SMU’s Meadows Museum acquires late medieval altarpiece, now one of three works in collection dating before 1450


'Saints Benedict and Onuphrius' by Pere Vall
In Pere Vall’s Saints Benedict and Onuphrius (c. 1410), the two saints stand before what appears to be a high stone settle decorated with arabesque vines and foliate ornament. On the left, Saint Benedict wears the black habit of his order and holds the book of his teachings and a crozier.

The Meadows Museum has acquired a late medieval altarpiece panel attributed to Spanish painter Pere Vall, active in Cataluña c. 1400–c. 1422. The work is now one of only three in the collection dating before 1450.

The tempera on wood panel painting, dated c. 1410, features the Saints Benedict and Onuphrius. It is the first work by this artist to enter the Museum’s collection, as well as the first work acquired under the new phase of the Meadows Acquisition Challenge Fund, with matching funds provided by Richard and Luba Barrett. Richard is a member of the Meadows Museum Advisory Council.

Pere Vall, also referred to as the Master of the Cardona Pentecost, is among the most distinctive and prolific of documented artists active in the environs of Barcelona during the first quarter of the 15th century. A well-documented retable painter, he likely trained in the studio of Pere Serra in Barcelona but was primarily active in the town of Cardona (Cataluña) during the first decades of the 15th century. He is represented in the collections of a handful of prominent museums, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the Museu Episcopal de Vic, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Others of his altarpieces, or parts thereof, remain in situ in Cardona.

Only a few objects in the Museum’s collection, such as the Catalan Cabinet (1375–1400), represent the roughly six centuries of the Middle Ages. The new panel is a significant acquisition representing the Hispanic artistic tradition of the later medieval period, which was characterized and dominated by large, painted retables serving as instructional backdrops for the theater of the mass. With Saints Benedict and Onuphrius in the Meadows collection, the Museum is better poised to offer students and visitors a more complete view of the religious practice that so shaped the lives of medieval Spaniards.

“By activating the challenge fund recently put in place, we hope to encourage other donors to follow suit in the future,“ said the Barretts. “We are delighted to be able to support the Meadows Museum and to recognize the excellent work being done by Director Dr. Mark Roglán and his outstanding team.”

Dr. Roglán added, “We are thankful to the Barretts for their continued support of acquisitions, loans and other aspects of museum operations; this acquisition strengthens our holdings of medieval Spanish art and improves our ability to illustrate its development to students, scholars and the public.”

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Meadows Museum acquires new Spanish masterwork: a remarkable child portrait by Francisco Bayeu

'Maria Teresa del Castillo' by Francisco BayeuA dog, a donut and a child in blue are hallmarks of the latest masterwork to join the collections of SMU’s Meadows Museum.

The Museum has acquired the painting María Teresa del Castillo (1767-70), a portrait of a child by Francisco Bayeu y Subías (1734-1795), one of the most important and widely admired Spanish painters of the period.

Part of the aristocratic Villagonzalo collection since at least the 19th century and rarely seen on public display, the painting is in extraordinary condition – with an unlined canvas on its original stretcher – and required little conservation.

The portrait is of such high quality that for many years it was attributed to Bayeu’s mentor, court painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779); a recent examination of the piece led to both the identification of the girl depicted and reattribution of the painting to Bayeu.

The painting is an important addition to the Meadows Museum’s collection, which has very few such examples of child portraiture. Its acquisition is supported by a gift from Barbara McKenzie, a longtime docent and member of the Meadows Museum Advisory Council, and her husband, Mike.

“Stunningly beautiful in its painterly details, and delightful in depicting the subject with a pastry and a pet, this is an exceptional portrait by this court painter,” said Mark Roglán, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum. “The painting is also an important addition to our collection of 18th-century works, greatly complementing our Goya holdings, as well as other artists of the Ancien Régime. We are grateful to Barbara and Mike McKenzie for their generosity; their support ensures that we remain one of the greatest collections of Spanish art in the world.”

“The details in this painting are exquisite, reflecting Bayeu’s tremendous skill,” said Nicole Atzbach, curator at the Meadows Museum. “For example, María Teresa del Castillo wears a robe à la française, characterized by a funnel-shaped or conical bodice that then becomes voluminous rectangular skirts conceived in a deep blue silk…. [The] dress also features a square-cut neckline which, when worn by adult women, would provide ample space to display strands of pearls or a velvet bow.

“In this case, Bayeu has jettisoned such adult adornments and instead outfitted his young subject with more age-appropriate trappings, including a glazed rosquilla (a donut-shaped pastry) in her left hand and a small dog tucked securely under her right arm. The combination of the sophisticated fashion and the child-friendly touches make this painting both beautiful and charming.”

Francisco Bayeu was one of the most gifted portrait artists of the period, known in particular for his accurate depictions of his subjects. However, because María Teresa del Castillo was not on public view for more than eight decades, only recently could additional research be conducted on its attribution.

The title of painting has also undergone a change in light of its reattribution. When on view in the 1925 exhibition at the Sociedad Española de Amigos del Arte in Madrid, and in 1929 at the Museo Nacional del Prado, the portrait was known simply as The Girl with the Rosquilla. As part of his study of the painting, Dr. Ansón Navarro discovered an inscription on the canvas’ stretcher, which also dates to the second half of the 18th century. The inscription reads “Exma. Sra Da MaTeresa del Castillo,” or “Excelentísima Señora Doña María Teresa del Castillo.” Her name has now become the title of the work.

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Meadows Museum acquires rare Spanish portrait of American collector

Portrait of Richard Worsam Meade by Vicente Lopez y Portana, 1815, courtesy of SMU's Meadows MuseumA rare portrait of influential American merchant and naval agent Richard Worsam Meade – the first major collector of Spanish art in the U.S. – has been put on display to the public in its new home at SMU’s Meadows Museum.

On May 10, 2011, the museum unveiled the 1815 oil-on-canvas masterwork by Vicente López, one of the most significant painters of the Spanish Enlightenment. Acquired with the support of six donors from the Dallas community, the unpublished painting will add depth to the museum’s holdings of work by this celebrated court painter – as well as provide insight into a legendary American family.

Meade was the son of the Philadelphia Revolutionary George Meade, and his son, George Gordon Meade – better known as General Meade – went on to defeat Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Around 1800, Richard Worsam Meade moved his export business to the port city of Cádiz, Spain, where he began to collect paintings as currency for debts. It was there that Meade developed one of the most outstanding private collections of Spanish art, including paintings by Titian, Correggio, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck and Velázquez, and became the first American collector known to have owned a painting by Murillo.

“Meade could in many ways be considered the earliest predecessor of our museum’s founder, Algur H. Meadows,” said Meadows Museum Director Mark Roglán. “Both men were influential American entrepreneurs who, in the course of their business abroad in Spain, developed a passion for the country’s art, ultimately creating a new audience for it back home.

“This exceptional painting will be the first portrait of an American painted by a Spanish painter to enter our collection, and it is fitting that the subject is someone who shares a legacy with our founding patron.”

The painting will be included in the upcoming exhibition Meadows Collects: Ten Years, Ten Works, which will open in Fall 2011. The exhibition will feature the 10 most significant works the Meadows has acquired over the past decade, and will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their current home, which was funded by The Meadows Foundation.

The painting was purchased through funds provided by Linda P. and William A. Custard; Jack and Gloria Hammack; Richard and Gwen S. Irwin; Natalie H. and George T. Lee, Jr.; Mildred M. Oppenheimer; and Catherine B. Taylor. These gifts are eligible for a $5 million matching challenge grant by The Meadows Foundation for the acquisition of Spanish art to enhance the Museum’s permanent collection.

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Meadows Museum unveils new plaza Oct. 7

'Sho' by Jaume PlensaThe Meadows Museum reopens its redesigned plaza and sculpture garden – including its iconic Wave installation – with a dedication ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. Oct. 7. The celebration will include the unveiling of a major new acquisition, Sho (left), a monumental sculpture by Catalán artist Jaume Plensa.

The dedication launches a celebration of the Elizabeth Meadows Sculpture Collection with the exhibition “Face and Form: Modern and Contemporary Sculpture in the Meadows Collection.” The new plaza will feature a permanent installation of monumental sculpture from the Elizabeth Meadows Collection and the Meadows Museum by artists such as Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, and Claes Oldenburg.

The plaza’s centerpiece will be Sho, acquired in summer 2009 through gifts from The Eugene McDermott Foundation, Nancy and Jake Hamon, The Meadows Foundation, The Pollock Foundation, the family of Mr. and Mrs. Richard R. Pollock and the family of Mr. Lawrence S. Pollock III.

'Wave' by Santiago CalatravaSantiago Calatrava‘s Wave (right), already a fixture of the plaza’s southwest corner, can now be viewed from above from a terrace donated by Richard and Gwen Irwin in honor of his parents, William and Florence Irwin. A staircase, which can be approached from each side, will help integrate the plaza with the rest of the campus, while a new fountain at its foot will greet museum visitors.

The museum will also feature two exhibitions, opening Oct. 8, that illustrate the processes used by Plensa and Calatrava in the creation of Sho and Wave. The displays in the downstairs galleries will include drawings, watercolors, photographs and other materials highlighting both the creative and construction processes involved.

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Meadows Museum acquires monumental Plensa sculpture

'Sho' by Jaume PlensaSMU’s Meadows Museum has acquired Sho, a monumental sculpture by contemporary Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.

Completed in 2007, the work represents a female head and is formed by white-painted stainless steel openwork mesh. It stands approximately 13 feet tall and 10 feet wide (157-1/2 x 157-1/2 x 118-1/8 inches) and weighs 660 pounds.

The acquisition from the Richard Gray Gallery was made possible with the support of The Pollock Foundation, the Family of Mr. and Mrs. Richard R. Pollock, and the Family of Mr. Lawrence S. Pollock, III, in honor of Mrs. Shirley Pollock. The funds will be matched with a 1:1 challenge grant for museum acquisitions from The Meadows Foundation.

Sho marks the most important acquisition of a work by a living artist into the Meadows collection since the commissioning of Calatrava’s Wave in 2001,” says Mark Roglán, museum director. “Plensa is among the most dynamic and talented artistic minds in Spain today, and we are honored to have him represented at the Meadows with such a unique and monumental sculpture. This one-of-a-kind masterpiece will welcome visitors to the museum from its prominent position in the center of our new entrance plaza, due to open this fall. The acquisition, made possible by the Pollocks and The Meadows Foundation, further represents a beautiful way to honor in perpetuity the memory of the late Shirley Pollock, who was such a great friend of this institution.”

Jaume PlensaA native of Barcelona, Plensa (right) is known for his monumental figural sculptures that often incorporate film, light, letters and unusual materials in order to present familiar objects (such as the human body) in unfamiliar ways. One of his most notable works is Crown Fountain (2000-04) in Chicago’s Millennium Park, arguably one of the most successful public art projects of the past decade. His works are also found in the collections of Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center, the Art Institute of Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many others.

Sho is a portrait of a young Chinese girl whom the artist met in Barcelona, where his studio is located. It was first exhibited at the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM) in Valencia, Spain, in winter 2007. The work then traveled to Chicago, where it was exhibited along the riverfront in the heart of downtown; and to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where it was included in a major exhibition of the artist’s latest work at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park through early January 2009.

The Museum will present a public lecture about Plensa by art historian and critic Barbara Rose on Nov. 12; additional public programming is planned throughout the year.

Sho will go on permanent display on the museum’s newly renovated entry plaza as part of the exhibition “Face and Form: Modern and Contemporary Sculpture in the Meadows Collection,” opening Oct. 7.

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Meadows Museum acquires its first works by a female painter

Miniature by Francisca Ifigenia MelendezSMU’s Meadows Museum has acquired an important series of 29 tempera-on-ivory miniatures by Francisca Ifigenia Meléndez (1770-1825) representing members of the court and family of King Charles IV of Spain.

The acquisition represents not only the Meadows’ first works in this genre, but its first paintings by a female artist. (The Museum’s collection includes a work attributed to female sculptor Luisa Roldán, the late 17th-century St. John the Baptist.)

Meléndez was a contemporary of Goya and, like her famous counterpart, an official court painter. But while Goya focused on canvas paintings, Meléndez specialized in miniatures. The examples acquired by the Meadows demonstrate her exceptional skill in this genre; she combined official portraiture and the rendering of each sitter’s individual features with assured and refined detail while providing insight into their personalities.

The works were purchased with funds donated by The Meadows Foundation and will go on permanent display this fall.

The full story at SMU News.