A Walking Tour

Start in the atrium, facing the 1916 building. Straight ahead through the glass doors on level one are the prints and drawings galleries just inside the doors and, farther on, the collections of ancient, African, Byzantine, medieval, and Renaissance art. (From here one can walk up the stairs or take the elevator to get to level two, with the Armor Court and Rotunda, European art from about 1600 to the early 1800s, and American art from its inception into the early 20th century.)

To the left from your place in the atrium is the east wing, with modern and contemporary art and works from Europe and America since the 19th century, including photography, on level two. Below those galleries are the two special exhibition spaces on the lower level. To your right is the west wing, with the galleries of Indian and southeast Asian and Chinese art on the second level and the museum store and Provenance Café and Restaurant below on the atrium level.

Behind you on level two are the north galleries, with the Japanese and Korean collections, textiles, and the art of the Americas. At ground level just to the east of the passage from the north lobby and the atrium is Gallery One, the multi-award-winning innovative learning center that combines real works of art with age-targeted interactive features designed to help visitors of all ages connect with the collection. 

This walking tour visits galleries throughout the collection, with curators chatting along the way. Sometimes they call out acknowledged superstars. Just as often, they point to works of art less famous, but that for them represent the unique character and astounding object-by-object quality of the Cleveland collection: Think of these as starting points for exploration.

  

 

1916 Building, Level One

1916 Building, Level One

These galleries begin with art from the area that gave rise to the oldest cities on earth—the region stretching from present-day Iraq north to the Black Sea—and follow the growth of civilization and the evolution of art through ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, then into the early Christian and medieval world and Africa. Cleveland’s collections of ancient art are not nearly the largest. The British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, built enormous collections of antiquities thanks in part to avid collectors who donated vast quantities of artifacts. Cleveland’s holdings, in contrast, were built one object at a time, acquired by astute curators and discerning directors. Cleveland’s collection presents a selection of masterworks rather than an exhaustive survey of the ancient world.

In general, the galleries are organized chronologically, with objects installed and lit for maximum visual appeal. Entering the galleries by turning left after coming in from the atrium, visitors first encounter art from Asia Minor and the Fertile Crescent, including small, portable objects that exemplify the art of early cultures, such as the 3000 bc Stargazer, perhaps from Anatolia. 

From here the progression moves from Greece to Rome by way of Etruscan and South Italian Greek art that predated the Roman dominance on the Italian peninsula and Sicily. Early Christian and Byzantine art follows, and a circuit of the galleries around the perimeter culminates in a dramatic room devoted to the 11th-century Guelph Treasure and related works of medieval Europe. At the center is the Egyptian collection that inspired the great 1992 exhibition Egypt’s Dazzling Sun: Amenhotep III and His World. The museum’s collection of African art, most of it much more recent, is for the first time installed adjacent to the collections of Egyptian art, unifying these works produced on the African continent.

 

Sheet of Studies and Sketches
 
Sheet of Studies and Sketches 1858–59. Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917). Graphite, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, watercolor; 30.3 x 23.5 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1951.430

Drawings (Gallery 101) In its range, the drawings collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art represents the work of European and American artists from the 15th to the 21st century. The importance of Cleveland’s major works places the museum at the forefront of American drawings collections. The collection’s greatest strengths lie in its holdings of key works by Italian artists of the 16th century, French artists of the 18th and 19th centuries, and European and American drawings of the early 20th century. In recent years, efforts have been made to enhance the collection of British drawings, which resulted in an exhibition and related publication, British Drawings from the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2013. Exhibitions and publications focusing on French and American drawings in the collection are planned for the future.
The origin of all painting, sculpture, and printmaking, no other form of art is as spontaneous or intimate as drawing. The collection includes graphite, charcoal, and chalk studies for paintings and sculpture as well as intact sketchbooks by artists working from the Renaissance to today. Highly finished works on paper—independent works of art—in pastel, watercolor, and gouache are also among the prized examples in the collection. The museum continues to add to its collection of more than 3,000 old master and modern drawings. —Heather Lemonedes, Curator of Drawings

 

Battle of the Nudes

Battle of the Nudes 1470s–80s. Antonio del Pollaiuolo (Italian, 1431–1498). Engraving; 42.4 x 60.9 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1967.127 

Prints (Gallery 101) The museum’s print collection contains about 20,000 items and represents about half of the museum’s total collection. It ranges from the 15th century, when prints were first made in northern Europe, until today. It includes European and American prints and modern Japanese prints (works produced after 1900, when the Japanese had become familiar with Western printmaking techniques). When the print department started in 1919 the decision was made not to collect American historical prints, posters, and illustrated books, although there are examples of the latter two categories. The collection is generally of very high quality and, although relatively small, is one of the finest in the country since it contains many rare and even unique impressions. The history of printmaking can be represented with examples of great quality. —Jane Glaubinger, Curator of Prints

 

Ancient Greek and Roman Art

Ancient Greek and Roman Art Our collection of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities is known for its very high quality, and also for a number of extremely rare, important small objects. The Apollo statue and the Marcus Aurelius statue of course are large and two of the very finest in the world, but visitors should take the time to seek out some of the works in our collection that are smaller in scale, very important, extremely rare, and also very fine. I think you’ll see as you walk through these galleries that the organization is generally chronological and geographical, but the strongest organizing principle for the installations is visual: to display these works so their aesthetic power just grabs you. —Michael Bennett, Curator of Greek and Roman Art

 

Minoan Girl

Female Worshiper c. 1600–1500 bc. Crete, Minoan. Bronze; h. 14 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2002.89

(Gallery 102)This small Minoan bronze sculpture from the island of Crete is the only surviving Minoan sculpture of a preadolescent girl. It’s unique in the world. She is the only sculptural parallel to a set of fresco paintings from the island of Thera (Santorini) that depict a kind of coming-of-age ceremony. So if you go to Santorini and see those frescoes, you will then want to come to the Cleveland Museum of Art to see the world’s only sculptural parallel. It’s dated c. 1600 to 1500 bc, before the famous volcanic eruption that blew out the entire center of the island. So this work also stands as a kind of document of a way of life that existed prior to that cataclysmic natural event. —Michael Bennett

 

Kriophoros  (Ram-Bearer)

Kriophoros (Ram-Bearer) c. 650–600 bc. Greece, Crete. Terracotta and polychrome; h. 17.5 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1998.172

(Gallery 102) This terracotta statuette is dated to the second half of the seventh century bc. He’s a warrior, but not wearing the kind of military panoply you’d recognize from sword and sandal movies (which we call hoplite armor). Instead he’s got a strange breastplate and a curious helmet, and he’s carrying a ram over his shoulders. He’s presenting the animal for sacrifice to a god. Because of his armor we know he predates the kind of revolution in military tactics that occurred in the second half of the seventh century bc when warriors would line up with their spears and their round shields. Instead, he’s a Homeric hero. They fought one-on-one duels on the battlefield—heroes like Achilles, Agamemnon, Nestor, and so on. It dates to around the time the Iliad and the Odyssey were reaching their canonical forms—this had been an oral tradition for centuries. This statuette is a very rare visual reference to this tradition.  —Michael Bennett 

Bronze Horse

A Bronze Horse (Gallery 102) dated to the second half of the eighth century bc is one of the largest and finest examples from a Corinthian workshop—in amazing condition, and gorgeously proportioned. It was designed to be seen in profile. Compare it to the painted horse from roughly the same period that’s on the vase beside it. It’s a kind of icon of the horse. Artists of the Geometric period tended to take formal elements and distill them to their essence. What is it about a horse without which you wouldn’t have a horse? That’s what the artist is answering here. One answer is the arching neck and the floppy ears and the trumpet-shaped muzzle. Large front shoulders and rear haunches with a pinched body between. The tail drapes all the way to the ground and I think the artist has taken some liberties with that. But still, there’s no question if you were way across the room and someone shone a bright light on this, you would say “That’s a horse.” If we leap ahead in history and think of the Greek philosopher Plato and his theory of forms, he will tell us that behind every horse there is the ideal horse. So in a way this anticipates the Platonic ideals by several hundred years. —Michael Bennett

 

Yaka Mask

Mask early 1900s. Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yaka. Wood, cloth, fibers, pigment; h. 47 cm. Gift of Katherine C. White 1969.8

(Gallery 108) This mask comes from the Yaka people of what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically the southwestern part of the country. Combining carved and constructed elements, it exemplifies the high degree of artistic license Yaka carvers enjoyed. Probably originating from the northern part of Yakaland, it is part of a series of eight masks that appears at the end of the adolescent boys’ circumcision and puberty ritual called n-khanda. On this occasion dances are organized to mark the boys’ new status and celebrate their reintegration into the village. Embodying the ancestors who founded the ritual, masks are worn by the master of the initiation or by the newly initiated themselves. As a rule, at the end of the ceremonies, the initiation camp and the masks are burned or sold. —Constantine Petridis, Curator of African Art

 

Yoruba Crown

Crown 1900s. Nigeria, Yoruba.Cloth, glass beads, basketry, cardboard, wood, feather quills; h. 105.9 cm. Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1995.22

(Gallery 108) Locally called ade, this headdress comes from the Yoruba culture. Of all the king’s regalia, the beaded cone-shaped crown with a fringe of colored glass beads is considered the most important. The form and materials of the crown attest to his divine nature. The crown also emphasizes the king’s ori inu (inner head) as the locus of an awesome life force, ase; as such, it can replace the king himself during his absence. The birds surmounting the most prestigious crowns represent the royal bird Okin. While the abstract designs are purely ornamental, the faces depicted on the Cleveland crown could represent several figures: Oduduwa, the mythical founder and first king of the Yoruba; the actual visage of the king who wears the crown; or Obalufon, the god or orisa who according to Yoruba beliefs invented beads. Each of the deities is associated with a particular color. The beads underline the idea that the king is a member of all the cults honoring the different gods and link him with specific deities. In fact, the crown itself is viewed as an orisa. Such headdresses are worn on ceremonial and religious occasions, with the veil of beaded strings masking the identity of the wearer while protecting his subjects from the supernatural powers that radiate from his face. —Constantine Petridis

 

 

Figure Pair

Figure Pair late 1800s to early 1900s. Ivory Coast, Baule. Wood, beads, h. 49.5 and 47 cm. Gift of Katherine C. White 1971.297.1–2

(Gallery 108) A Pair of Figures made by an artist of the Baule people are a wonderful example of figures related to bush spirits. Among the Baule, figures carved as pairs usually represent untamed bush spirits called asye usu. These spirits may intervene in the lives of individuals by taking possession of them and causing them to behave strangely. If this possession does not result in madness, it can lead to the human host’s becoming a trance diviner. To be fully initiated into the technique of divination, however, the seizure by the asye usu must be followed by a long and complex apprenticeship with a ritual expert. The spirits are thought to be very unattractive and mischievous. Thus, people who feel their lives are being interrupted by the asye usu commission carved figures to attract the bush spirits, which are drawn to the grace and beauty of these objects and begin to use them as temporary homes. The smooth patina of the Cleveland figures most likely results from frequent handling. —Constantine Petridis

 

Statue of Minemheb
 
Statue of Minemheb (Gallery 107) Minemheb, an army scribe in the service of Amenhotep III (who reigned 1391–1353 bc), kneels with upright posture. He holds between his knees an altar, atop which perches the god Thoth represented as a squatting hamadryas baboon. Minemheb supervised the construction of “the mansion of the sed-festival,” one of several monuments erected in connection with the king’s jubilee (sed-festival), celebrated on the 30th year of his rule and every three years thereafter. These structures included a grand festival hall, a royal palace, and other royal buildings. Inscriptions in hieroglyphs run around the base, up the back pillar, and are present on the front of the altar. Those on the back pillar identify the man by name and rank: “The army scribe of the lord of the Two Lands, chief of works in the mansion of the sed-festival Minemheb, vindicated. . . .” This statue is the only surviving image of Minemheb and preserves the only known reference to “the mansion of the sed-festival” in honor of Amenhotep III. —Michael Bennett

 

The Jonah Marbles

The Jonah Marbles (Gallery 104) astonished the art world when they were acquired by the museum in 1965. They comprise five sculptures, four of which show the biblical story of Jonah. For early Christians the subject was conceived as a metaphor for the Resurrection, but normally as paintings or relief sculptures. Carved in the round, these are absolutely unique. We date them to about ad 280 or 290, so they predate the emperor Constantine and the legalization of Christianity in 313. We assume the original owners were high-placed Romans who were also Christians. The sea creature is called a Ketos, an ancient Greek mythological sea monster, that was simply appropriated here. These early Christian artists spoke in an obscure visual vocabulary that was not easily read by non-Christians. —Stephen Fliegel

 

The Guelph Treasure

The Guelph Treasure (Gallery 106) was originally the liturgical treasure of the cathedral of Braunschweig in northern Germany, one of the greatest ecclesiastical treasuries. The collection was dispersed in the 1930s and Cleveland acquired nine of the finest objects. It was the acquisition of the Guelph Treasure that really put Cleveland on the international map. The Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude and the two crosses she commissioned, the oldest works in the Guelph Treasure, are the finest examples of Ottonian goldsmithing in the United States. The portable altar would have accompanied Countess Gertrude on her travels. The only other place in the world to see objects like this is in Aachen or Hildesheim, Germany. The Cleveland medieval collection has a distinct character defined by objects that are unique and not duplicated elsewhere. —Stephen N. Fliegel, Curator of Medieval Art

 

Displaying 1,700 largely three-dimensional objects required fabricating well over one thousand mounts, each designed to hold works of art in a way that is both extremely secure and unobtrusive enough to show off each work’s great qualities. The gallery and lighting designers and curators made sure each room would bring out the best in the works on view there—sometimes incorporating arched doorways and other elements to evoke a particular setting, other times creating more neutral spaces. Rather than a neutral color scheme, we use rich colors in the galleries for some works of art that would have been more like their original settings.

A central lobby divides this level where the scope of the contents of the adjoining galleries is suggested by two striking masterworks installed at the base of the stairs from the rotunda above: the bronze sculpture Apollo the Python-Slayer, attributed to the Athenian master sculptor Praxiteles and probably made about 350 bc, and the large painted wood Crucifix with Scenes of the Passion, made in Pisa in the early 13th century. Both are visible through glass doors from the atrium.

Crossing that lobby from the Guelph Treasure into the western half of level one, visitors first encounter galleries of high and international Gothic art, including manuscripts, the unique early 14th-century French Table Fountain, and Three Mourners from the tomb of the Burgundian duke Philip the Bold. The next gallery displays Italian Gothic art including the remarkable altarpiece Virgin and Child with Saints, made in Siena around 1300. French and English stained glass follow in the next room, leading into Spanish Gothic art. 

The southwest corner features late Gothic art from German and Austria, with highlights including a pair of sculptures by Tilman Riemenschneider representing Saints Stephen and Lawrence. The next room features Netherlandish art. French textiles and manuscripts occupy the gallery in the northwest corner, with the famed floor-to-ceiling Chaumont Tapestries.

Continuing clockwise around the perimeter, 16th-century German paintings are followed by rotating installations of Islamic art including stunning textiles and the famed Wade Cup. In the center are three large galleries of Italian art of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, with key works including the large Filippino Lippi tondo The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Margaret, the small Valerio Belli pendant Mars, Minerva, Venus, and Cupid, and the panoramic Race of the Palio in the Streets of Florence by Giovanni Toscani, depicting a horse race traditionally held on the feast of John the Baptist. 

From the central lobby, symmetrical monumental marble stairs ascend to the second level, emerging at the western edge of the Rotunda.

 

Tomb Mourners

We have four Tomb Mourners (Gallery 109), the first three from the tomb of Philip the Bold, the first Valois Duke of Burgundy (reigned 1364–1404), and the fourth from his son John the Fearless. Philip the Bold was probably the most significant patron of the arts in France during this time. He founded a Carthusian monastery and commissioned the design of a very elaborate tomb to contain his earthly remains and those of his ancestors. The tomb’s most significant feature was the 41 carved mourners that adorned it, each one unique. The only place you can see any of these mourners outside of the ducal tomb in Dijon is here at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Many visitors come here just to see these pleurants. —Stephen Fliegel

 

Table Fountain

Table Fountain (Gallery 109) The Gothic table fountain is a classic example of a unicum. It is the only and the most complete surviving Gothic table fountain from the Middle Ages. At one time there were hundreds, maybe even thousands of these, but today this is it. It would have been seated in a catch basin and scented water would have traveled through it, cascading down through a three-tiered assembly, its only purpose to please and delight. It’s a masterpiece of Gothic goldsmithing, with applied enamels, cast objects, and so on—it’s spectacular just by the very fact that it has survived. King Charles V of France is known to have owned seven of these. —Stephen Fliegel

 

The Holy Family and St. Margaret

The Holy Family and St. Margaret by Filippino Lippi (Gallery 118) in Cleveland’s High Renaissance collection is just breathtaking. The artist is kind of struggling to paint these complicated figures in this round form, yet somehow it’s all so natural, as are the colors. The symbolism of the foreground still-life comes right out of his experience of Northern painting in Florence, yet it all makes sense. The symbolic language is tied directly into his composition, so if you’re picking up those spiritual and intellectual details, that’s great, but it also works without that. For example, relative to the intimacy of the parent and child, the saint has this kind of distance, so you understand the difference between the divine figure and the saint. The palette knocks me out every single time; it’s just so bright, clear, and intelligent. From what we know it was painted for a cardinal godfather, and it’s a palace picture, not a church picture. Frankly, it’s the perfect example of the importance of Florence painting in Rome during the Renaissance. It says so much, art historically, and is such a beautiful image with a great and direct intellectual impact. —Jon L. Seydl, The Paul J. and Edith Ingalls Vignos Curator of European Painting and Sculpture 1500–1800

 

Mihrab

The museum’s Mihrab (Gallery 116), or Islamic prayer niche, is a major work in Islamic art, made in Iran in the style of the early 1500s. It’s made in a technique that I call “ceramic mosaic,” a technique at which the Iranians excelled. The design is based on tiles, square tiles that are laid in a solid color. The designs are applied to those tiles, which then have to be cut by experts exactly along those lines, so that they are the straight lines of some of the inscription or the curved lines of some of the leaves. This is done for every single color. So when you go into the gallery and view it up close, look at the lines, the curved lines in particular; that one curved line might be made of two or three different pieces from a single tile, from a white tile for the calligraphy. Part of the beauty of Islamic art is that the more you look, the more you see, and it certainly applies to this prayer niche. —Louise W. Mackie, Curator of Textiles and Islamic Art

 

Islamic Luster Ware
 
Islamic Luster Ware (Gallery 116) One of the features of Islamic art is the transfer of base materials into objects of luxury. We can see examples of that throughout the Islamic lands and in different mediums. Let’s look at luster ware, pottery that shines like gold. Luster ware was invented, we believe, in Iraq by the early Muslims. These skilled potters, who knew the secrets of creating earthenware with a lustrous golden surface, moved throughout the region. We have a series of luster objects in the collection that begin with an early bowl, decorated with a figure holding a flag, made in Iraq in the 900s. This bowl is a slightly softer rendition of luster ware, but it is certainly golden. Two luster bowls that each feature a bold animal—an ibex and an antelope—were made in Egypt in the 1000s during the Fatimid period. As that wealthy dynasty became slightly less prosperous, the potters took their secrets to Kashan in Iran, where they achieved the greatest examples of all luster ware. The process of creating luster requires two firings: the first firing is to set the slip, which gives the piece its white ground, and the second is a reduction firing in which oxides are applied and then fired at a lower temperature. Once the piece comes out of the kiln and is cooled, it’s gently rubbed. If the firing has been successful, the surface glistens like gold. Luster ware is one of the great contributions to world ceramics, and these are the earliest examples. —Louise Mackie 

 

 

1916 Building, Level 2

1916 Building, Level Two 

The upper-floor galleries of the 1916 building contain the heart of the museum’s collection of European art as well as the formative stages in the development of American art. The perimeter galleries are arranged around a suite of three large spaces: the Armor Court, the Rotunda, and a barrel-vaulted gallery of Italian painting and sculpture of the 17th and 18th centuries including masterworks by Caravaggio and Guido Reni (with a balcony serving as an intimate space for the display of miniatures and other small works from 17th-century Europe). The Rotunda is the central spot from which to explore the building, presided over by Antonio Canova’s marble Terpsichore Lyran

 

Baroque Court, Rotunda, and Armor Court

Baroque Court, Rotunda, and Armor Court The barrel-vaulted gallery houses 16th-century Italian painting and sculpture, including masterworks by Caravaggio and Guido Reni. Beyond are the Rotunda and Armor Court.

 

Just inside the south entrance are cases displaying the art of Fabergé on the left and American decorative art, including the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, on the right. A turn to the left leads into the Reinberger Gallery and starts the visit with an impressive group of masterworks: in this one room are famous pieces including Nicolas Poussin’s Holy Family on the Steps, El Greco’s Christ on the Cross,Diego Velázquez’s Jester Calabazas,Francisco de Zurbarán’s Christ and the Virgin in the House at Nazareth, Peter Paul Rubens’s Portrait of Isabella Brant, and Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Portrait of a Woman and Child. Next comes Dutch Baroque art, including landscapes, genre paintings, still lifes, and portraits, among them a stunning oil by Frans Hals, Tieleman Roosterman. The following three rooms feature European sculpture, decorative art, and painting from the 17th and 18th centuries. 

French and German art from the 18th century, including paintings by Jean Siméon Chardin and Fragonard and Rococo decorative art and furniture, graces the next room, which opens to a vaulted gallery of Neoclassical painting and sculpture with Jacques-Louis David’s great Cupid and Psyche and a suite of five monumental paintings by Charles Meynier. Adjacent is a gallery of French Neoclassical decorative art.

British art of the 18th and 19th centuries continues the clockwise tour in a room featuring J. M. W. Turner’s Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons and works by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Thomas Gainsborough, John Constable, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The jump to the New World begins with a small space devoted to silver and ceramics from London and colonial America as well as porcelain and pottery from England’s greatest manufactories.

In the next room, displays of Colonial American portraiture and decorative art include canvases by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, and Benjamin West, as well as fine examples of furniture and silver by Jacob Hurd and others. American art from the Federal period is next (along with a passage to the east allée), followed by a spectacular room of landscape paintings from the mid 19th century, with masterpieces by Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt as well as Frederic Edwin Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness. The next gallery celebrates more icons of American art, with Winslow Homer’s Brierwood Pipe, Thomas Eakins’s Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake, and William Sidney Mount’s Power of Music. Concluding the circuit is a large gallery featuring elegant paintings by John Singer Sargent and William Merritt Chase, exemplars of America’s Gilded Age, juxtaposed with the work of Ashcan School painters typified by George Bellows, whose Stag at Sharkey’s explores a less glamorous side of American life. 

 

Adam Leinkhart: Descent from the Cross

Adam Lenckhardt: Descent from the Cross (Gallery 214) We have so many amazing medieval works, and this one stands out. What I love about it is that ivory is, evidently, so easy to carve in a very complex, intricate way. I think lots of artists, particularly in the Baroque period, kind of lost their way, because if you could make it complex, you did. What Leinkhart does with technique is beyond belief; it’s made out of a single tusk, which in itself is this amazing challenge thrown down by his patron, the prince of Lichtenstein. It’s this incredibly complicated, multifigured composition, it takes him seven years to do it, and he gets all those figures in, tells the story, it makes sense and has all this incredible emotional impact, and you have to move around it to tell the story. You always say this about sculpture: you have to walk around it. But with this one, the narrative doesn’t even make sense unless you circumnavigate it. It’s that kind of combination of emotional impact and incredible thoughtfulness, and kick-ass virtuosity. It works if you stand really close and stick your nose into it, and it also has this beautiful sideline to it. Everybody likes it, it wows on many different levels, and the act of walking around it creates the story. —Jon Seydl 

 

Saint Peter of Alcántara

Saint Peter of Alcántara (Gallery 212) The Pedro De Mena is a carved, wooden object that has miraculously survived from the 1600s to the present day in amazing condition. So much of the history of Spanish painted sculpture is about how the surface gets updated, or refreshed over time. Many spiritual objects needed to be repainted so they could be presented and look great to the public. I don’t think this object had this kind of processional history and therefore was always in a kind of protective case, but we don’t actually know. The surface is just incredible, in that it’s matte, so if you had ever taken it outside, the grime would have clung to it instantly, as well as in its ability to create this kind of sackcloth, a sort of humble figure with these tiny strokes of paint. Pedro De Mena was a pioneer of being both a polychrome sculptor and painter in the same workshop. I’ve always had this vision of his two daughters painting, because they became sculptors in their own right. The face is gessoed and textured to get these striations and create a kind of sunken, sallow, humble aesthetic. The scale creates a kind of intimacy. The eyes are made of glass, and the eyelashes are made of real hair, so it’s this combination of something realistic and deeply artistic at the same time. You never, for one moment, forget you’re looking at a work of art, and yet it’s so humanely executed. Cleveland’s collection for the last 100 years has not had a single three-dimensional object from 17th-century Spain, and the reality is, Spanish art was all about the interweaving of painting and sculpture. To have the beautiful spirituality of this work so close to Zurbarán’s Christ and the Virgin, which has that same kind of emotional tone, is for me incredibly powerful. —Jon Seydl 

 

American Landscape

American Landscape Gallery 206 contains the jewel in the crown of the museum’s American art holdings: our enviable collection of 19th-century landscape painting. We’ve installed a choice group of these works in this beautifully proportioned corner gallery, setting it up so that each of the two corner walls is anchored by an undeniable masterpiece. The first is Thomas Cole’s View of Schroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm (1838). Here we have a stunning rendering of blazing autumnal color. Cole believed that no other place in the world was as beautiful as autumn in the northeast region of our country. The other corner wall highlights a painting that many aficionados, including myself, consider the greatest landscape in all American art: Twilight in the Wilderness (1860) by Frederic Edwin Church. Not only is it spectacular in terms of its sublimity—the sky can aptly be described as pyrotechnic—it also seems to carry great historical resonance. Many scholars view the subject—which was painted on the eve, if you will, of the Civil War—as not just the twilight of this wilderness spot in particular, but of America in general, since no one at the time knew whether the U.S. could survive such a conflict. —Mark Cole, Curator of American Painting and Sculpture

 

Newport Desk
 
Desk and Bookcase about 1780–95. Attributed to John Townsend (American, 1732–1809). Mahogany, red cedar, chestnut, white pine, brass; h. 240 cm. Gift of Harvey Buchanan in memory of Penelope Draper Buchanan and Dorothy Tuckerman Draper 2012.43 

(Gallery 204) The great Newport desk and bookcase came to the museum in the last year or so as a gift from the family of the original owner, who commissioned this work back in the 18th century. At that time, Newport was one of the top ports and towns in America, with Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Newport gathered many very wealthy Royalists to begin with, and there grew up a center of very fine cabinet making. Newport furniture became famous far and wide throughout the colonies, so it’s not unusual to find that the first man who owned this desk actually lived in Connecticut. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and became a governor of the state of Connecticut; his son, who also owned the desk, was George Washington’s treasurer. It then passed down through the family, through a number of generations, and ultimately to one of America’s most flamboyant, celebrated interior decorators of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Dorothy Draper. She did marvelous interiors for places like the Carlyle Hotel and many apartment buildings in New York, on Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue. She also famously did the interiors for great resorts in America like the Greenbrier in West Virginia. Meanwhile, the cost of Newport furniture soared into the millions and millions, and we could not have afforded to buy a piece like this at auction or from a dealer. The only way that we could have got this piece was through a gift. And thankfully, the donor, Harvey Buchanan, felt the museum was a good home for it. Because it had come down to his wife, Penny Buchanan (who worked for the museum as an educator for nearly 50 years), from her mother, Dorothy Draper, who had come to Cleveland in 1965 to live out her years here, Harvey and Penny decided it was good to put this piece into the public domain. Which now means it is in our galleries, on view and sitting next to a portrait of George Washington.  —Stephen Harrison, Curator of Decorative Art and Design

 

 

The East Wing 

Within the distinctive zigzag exterior footprint, the more than 27,000 square feet of galleries present striking spaces arranged along a perfectly aligned sequence of doorways that establishes a clear sight line all the way from the contemporary collections to the glass cube at the southern end of the addition. One of the stated goals of the expansion project was to create a sense of openness and connection to the neighborhood, and nothing expresses the success of that endeavor more powerfully than when a pedestrian strolling along East Boulevard glances up to marvel at great works of art on view in the glass box gallery. Similarly, the impression from within these rooms is one of connection to the surrounding landscape, as natural light illuminates every space and windows offer a view out to the street.

The collections contained in the east wing include some of the museum’s most noted and beloved works of art, picking up the thread of European art where it leaves off in the early 1800s in the 1916 building and continuing that evolution through Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and modern and contemporary art. American art also continues, from the early 20th century and up to the present day, from Cleveland School artists to Andy Warhol and Sol LeWitt. Three separate spaces are devoted to decorative art and design, and three adjoining galleries focus primarily on photography and other light-sensitive materials. The southern end of the east wing allée connects to the 1916 building and galleries of the immediately preceding eras of Western art history. 

 

The Red Kerchief

The Red Kerchief c. 1868–73. Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). Oil on fabric, 128.3 x 105.7 cm. Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna Jr. 1958.39

(Gallery 222) The Red Kerchief is a remarkably innovative painting with few precedents in the history of art. The viewer is located inside a room looking toward a window when a woman, walking outside in a snowy landscape, suddenly stops to exchange momentary glances with the viewer. This startling image encapsulates a radically new way of seeing based on rapid visual scanning, as opposed to the more static compositions of conventional painting. Monet’s technique of applying pure color with quick, unblended brushstrokes reveals an equally ardent commitment to modernity. The woman’s mouth and eyes are only vaguely suggested by a few dashes of paint, quickly applied with complete disregard for traditional modeling or shading with tones. Monet kept this painting his entire life and hung it at his studio in Giverny, perhaps because it depicts his wife, Camille, who died in 1879, but also out of appreciation for the painting’s daring formal innovations. —William Robinson, Curator of Modern European Art

  

Portrait of Adeline Ravoux

Adeline Ravoux 1890. Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890). Oil on fabric; 72.5 x 73.5 cm. Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna Jr. 1958.31

(Gallery 220) Van Gogh painted this striking portrait during the final months of his life, when he was living at the Ravoux Inn in Auvers-sur-Oise. Within a few weeks after his arrival, he persuaded the innkeeper’s daughter to pose for him. Van Gogh painted three portraits of Adeline, but only one from life. The circumstances surrounding the production of the Cleveland portrait are mysterious. We know he painted the first two in a standard vertical format, but switched to a more experimental square canvas for the Cleveland version. He also rotated her body toward the viewer and focused more intensely on the face by depicting her from the breasts up. An entirely new element appears in this portrait: white flowers float mysteriously against a deep blue background, recalling the starry skies the artist associated with eternal life and dreams. Most strikingly, the face and hair are now emblazed with streaks of brilliant yellow and green. While looking placid and bored in the earlier portraits, Adeline’s piercing eyes and furrowed brow now give her an unexpectedly ferocious appearance. What may initially strike viewers as garish or even ugly are likely the result of van Gogh deliberately exaggerating form and color to heighten the painting’s emotional intensity. Rather than an imitative likeness, this portrait was probably painted from memory and imagination, a process mediated by personal thoughts and ruminations, thereby transforming it into idealized or symbolic portraiture. —William Robinson 

 

The Dream

The Dream 1931. Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904–1989). Oil on canvas; 120 x 120 cm. John L. Severance Fund 2001.34 © Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

(Gallery 225) Salvador Dalí painted this iconic Surrealist image shortly after joining the Surrealist movement in 1929. Like his colleagues, Dalí was profoundly inspired by the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and believed that true reality can only be known by gaining access to the unconscious mind, which reveals itself through involuntary associations and dreams. The strange figure in the painting’s center seems to be liquefying or turning to stone, a terrifying process that can only occur in a dream. The figure’s bulging eyelids suggest that it is experiencing an intense dream, but cannot awake. Neither can the figure scream for help because it lacks a mouth, an organ replaced by swarming ants that refer to decay, death, and overwhelming sexual desire. The bleeding face of the man sitting on a volute at the far left refers to Oedipus, the tragic figure from Greek mythology who gouged out his eyes after killing his father and marrying his mother. In his seminal theory of the Oedipus complex, Freud interpreted this myth as symbolic of a universal stage in human psychological development during which boys experience conflicting feelings of love, anger, and jealousy toward their parents, a critical stage in the formation of an individual’s sexual identity. —William Robinson 

 

Gallery 226

American Art of the 1930s to 1950s I have to admit that gallery 226 is among my favorites in the museum. It addresses a contentious time in our artistic climate, when various factions argued over what constituted an authentically American and democratic art. By sampling several stylistic approaches, the gallery offers a fascinating and varied overview of the period. One section represents artists who addressed “American Scene” subject matter. Interestingly, there is a great deal of stylistic variety, ranging from the precise realism of Grey and Gold (1942) by John Rogers Cox, to the Cubist-inspired Fulton and Nostrand (1958) by Jacob Lawrence, the most important African American artist of his generation. Nearby we display works by those who adopted pure abstraction, attempting to communicate through their creations a sense of order in a chaotic era marred by economic failure and global conflict. Also on view are paintings and sculptures by American Surrealists who tackled personal impulses and universal themes. Capping this section is Two Systems (about 1946), a microcosm of the cosmos in the form of a suspended mobile by Alexander Calder. As evidenced in this installation, the strength of American art during the period is its sheer diversity. —Mark Cole 

 

Gallery 227

Abstract Expressionism (Gallery 227) houses a fine selection of Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture. One key work is Celebration (1960), a large composition by Lee Krasner. When you stand directly in front of it, the painting fills your field of vision with a maelstrom of brushstrokes ranging in mood from blissful to ferocious. When her husband, the fellow painter Jackson Pollock, died just a few years earlier, Krasner took over his sizable studio space and began painting on a much larger scale. It was during this time that she matured into a major artist. Interestingly, many sculptors at work during this period were interested in creating art not by carving or casting (the traditional ways of making sculpture), but instead by assemblage. One approach was called “junk sculpture,” made from scrap metal objects welded together. Here we have a canonical example by Richard Stankiewicz. It looks rugged, but it’s actually one of the more fragile sculptures in the collection, due to its delicately rusted and corroded surfaces—which incidentally have visual parallels with the brushwork in the Krasner painting. —Mark Cole

 

Lalique vase

Lalique Glassware (Gallery 224) The Frogs and Lily Pads Vase by René Lalique is one of my favorite objects because it is that one rare moment in an object when you get to see the mind of the artist at work. In this case Lalique had a great career in the 19th century in jewelry design. He was greatly influenced by Japanese and other Asian design, which was absolutely the rage in Paris, and became the most celebrated artisan of the Art Nouveau around 1900 principally because he embraced Japanese concepts of art, composition, and aesthetics. At the same time he began to realize after 1900 that he was famous but could not make any money. But he saw that others like Louis Comfort Tiffany were doing the same thing he was doing, but on such a grand scale that they were becoming rich. In 1905 he bought his own glassworks outside Paris and tried a number of very interesting and innovative combinations of techniques for making glass, and this particular vase was one of those experiments. This piece was never put into production, and this specific method of using cast glass and then applying other glass to it was not something he used after that point—I am sure he felt it was too labor intensive. What is wonderful about this piece is, not only does it represent that moment when Lalique is changing his production, but also the shape of it very much looks back at his roots in Japanese aestheticism. It looks back at the 19th century when his time in the Art Nouveau was his last zenith and also looks forward toward abstraction and modernism. In one fell swoop you can see the entire story of Lalique. —Stephen Harrison 

 

Vase Bertin

Vase Bertin c. 1855. Sèvres Factory (France). Porcelain with pâte-sur-pâte decoration; h. 99 cm. Gift of Darrell, Steven, Brian, and Neil Young in memory of their parents, Mardelle J. and Howard S. Young 2007.277

(Gallery 221) This great monumental porcelain vase was made by Sèvres in Paris in 1855. It’s a very simple form called a vase Bertin. I love its story of acquisition. First I got an e-mail with a small picture from a gentleman whose mother had died and he and his brothers were closing the estate. I could not tell how big the actual piece was. The appraiser had not put a high figure on it, though the children growing up were told that it was an important vase and that they should stay away from it, and that Napoleon once had owned it. There’s usually a whiff of truth in these things, so I decided to go look at it. When I opened the door I was astounded that the piece was almost as tall as I am. Such a vase during the 19th century would have been a very difficult and expensive venture to achieve, and this one also had extraordinary decoration on the outside of it, a very labor-intensive and beautifully executed composition. My research revealed that all of these large vases were bought from Sèvres by Napoleon III to give to the godparents of his son. So that is how it was briefly owned by Napoleon. This information raised the value somewhat, but I suggested to the gentleman how a split among the four heirs would be barely enough to buy a nice car for each, so why not give it instead to the museum in honor and in memory of their parents? We will always have it on view, I said, and it will become one of our great works in Sèvres porcelain. That is exactly what happened. My own Antiques Roadshow moment. —Stephen Harrison

 

 DIY: Photographers & Books

Changing Exhibitions have featured the work of Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas as well as broader shows such as DIY: Photographers & Books (above). The Raymond collection of Surrealist and modern photographs, of which the image below is a part, is the subject of an upcoming exhibition. 

Photography Because photographs are light sensitive, they can only be on view for several months at a time, so we offer a constantly changing panoply of delights in the museum’s 2,000- square-foot photography gallery (Gallery 230). Exhibitions may be drawn entirely from the collection, built around selected works to provide a context for our holdings, or be composed entirely of surprises from outside. Recent shows ranged from the first museum exhibition focusing on print-on-demand photobooks to images of Mount St. Helens by Frank Gohlke and Emmet Gowin and appropriated advertising imagery altered by young African American photographer Hank Willis Thomas.

The collection contains around 5,450 photographs that span the history of the medium with excellent examples from each period. The entire collection is available 24/7, 365 days a year, on the museum’s web site. Our holdings from the early years of photography are remarkable. A few years ago we acquired an important collection of 178 Surrealist and modernist works from the 1920s through the 1950s that will be exhibited this fall in Smith Hall. Dora Maar’s Double Portrait with Hat exemplifies photography’s experimentation with form and content during that period in its rupture with reality, post-Freudian evocation of a divided consciousness, and adventurous combination of techniques.

In terms of future purchases, I am focusing on adding contemporary work to reflect recent changes in technique and approach. I am also trying to increase the diversity of the artists represented in the photo collection. Last year we acquired a group of contemporary Chinese photographs. I hope to add more Chinese work, African photography, and perhaps even work from the Near East.
—Barbara L. Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography

 

Double Portrait with Hat
 
Double Portrait with Hat c. 1936–37. Dora Maar (French, 1907–1997). Gelatin silver print, montage, 29.8 x 23.8 cm. Gift of David Raymond 2008.172. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP

 

Contemporary galleries

Evolving Displays This spring, the galleries devoted to the display of contemporary art will be reinstalled for the first time in two years. Our upcoming reinstallation aims to offer new frameworks for more historical works in the collection, and to provide interesting context for recently made art.

We will reconfigure the gallery layout in order to create three separate thematic groupings in a more defined spatial relationship. This allows us to reconsider works that haven’t been seen in many years, such as James Rosenquist’s Gift Wrapped Doll #3 (1992), or those which will be displayed for the first time since they were acquired by the museum. In addition, one of our goals is to integrate works from the collections of other departments such as photography and prints and drawings, creating a more complete experience and understanding of artistic production since the 1960s for our viewers.

The first grouping of artworks offers a tour of various American landscapes—not just contemporary takes on the traditional genre of landscape painting, but also different ways of thinking about the specificities of American culture, taste, and history. For our starting point, we chose Philip Guston’s Tour (1969), which was one of the first works produced during his turn from Abstract Expressionism to a graphic, figurative style. Two hooded figures (presumably Ku Klux Klan members) sit idly in a convertible, smoking cigars. The image itself is rather surreal, but lucidly illustrates Guston questioning American value systems and even the roles we individually play in racial and economic inequality.

Remaining on view in the rotation of artworks, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn x 100 (1962) is one of the highlights of the museum’s collection. While Warhol is certainly one of the most significant and influential artists of the 20th century, this work holds an interesting position as it chronologically is at the beginning of the collection of contemporary art, but the notions and ideas it embodies are still being grappled with by artists today.

 

Figure of a Saint (St. Michael)

Figure of a Saint (St. Michael) 2008. Katharina Fritsch (German, b. 1956). Polyester and paint; h. 169 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2013.30. © Katharina Fritsch

We are also very pleased to be able to install for the first time one of our newest acquisitions, Figure of a Saint (St. Michael), by the German artist Katharina Fritsch this April. Based on a religious tchotchke one could imagine finding on a side street near a famous European cathedral, the sculpture is quite beguiling with its larger-than-life presence and green monochromatic coating. Saint Michael is very much of this world, the things we see but perhaps don’t notice on a daily basis, yet confronts and forces us to consider the role of iconic imagery not only in religion and art history, but in our day-to-day lives as well. —Reto Thüring, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, and Beau Rutland, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art 

 

The North Galleries

The North Galleries

Moving from east to west in the north galleries, Mesoamerican art includes such works as the Maya ceramic Vessel with Battle Scene from Honduras and an Aztec Figure of a Warrior in solid gold. The grand Maya Stela greets visitors as they enter from the atrium. A side gallery, well protected from light, features works including textiles from cultures centered in the ancient Andes, including works featured in the recent exhibition Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes

A large gallery devoted exclusively to textiles marks the transition from the galleries of the art of the Americas to the art of Japan and Korea. The museum’s textiles collection has long been renowned as one of the world’s finest, but until now there was no significant space within the galleries for the display of these works. Because works of fiber are especially sensitive to light, a new
exhibition of textiles goes on view every year. 

The art of Japan includes rotating installations of light-sensitive screens and scrolls, and Japanese sculpture highlights include the neolithic Flame-Style Storage Vessel and the 13th-century wooden Portrait of the Zen Master Hotto Kokushi. The first six-month installation of screens and scrolls includes the 17th-century Horse Race at the Kamo Shrine from Japan and the 16th-century Korean hanging scroll Winter Landscape. Korean art follows with objects including the eighth-century bronze Standing Buddha Amitabha, the bronze Amita Triad, and an impressive display of celadon ware ceramics. 

At the western end of the north galleries, Japanese and Korean art give way to Chinese ceramics and the connection to the west wing.

 

Maya Stella

Maya Stela (Gallery 233) This towering limestone stela was erected in the year ad 692 at a Maya site in Guatemala known as Waka’ (El Perú), where it stood in a plaza between two other stelas of similar size and artistic composition. Looming on the front surface is a portrait of a royal woman, her body smothered in finery: a headdress that supports a dense, swaying panache of green quetzal feathers; a netted garment and broad necklace, both made of precious jade beads; and high-backed sandals. The costume allies her with a Maya supernatural being, either the maize god or the moon goddess. In her hands she carries a scepter and a circular shield, the latter apparently an allusion to a title that she carried: kaloomte’ or supreme warrior. She was likely one of the most powerful Maya women of her time, holding more authority than her husband, whose image appears on one of the accompanying stelas. The monument was created to celebrate a milestone during her reign: the ending of a k’atun, a 20-year period analogous to our decade whose completion was a cause for commemoration among the Maya. The extant relief represents only the front face of the original stela; for reinstallation the museum undertook a major remounting effort aimed at restoring the stela’s original appearance as a freestanding monument that was about 12 feet high and 18 inches deep. This imposing Maya queen, accompanied by a dwarf courtier, now commands the entry to the Mesoamerican gallery. —Susan E. Bergh, Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art 

 

Paracas Textiles

Tunic 300 bc to ad 100, Central Andes, south coast, probably Paracas Peninsula, Paracas people. Camelid fiber; 93.5 x 86 cm. The Norweb Collection 1946.227

(Gallery 232) The room to the right of the stela is devoted to the ancient Andes. Critical among Andean arts are textiles, three superb examples of which appear on the gallery’s back wall. These textiles likely come from the Paracas Necropolis cemetery, which was created between about 300 bc and ad 100 on Peru’s south coast. The cemetery contained over 400 mummy bundles of varying sizes, each made by wrapping a human body in cloth. In small bundles, the cloth was plain. In the less common larger bundles, some nearly five feet tall, plain cloth alternated with colorful, elaborately embroidered garments like the three on display—a mantle, tunic (shown above), and headband, all decorated with a two-headed bird of unknown significance. The textiles may have formed a matched set that an important Paracas man wore as an ensemble. —Susan Bergh  

 

Zuni Water Jar

Water Jar (Olla) 1850–60, Southwest, Pueblo people, Zuni. Ceramic and slip; h. 25.5 cm. Gift of Amelia Elizabeth White 1937.898

(Gallery 231)The millennia-long heritage of indigenous civilization in the Southwest is alive today in the region’s native cultures, which remain strong despite centuries of destructive colonization. Among modern Pueblo people, ceramic art is one of the most famous testaments of this continuity. This Zuni jar, created in the mid 1800s and used to carry water atop the head, is an especially fine example. The water well was a gathering place and the vessels’ public visibility explains their elaborate decoration—here, a beautifully rendered rain bird whose beak spirals between two stylized wings. The wings’ stepped shape and hachure represent rain-filled clouds. The jar can be found in the Native North American gallery, located in the passageway adjacent to the Mesoamerican gallery. —Susan Bergh

 

Mantle for a Statue of the Virgin with Lotus Blossoms and Medallions

Mantle for a Statue of the Virgin with Lotus Blossoms and Medallions c. 1430. Egypt, Mamluk period, preserved in a church near Valencia, Spain. Silk, gilt-metal thread; lampas weave; 70.5 x 111.2 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1939.40 

(Gallery 234) This is a very well-known textile in the Islamic collection. When you look at it, you can see it’s been recycled. However, it was originally woven in Egypt in silk with a rich use of gold thread. It has very large lotus blossoms, a design that came from China when the Mongols came across Asia and introduced asymmetry to Islamic art. Here we can see aspects of that. So why does this piece, designed and woven in Egypt, look the way it does today? It was exported to Islamic Spain, where it was tailored into this mantle, which dressed a statue of the Virgin on high holy days in a church or during religious parades. Clearly this was considered a luxury item, used only for dressing a statue of the Madonna. It’s more interesting than that, though, because the same pattern was also exported to Italy where it was copied in a painting of the Madonna and Child from about 1430. That helps us date the design. Taking that even further, another version, very similar but not quite identical, with a slightly different Arabic inscription has survived in a church in Poland. Historically, it’s always hard for us to tell when we only see a single textile to know if that is all there was, because so little survives. But in this case, we have the same thing showing up as parts of three different ecclesiastical vestments. —Louise Mackie

 

Embroidered Surcoat
 
Embroidered Surcoat (Gallery 234) Another treasure in the museum is from 19th-century Uzbekistan, an embroidered surcoat, worn by a man, that has an exceptionally brilliant and exuberant design (partially visible behind the kaftan in the photo above). Possibly formed with leaves, in a somewhat centralized design, it has become a favorite of many people who visit the gallery. The colors are vibrant and it was considered a luxury item, with gold thread embroidery on some type of a silk ground. It’s a cross-stitch embroidery which would have been made by assembling the garment loosely, drawing the design on the fabric, then disassembling it. Different people embroidered it and then it was reassembled. And you know this by looking at some of the joins, where some of the designs are not absolute. There are lines that aren’t smooth, colors that vary; you can see it in some of the large leaves. This is one of five pieces in this exhibition that were given by Jeptha Wade and his wife in 1916, which is one of the reasons the collection of Islamic textiles is as good as it is. The Wades gave us an enormous number of fabulous 19th-century textiles. When this surcoat came into the collection, it was not catalogued as being from Uzbekistan. It had a European provenance, but we later discovered its real origin. —Louise Mackie 

 

Flame-Style Storage Vessel

Flame-Style Storage Vessel c. 2500 bc. Japan, Middle Jomon period (c. 10,500–c. 300 bc). Earthenware with carved and applied decoration; h. 61 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1984.68 

(Gallery 237) This is one of the earliest Japanese works we have in these galleries. This object is from the Jomon (prehistoric) period, before Buddhism comes to Japan. Archaeologists have helped construct an image of what life was like during the Jomon period. People settled in villages of up to 100. They were accomplished hunters and gatherers, living well above subsistence level. Thanks to this high quality of life, people were able to devote time to create fine pottery such as this example. This coil-built vessel was meticulously decorated by adding coils of clay, incising or cutting into the surface, and then adding the large flame-shaped projections that come off the lip. We don’t know how this vessel was used. The large size and wide opening give the sense that it might have had a storage function. But the large flame-shaped handles wouldn’t have been able to support the pot’s weight and so they must have been solely decorative. While numerous flame-style pots have been found, this is one of the largest to survive. —Seema Rao, Director, Intergenerational Learning

 

Portrait of the Zen Master Hotto Kokushi

Portrait of the Zen Master Hotto Kokushi c. 1286. Japan, Kamakura period (1185–1333). Wood with hemp cloth, black lacquer, and iron clamps; h. 91.4 cm. Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund 1970.67

(Gallery 235) This portrait of the famous Zen master Hotto Kokushi was made around 1286 during the monk’s lifetime. While this sculpture is smaller than life-sized, it has a monumental feeling. In this portrait, the monk is meditating while seated on a bench cross-legged. His empty shoes are placed on the floor. The sculptor took great care to carve with incredible realism. Upon close inspection of the sculpture, minute details are apparent, like the irises of the eyes. This realism was extremely important for portraits of important Zen masters. Once the master passed away, the faithful could meditate using this object. —Seema Rao

 

Box: “Hwagak” Type
 
Box: “Hwagak” Type 1800s. Korea, Joseon period (1392–1910). Painted wood with flattened ox-horn inlay; 29.9 x 16.5 x 16.2 cm. Sundry Purchase Fund 1920.37

(Gallery 238) Hwagak, or horn inlay, is a traditional Korean craft using ox horn. Hwagak crafts are created through a process that requires great patience and craftsmanship. The ox horn is flattened and ground into paper-thin, transparent sheets. Rather than being surface painted, the horn is reverse-painted, with the horn’s thinness and transparency allowing the image to be visible. The painted sheets are then applied to various objects, including furniture, combs, and boxes. Boxes such as this one might have been used by an aristocratic woman to hold makeup, combs, and other toilette items. Hwagak objects are beautifully painted using natural pigments, often yellows, reds, white, black, and green. The painting is quite fragile, and this is a wonderfully well-preserved example. The surface is covered with images of animals, birds, figures, and plants. One can find auspicious symbols on every side, including phoenixes, dragons, lotuses, and deer, which are associated with longevity. On the front panel is a white tiger, an animal considered particularly sacred and auspicious in traditional Korean folklore. —Jennifer Foley, Director of Interpretation

 

Amita (Amitabha) Triad

Amita (Amitabha) Triad 1400s. Korea, Joseon period (1392–1910). Bronze with traces of gilding; 40.6 x 16.5 cm. Worcester R. Warner Collection 1918.501

(Gallery 235) This beautiful bronze piece from the Joseon period shows a triad, or three figures, with the Amita Buddha as the central figure. The Amita Buddha is associated with Pure Land Buddhism, a sect that has been popular in many areas of East Asia, including Japan, China, and Korea. In this gallery are a number of images of the Amita Buddha shown as part of a triad, flanked by bodhisattvas. The bodhisattva on the right is Avalokitesvara, who is said to embody compassion, and is known as Kuan-eum in Korea. The bodhisattva on the left is Ksitigarbha, known as Jijang in Korea, who is described as a monk and is shown here wearing the robes and the shaved head of a monk. It is interesting to see a Buddhist bronze triad from the Joseon period. During the Goryeo period, which preceded the Joseon, Buddhism had been very popular and powerful, functioning as a state religion. However, during the Joseon period Buddhism was replaced by Confucianism, which became the ruling philosophy of the state. Buddhist objects reflecting the refinement and craftsmanship of this triad are rare from this period in Korea, and this beautiful example is a treasure. —Jennifer Foley 

 

 

The West Wing

The West Wing

The stepped west wing footprint mirrors that of the east. As in the east wing, the doorways are aligned to allow a long vista all the way from the north to the glass box at the south end of the wing. Two entrances facing the atrium lead to the Chinese galleries on the right and the Indian and Southeast Asian galleries on the left. The Chinese suite consists of a series of galleries, from south to north: ancient ritual arts, Buddhist art from Tang to Yuan, painting and calligraphy, decorative art, and ceramics. Highlights include a Western Zhou ritual bell with a historically significant inscription, a Warring States period (Chu) lacquered wood drum stand ingeniously created in the form of two snakes and two birds, and a black dry-lacquer Bodhisattva from the ninth century. At the north of the Chinese suite, the Chinese ceramics gallery connects to the Himalayan galleries and further to the Japanese and Korean galleries in the north wing.

The southernmost galleries in the west wing feature early Buddhist art and luxury items from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Many superb works reside in these spaces, including the imperial Mughal Tales of a Parrot manuscript, the sixth-century Cambodian limestone Krishna Govardhana, and the eleventh-century Chola bronze Nataraja, Shiva as Lord of Dance. The red sandstone Nature Divinity from the first century exemplifies the voluptuous female figures so frequently depicted in Indian art. 

The glass box gallery at the southern end—here not overlooking the street, but poised above a sloping wooded hillside and Doan Brook—features bronze and stone sculpture of India and Southeast Asia. 

 

Green Tara

Green Tara c. 1260s. Tibet. Opaque watercolor and gold on cotton; 52.4 x 43.2 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, by exchange, from the Doris Wiener Gallery 1970.156

(Gallery 239) The Green Tara is a tangka painting made during the 13th century in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. It is one of the most popular works in the collection and reportedly a personal favorite of former director Sherman Lee. Scholars concur that, though unsigned, it appears to have been painted by a famously gifted young Nepalese artist named Aniko, who traveled to Tibet to make important works of devotional art such as this painting. Green Tara is a female embodiment of perfect wisdom as emanated from the Cosmic Buddha Amoghasiddhi, who presides over the direction of the North and is green in color, which explains her distinctive coloration. She sits in an elaborate bejeweled shrine, and the painting’s entire surface sparkles with mica. This tangka would have been unrolled and hung in monastery prayer halls during the performance of special initiation rituals and teachings.  —Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, The George P. Bickford Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art

 

Brush Washer

Basin

Brush Washer late 1000s–1127. China, Henan province, Baofeng county; Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). Porcelaneous stoneware, Ru ware; diam. 12.8 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1957.40 

Basin 1127–1279. China, Zhejiang province; Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279). Porcelaneous stoneware, Guan ware; diam. 24.2 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1957.48 

(Gallery 240) The selection of Chinese ceramics in gallery 240 highlights the best examples of various types, but the two Song imperial wares in the case at the entrance are the rarest and most important pieces in the entire collection: a Northern Song Ru ware and a Southern Song Guan ware. Both were made for the Song court. They may look very subdued and very simple, but they are testimonies to the extremely high standards demanded for Chinese imperial wares about 1,000 years ago. There’s a kind of refined elegance and understated simplicity, which was considered the height of aesthetics at that time. A literary source mentions that the glaze of Ru ware has agate in it. There are only some 70 extant pieces of Ru ware in the world, mostly in the two palace museums in Taipei and Beijing. Only three known pieces are preserved in North American museums and Cleveland has one of them. Even in the 12th century, soon after the fall of the Northern Song court, writers were commenting on the rarity of Ru ware. If you look closely at its soft blue glaze, you see a very subtle ice crackle effect. The Southern Song Guan ware was a further development of Ru ware but is marked with very thick, multiple glazes so that it almost resembles jade. The potter manipulated the natural crackling for its aesthetic effect. All is subtle, but extraordinarily beautiful. —Anita Chung, Curator of Chinese Art

 

Poem on Imperial Gift of an Embroidered Silk: Calligraphy in Running Script

Poem on Imperial Gift of an Embroidered Silk: Calligraphy in Running Script c. 1525. Wen Zhengming (Chinese, 1470–1559). Hanging scroll; ink on paper; 345 x 93.5 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1998.169

(Gallery 242) The museum has a renowned collection of Chinese paintings as well as some extraordinary examples of calligraphic work. Given that these are light-sensitive materials, they will be exhibited on a rotation basis. With the inauguration of the Chinese galleries you should be sure to see this monumental calligraphy occupying the largest case of about 16 feet high. Calligraphy was traditionally regarded as the most supreme of all the arts in China. Writing conveys meaning, but the art of calligraphy gives words beauty. The abstract, linear qualities of the Chinese characters, combined with the use of the brush, open up many aesthetic possibilities. We appreciate the variations of strokes as well as the composition and spacing of characters. The traces of brush and ink represent the physical presence of the artist. —Anita Chung

 

Jar with Painted Spiral Design

Jar with Painted Spiral Design c. 3300–2650 bc. Northwest China, Neolithic period, Majiayao culture, Majiayao phase. Earthenware with slip-painted decoration; h. 45.2 cm. Gift of Donna S. and James S. Reid Jr. in honor of Dr. Ju-hsi Chou 2004.64

(Gallery 244) Just inside the atrium doors is one of the entrances to the Chinese suite, the first gallery devoted to ancient Chinese art, with artifacts, including pottery, jades, and bronzes, dating to thousands of years ago. The earliest piece is an impressive painted pottery from about 3300–2650 bc. There was an old idea that the Chinese civilization originated along the Yellow River, but more and more archaeological discoveries show the coexistence of different cultures in different areas, and they all played a role in shaping the Chinese civilization. This example of painted pottery represents the Majiayao culture, one of the regional cultures in the northwestern part of China. Its geometric patterns are probably abstract symbols transformed from the bird image, which may suggest a clan totem or spirits of nature. In the next case are examples of ceremonial jades representing other regional cultures: a disc from the Liangzhu culture in the southern part of China, a figurine from the Hongshan culture in the northeastern part, and a blade from the Qijia culture in the northwestern part. All these jade carvings were originally related to ceremonial and ritual purposes, but they also present very different kinds of artistic experimentations to give symbolic meanings. Today we appreciate them as works of art.  —Anita Chung

 

Krishna Lifts Mount  Govardhan

Krishna Lifts Mount Govardhan 500s–600s. Cambodia, Phnom Da. Gray limestone; h. 244 cm. John L. Severance Fund 1973.106 

(Gallery 246) The colossal stone sculpture of Krishna, a human incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, is shown as a seven-year-old boy in the act of lifting a mountain to provide his fellow villagers shelter from a deluge. He stands with extraordinary naturalism and grace and seems almost effortlessly to be able to hoist the mountain above his head. From one of the earliest groups of sculptures made in Southeast Asia after the introduction of Hindu iconography from India during the sixth century, this image was one of eight set up at a temple in southwestern Cambodia. An extremely popular icon from the fourth through sixth centuries in India, this rare sculpture from Cambodia is one of the single most important objects in Cleveland’s collections. —Sonya Rhie Quintanilla

 

Nature Divinity

Nature Divinity (Gallery 245) Sculptures of standing female figures were worshiped in shrines across South Asia. They embody abundance and prosperity, so she’s fitting as a kind of opening object for all the galleries. Some of the earliest stone sculptures were considered to be personifications of the life force that courses through all of nature, like sap that imbues living plants. In the sculptures, the fluids essential for life and abundance are given the form of a voluptuous young mother. —Sonya Rhie Quintanilla

 

Alam Shah Closing the Dam at Shishan Pass

Alam Shah Closing the Dam at Shishan Pass from The Adventures of Hamza, c. 1570. India, Mughal dynasty (1526–1858). Opaque watercolor and gold on paper and cloth;  69 x 52.2 cm. Gift of George P. Bickford 1976.74

(Gallery 245) An intimate space dedicated to the light-sensitive jewel-like works on paper of India’s celebrated miniature painting traditions features a new selection from the collection every six months. In the first rotation is an extraordinary painting from a dispersed set of oversized volumes commissioned by the Mughal emperor Akbar during the 1570s. The paintings from the Adventures of Hamza are nearly poster-sized. Few survive that have not been defaced over the years, and Cleveland has one in good condition. It depicts a hero working for Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, having just slain Hamza’s enemy who released a torrent to wash away Hamza’s camp. Alam Shah will then lower the massive bronze plug to stop the dam again. The dynamic composition is a unique combination of Persian and Indian stylistic elements shaped by the emperor’s personal taste for action and drama. —Sonya Rhie Quintanilla

 

 

Thanks

Director of interpretation Jennifer Foley recorded curator interviews in the galleries, and a small army of volunteers transcribed those interviews for this project: Katherine Kisicki, Patrick Lucas, Laurel Mazorow, Morgan Psenicka, and Alan Zelina.

 


Cleveland Art, January/February 2014