Two recent acquisitions are bolstering the collection of European art at the BMA. Both were made possible through funds provided by the Beaux Arts Krewe, which has supported important acquisitions for the Museum for more than 50 years. We are grateful for their continued dedication to the growth of the collection of European art.
A small figure of the crucified Jesus was carved out of wood, perhaps in Spain, about 1600. Its style and manufacture relate it to sculpture from Spain of this period, but it may have been made in a Spanish colony or another Spanish-influenced center of production. It appears the sculpture originally had a painted surface, which together with the delicate carving of the body, made it appear highly realistic; a notion that was only heightened by the use of painted glass for his eyes. While small in scale, the figure has impressive emotional power and aesthetic appeal. Particularly expressive is the face, where the upward gaze and open mouth convey a sense of his suffering on the cross. The original cross is now lost. Details such as the contorted skin, his cramped hands, the carefully observed musculature of his body, and the accentuated veins, have been carved with great skill.
As a characteristic, albeit in many ways still enigmatic work of the Baroque period, it is a welcome addition to our collection and will, for instance, complement beautifully our sculpture of St. Margaret, acquired in 2015. St. Margaret shows her inner suffering while contemplating a small crucifix in her hand. In contrast, the new acquisition is an expressive depiction of Jesus’s suffering to emphasize the reality of his sacrifice for mankind typical for Baroque sculpture during the Counter Reformation, and Spanish art in particular.
The Museum also acquired an important signed and dated Still Life with Dead Game, Fruits, and Flowers by Jan Weenix painted in 1706. Jan is considered one of the preeminent painters of this genre, his specialty, in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. A dead hare is draped over a marble ledge, which supports a garden vase with a relief showing putti making wine. Two partridges, a kingfisher, a pigeon, and a black grouse are also among the hunting trophies. In the lower right, a basket holds an arrangement of fruit and some seem to have tumbled out of the basket. A vista into the distance on the left reveals an impressive garden with fountains, tall hedges, classical buildings, and sculpture. A young boy holding a basket of fruit is standing behind a ledge that translates between the foreground and the garden. The artist’s ability to render the materiality and surface qualities of feathers, fruit, and especially the fur of the dead hare is on impressive display in the painting.
The painting was executed at the height of Jan’s career. Beginning in the mid-1690s he was commissioned to paint large scale interior decorations showing hunting trophies for wealthy merchants and bankers, and in the first years of the 18th century, he started working on important commissions for the international aristocracy. Wealthy patrons sought to decorate their townhouses or castles with works that reflected their privileged social standing and associated them with current fashions for garden design, hunting, classical art, and architecture.