figures in a contemporary environment: the buildings and hilly landscape visible outside the window are characteristic of 16th-century Netherlands. The superb condition of the painting preserves David’s subtle modeling of flesh and many exquisite details, such as the fine gold highlights of the Virgin’s tresses and the tiny swan floating on the pond in the background.

“With its powerful sense of immediacy, this moving and intimate depiction of the Holy Family is a major addition to our collection of Netherlandish paintings," says Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. "Its exceptional state of preservation allows us to appreciate David’s commanding use of color and delicate brushwork.”

Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handled Vase, early 1560s. Ludger tom Ring the Younger, (German, 1522-1584). Oil on oak panel. 37.9 x 29 cm (14 15/16 x 11 7/16 in). Getty Museum

Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handed Vase by German artist Ludger tom Ring the Younger becomes the earliest independent still life painting in the Getty’s collection. It marks a pivotal moment in Renaissance art, when close artistic observation of European plants, initially expressed through drawn and watercolor studies by German masters Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer around 1500, became worthy subjects of panel painting.

The painting imparts a monumentality despite its relatively modest scale. On a simple shelf or table set against a dark background, the artist depicted a luxurious two-handled vase made of milky Venetian glass decorated with gold and blue enamel. The vibrant bouquet features over 15 species of plants native to northern Europe, including roses, gillyflowers, pot marigolds, pink daisies, violets, and rosemary.

“A pioneer in the history of European still life, Ludger tom Ring was the author of only a handful of panels with bouquet of flowers: this is the first bouquet painting by Ring acquired by a museum in the United States," says Gasparotto. "With its brilliant palette, exuberant textures, and characterful vase, this work greatly expands our collection of German Renaissance art."

Portrait of Fredrich Christian, Prince of Saxony, 1751. Anton Raphael Mengs (German, 1728-1779). Oil on canvas. 155.7 x 110.8 cm (61 ¼ x 43 ¼ in). Getty Museum

A magnificent state portrait, created by Anton Raphael Mengs when he was on the cusp of international fame, captures the energy and optimism of a youthful prince. Prince Friedrich Christian commissioned the portrait in 1751, soon after the artist was appointed principal painter to the Saxon court in Dresden, Germany.

The painting portrays Christian in three-quarter length, clad in tournament armor under billowing layers of richly colored drapery, sashes, and medals. The prince adopts a self-assured attitude with one knee bent, his right hand gripping a baton, and his left arm resting upon his helmet. His soft, good-natured features are sharpened by the quick intelligence apparent in his bright, delicate eyes.

Mengs created a splendidly engaging portrait that asserts the prince’s dynastic legitimacy while concealing the sitter’s disability—likely cerebral palsy—which would have prevented him from assuming the easy, confident stance shown in his portrait. After the prince’s untimely death in 1763, the painting remained with the royal family in an almost unbroken chain of inheritance until its sale in 2022.

“With its burst of color and over-the-top grandeur, this painting is a magnificent addition to our extraordinary collection of early modern portraiture,” says Gasparotto. “The portrait will offer visitors a chance to consider the purpose and potential of the state portrait, the highest form of political image-making in early modern Europe.”

This new painting joins three other works by Mengs in the Getty collection: Portrait of William Burton Conyngham (a pastel); Asclepius (recto); Study of a Male Youth Bearing Some Leaves (verso) (a drawing); and Portrait of José Nicolás de Azara, Marquis of Nibbiano (a painting).

Main Image :The Holy Family, about 1520. Gerard David (Netherlands, ca. 1455-1523). Oil on panel, 40.9 x 33 cm (16 1/8 x 13 in.) Getty Museum

Stephanie Cime

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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