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The Making of a Collection: Islamic Art at the Metropolitan

November 1, 2011–February 5, 2012

J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913)

John Pierpont Morgan was an American banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. At the instigation of his father Junius Spencer Morgan (1813–1890), Pierpont received a varied education in America, Switzerland, and Germany, and was well prepared for a career in international banking, which he started as a young man in 1857. Based in London and New York, the Morgans worked together for about thirty years and transferred capital from Europe to the emerging American economy. They concentrated primarily on the railroad industry. After the death of his father John Pierpont organized extensive industrial operations with American capital. He was one of the richest and most powerful men of his time, but also a passionate philanthropist and a voracious art collector. He also played a supportive and influential role at the Met, first as a trustee (1888–1904) and later as its president (1904–1913). Under his leadership the Museum launched an ambitious acquisition program.

During the last two decades of his life Morgan spent about two-thirds of his estate (some $900 million today), on art. In following the motto "No price is too high for an object of unquestioned beauty and known authenticity," he acquired artworks numbering in the thousands, in a wide range of media, and built a massive and encyclopedic art collection that included Islamic art. He was particularly attracted by manuscripts and printed books. These never left his library, which since 1924 has formed the basis of The Morgan Library & Museum. At his death, his son J.P. Morgan Jr. donated large parts of the collection—aside from the materials in the library—to the Met. Among the Islamic objects are Ottoman tile panels, carpets, and enameled glass, most of which are of high quality and in excellent condition.