With its renowned, comprehensive collection, why does the Cleveland Museum of Art continue to acquire works of art? The museum seeks out exceptional objects that help convey the stories of human achievement in the arts through time and across the globe in order to provide visitors with a more complete picture of our shared cultural heritage. Such works of art invite us to ponder and better understand the world around us. Thanks to the generosity of our founders and donors, the CMA adds to the collection each year; thus far in 2023, the museum has acquired more than 300 works by purchase, gift, and bequest. Here, we draw your attention to three of them created over a period of nearly 1,500 years.
A large red-figure stamnos (mixing or storage vessel) made in Greece around 435–425 BCE is among the museum’s highlighted acquisitions of 2023. Such vessels of this relatively rare shape were made for mixing and serving wine at Greek symposia, or drinking parties; thus, their iconography frequently features wine-drinking revelry. This example depicts a komos (post-symposium festivity) fueled by wine and music. At the right, a female figure plays the pipes, leading three nearly nude male figures across the vase. The younger, unbearded figure immediately following the woman carries a walking stick, while his bearded companion to the left holds a drinking cup and outstretches one arm, apparently dancing and feeling the effects of his wine. A young man, the last in the procession, concentrates on the music of his lyre. The painting on this vase is attributed to the Kleophon Painter, one of the most important vase painters working during the Age of Pericles (461–429 BCE), a time when art, literature, education, and philosophy blossomed in Athens. It was during Pericles’s rule that the celebrated Parthenon—a temple on the Acropolis dedicated to the goddess Athena—was built. Several figures on the stamnos can be compared with figures on the Parthenon’s north frieze. With this one acquisition, the museum now holds its first stamnos as well as its first vase painted by the Kleophon Painter. Its ownership history has been known for more than a century and has been published numerous times; thus, the museum was able to bring this well-provenanced ancient object into the collection. The stamnos is on view in the Dr. John and Helen Collis Family Gallery for Greek Art (102C).
In January 2023, the CMA acquired Giovanni Battista Foggini’s masterpiece of Italian Baroque sculpture, Apollo Flaying Marsyas, at Christie’s auction “Modern Medici: Masterpieces from a New York Collection.” This bronzetto (small bronze)—which stands two feet tall but emanates monumentality in form and content—relays a story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the overconfident satyr, Marsyas, challenges Apollo, the god of the arts, to a musical duel in which the champion can enact any punishment upon the defeated. The victor Apollo ties Marsyas to a tree and flays him in punishment for his hubris. Foggini captures the moment in which Apollo begins flaying the bound Marsyas. The god’s idealized face, suggestive of controlled fury, is diametrically opposed to the older anguished face of the satyr, who writhes away from the knife. The leading Tuscan sculptor of his generation, Foggini was celebrated during his lifetime for creating bronze sculptures of rare perfection. This intricately tooled sculpture, on view in the Donna and James Reid Gallery for Italian Baroque Art (217), is astonishing for its evocation of dynamic movement and profound emotions.
Readers of this magazine will recall Nancy and Joe Keithley’s magnificent gift and promised gift of more than 100 works of art to the CMA, announced in March 2020 and celebrated in the summer of 2022 with the exhibition Impressionism to Modernism: The Keithley Collection. Among the couple’s handful of promised gifts was Strandgade, Sunshine, painted by one of Denmark’s most celebrated artists, Vilhelm Hammershøi. This past spring, the Keithleys made a gift of this painting to the CMA. The quiet composition of a woman in the shadowy corner of a room is rendered in cool shades of gray and violet. Pale golden light streaming through a mullioned window is the only activity suggested in the austere interior. The figure is presumably Hammershøi’s wife, Ida, and the setting—known from other paintings by the artist during the first decade of the 20th century—is their apartment at Strandgade 30 in Copenhagen. The stillness of the figure, along with the empty space, restricted palette, and repetition of rectangular forms—such as the door, table, windows, and pattern of light on the floor—suggests a poetic, restrained mood. The painting is on view in the Keithley Galleries of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modern European Art (222).