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Notable Acquisitions, 1979-1980

Notable Acquisitions, 1979–1980

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a foreword by Philippe de Montebello
1980
80 pages
135 illustrations
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In any normal year so important and beautiful a work of art as the English Gothic ivory Virgin and Child acquired for The Cloisters would be a natural choice for the cover of this publication. It is a work of the utmost rarity, one of three extant English Gothic ivories, and the perfect pendant for the Bury St. Edmunds Cross, which so magnificently represents the Romanesque period in England at The Cloisters. But this year like the last has not been "any normal year," owing once again to the extraordinary generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, who have given to the Museum an outstanding gift, the Portrait of a Young Woman by Johannes Vermeer. Invested with those special qualities that lift only a very few works of art to the level of the universal masterpiece, the Vermeer clearly and preemptively commands the cover. This haunting picture, one of the fewer than forty autograph works by this great poet among painters, is rare and unusual even within his oeuvre, as it is a bust-length portrait comparable in size and character only to a portrait of a girl by the artist in the Mauritshuis, The Hague. The mysterious and ineffable quality of the Wrightsman portrait led Théophile Thoré, the French critic who rediscovered Vermeer over a century ago, to compare the painting to the Mona Lisa.

Although works of art in the class of Vermeer's Portrait of a Young Woman and the Gothic Virgin and Child are what make a great museum, this publication has the value of revealing that the "whispers" of art history also have their place in an acquisition policy. Some of the more modest examples, whether in the field of archaeology, the decorative arts, or in the form of the briefest notation on paper, are included here, as they all contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of the masterpieces. In turn these "minor" objects and the scholarly research they generate within the curatorial departments help to provide a more complete portrayal of civilizations whose character cannot be fully deduced from contact only with man's highest achievements.

Horse bit cheekpiece in form of a horse and rider, Bronze, Iran
Iran
ca. 900–750 BCE
Head, Ceramic, Babylonian
Babylonian
ca. late 8th–early 7th century BCE
Harness or bridle ornament in the form of a boar, Gold, bone, silver, Scythian
Scythian
ca. 5th century BCE
Servant Grinding Grain, limestone, paint
ca. 2420–2323 B.C.
Ibex, Mottled semi-translucent  quartz
ca. 1390–1352 B.C.
Head of Osiris wearing Atef Crown, Greywacke
600–550 BC
Italic, Italo-Corinthian
early 6th century BCE
Terracotta lekythos (oil flask), Affecter, Terracotta, Greek, Attic
ca. 550 BCE
Greek
5th century BCE
Terracotta kylix (drinking cup), Villa Giulia Painter, Terracotta, Greek, Attic
ca. 470 BCE
Megarian bowl, fragmentary, Terracotta, Greek
Greek
2nd century BCE
Relief of Daedalus and Icarus, Marble
Pair of Earrings, Gold; filigree and granulation
11th century
Dish, Stonepaste; carved, incised, polychrome painted under a transparent glaze (Laqabi ware)
12th century
Candlestick inscribed with Wishes for Good Fortune, Peace, and Happiness to its Owner, Brass; cast, pierced, engraved, and inlaid with black organic compound
ca. 1500
"Husayn at the Bedside of the Dying Hasan", Folio from a Hadiqat al-Su'ada of Fuzuli (Garden of the Blessed), Fuzuli, Ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper
late 16th century
Dish with Bird, Rabbit, and Quadruped Design, Stonepaste; polychrome painted under transparent glaze
last quarter 16th century
Lacquer Mirror Case, Fathallah Shirazi  Iranian, Papier-maché; painted, gilded, and lacquered
dated 1295 AH/1878 CE
The Queen of Sheba Enthroned, Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper
late 19th–early 20th century
Armlet, Cast bronze, Celtic
Celtic
ca. 400 BCE
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———. 1980a. Notable Acquisitions, 1979-1980. Edited by Philippe De Montebello, John Philip O’Neill, and Emily Walter. Notable Acquisitions The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.