Cleveland (December 22, 2019)—Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include a rare 14th-century Korean Buddhist painting from the Goryeo period, drawings by Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836–1904) and Maarten de Vos (Flemish, 1532–1603) and five photographs by well-known Ohio artist Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956).
Rare Goryeo period Buddhist painting
Acquisition raises the level of the CMA’s collection of Korean art
Exquisitely painted silk scrolls with Buddhist subjects reached the pinnacle of achievement in Korea during the Goryeo period (918–1392). Today, only about 160 paintings from that era survive, and very few have come on the market in the United States and Europe in the past 25 years. The rarity of such works makes The Fourth King of Hell an exceptionally important acquisition, and significantly raises the level of the museum’s collection of Korean paintings.
The Fourth King of Hell is from a series of paintings depicting the ten Buddhist kings of hell. As the concept of salvation was emphasized in Buddhist schools throughout medieval East Asia, the practice of painting the ten kings of hell developed in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907). Such paintings were utilized during Buddhist rituals and sermons to promote ethical behavior. The practice of painting the ten kings of hell was subsequently adopted in Korea and perfected during the Goryeo period. Sophisticated compositions, subtle brush work and use of color, and generously applied gold highlights characterize the distinctive style of 14th-century Korean Buddhist paintings produced in the royal painting workshop. Relatively small in scale, these delicate works were made for intimate ritual settings, such as private rooms for worship installed in the houses of the elite.
In The Fourth King of Hell, the king is seated behind a desk, staring impassively at a group of figures in the foreground. The king’s secretary orders prison guards to ensure that the king’s verdict is correctly executed. Sinners suffer in a giant cauldron filled with boiling water; one figure is pierced with a burning spear, while another presses his palms together in silent prayer.
The Fourth King of Hell has been exhibited in prestigious institutions such as the National Museum of Korea (Seoul) and has received much scholarly attention. The painting is from the only complete surviving suite of paintings from the Goryeo period depicting the ten kings of hell. Some of the other scrolls in the suite are in the collections of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard, the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the National Museum of Korea.
The Fourth King of Hell, late 1300s. Korea, Goryeo period (918–1392). Hanging scroll; colors on silk; 24 x 17 3/4 in. (image only)
New Works on Paper
The museum has acquired works on paper by French artist Henri Fantin-Latour and leading Antwerp artist Maarten de Vos that increase the prominence of the CMA’s collection of drawings.
The quality and rarity of Fantin-Latour’s drawing Fairy of the Alps builds upon the museum’s existing strength in 19th-century French works on paper. The work represents the type of dramatic themes for which Fantin-Latour was most celebrated. Fairy of the Alps features Manfred, hero of German composer Robert Schumann’s 1848 musical composition Manfred, appearing before one of seven apparitions that he must confront following the death of his lover. The drawing relates to a lithograph made the same year and was likely produced by the artist in order to work out formal aspects of the composition. Fairy of the Alps is unique for the finish of its composition and its fine state of preservation and has held an important place within the artist’s oeuvre since its creation.
Fairy of the Alps will be highlighted in a 2022 exhibition and publication on the museum’s collection of 19th-century French drawings sponsored by a major grant from the Getty Foundation’s Paper Project.
A drawn design for a print by De Vos strengthens the CMA’s collection of 16th-century Northern European works on paper, a targeted area of growth for the collection. Adoration of the Magi features De Vos’s characteristic pen and ink and wash technique, which suited the drawing’s function: to delineate the composition as well as plot out its highlights and shadows as a guide to be followed closely by the engraver, Theodor Galle, who translated the design onto a print matrix. Given its functional role, it’s remarkable that the drawing survives intact. De Vos’s closely cropped composition brings the three magi as well as Joseph into close contact with the seated Virgin and Child. The embellished vessels as well as the costumes, headgear and curly locks of the magi are portrayed in De Vos’s ornamental style.
Adoration of the Magi may be shown in the CMA’s upcoming collaboration with the Albertina Museum, Vienna, focusing on 16th-century Dutch and Flemish art and in a later exhibition and catalogue of the museum’s Dutch and Flemish drawings.
Fairy of the Alps, c. 1885. Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836–1904). Charcoal on laid paper; 62.5 x 46.5 cm (24 1/2 x 18 1/4 in.)
Adoration of the Magi, c. 1590. Maarten de Vos (Netherlandish, 1532–1603). Pen and brown ink and ink wash, indented for transfer; sheet: 20.2 x 16.0 cm
Five photographs by Ann Hamilton
The museum has acquired five photographs by influential and widely recognized contemporary artist Ann Hamilton. While best known for her large-scale installations and public commissions, Hamilton has long been a maker of powerful photographic images. The group represents her inaugural photographic project: the body object series, which she began in 1984. This set represents a highly desirable selection of images that are rarely available on the art market today. The acquisition of these important, early studio prints bolster the CMA’s holdings of Hamilton’s art, which include a fiber sculpture and a print.
In the body object photographs, which were conceived and staged by the artist, her own body serves as a site of modification and/or replacement: a shoe replaces her nose, a suit of seeds her skin, a sagebrush her head. Hamilton wears sculptural costumes and interacts with objects in scenes that she has created; the tableaux were shot by photographer Bob McMurtry. The images are surrealist and absurdist, and sometimes humorous, with strong roots in conceptual, performance and installation art. The sense of touch is a prevalent theme. Hamilton’s imagery may be personal, but the images are universal in their evocation of the body as a receptor of sensation.
body object series #3: Shoe, 1984, printed by 1988. Ann Hamilton (American, b. 1956). Five gelatin silver prints; each approx. 4 x 4 in.
Contact the Museum's Media Relations Team: