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Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861

September 19, 2000–January 7, 2001

Connoisseurship and Collecting in New York

A measure of New York's increasing cultural sophistication is reflected in the high quality of foreign works of art on view in public exhibitions or acquired by New Yorkers for their personal collections. The sixth gallery presents unprecedented documentation of the evolution of American taste in foreign works of art, beginning in the 1830s with an interest in such Old Master paintings as A Landscape with a Ruined Castle and a Church (A Grand Landscape) by Jacob van Ruisdael (1665–70; The National Gallery, London), which was first displayed in New York in 1830.

Over time, New Yorkers developed an appreciation for works by contemporary European artists, such as Rosa Bonheur's 1853 The Horse Fair, which is in the Metropolitan's permanent collection. Works ranging from Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's painting Four Figures on a Step (ca. 1655; The Kimbell Art Museum), to Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's Ganymede and the Eagle (1817–29; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts), to J. M. W. Turner's renowned Staffa, Fingal's Cave (1832; Yale Center for British Art) illustrate the quality and diversity of art works seen in New York before the Civil War. Works owned by private collectors of the time—such as the 1449 Triumph of Fame (birth tray of Lorenzo de' Medici) by Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, called Scheggia (originally in the collection of Thomas J. Bryan, and now in the Metropolitan), as well engravings after Old Masters (such as Rembrandt) and contemporary works (by Paul Delaroche and David Wilkie)—are among the other works on display in this gallery.