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Margherita Viggiano Yale Handout

Margherita Viggiano Yale Handout

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Published by: IvyGate on Jan 26, 2012
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Margherita Viggiano
Handout Week 2, January 24-26, 2012
The James Jackson Jarves Collection: Historical background
From: Susan B. Matheson,
 Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery
. YUAG, 2001On December 4, 1867, The Prudential Committee of the Yale Corporation voted to authorize a loan of $ 20,000 to James Jackson
 Jarves “on the deposit of his collection of paintings.” The collection consisted of 119 Italian Old Master paintings, ranging
from ca.
 A.D. 1200 to “the best periods of Italian art.” With Jarves’s attributions, the paintings bore names like Giotto, Cimabue, Duccio,
Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Raphael, and Ghirlandaio. The term of the loan was for three years, and the pictures were to be installed inthe galleries in the School of Fine Arts, Nowhere else in America could such a collection be seen. James Jackson Jarves was a native of Boston who began his search for fortune as a publisher and entrepreneur in Hawaii. Failing completely after eleven years of struggle,he moved to Europe. In Paris and Florence he discovered art, and he became an avid collector of Old Master paintings [the text doesnot specify where he took the money]. He specialized in early Italian paintings long before they were fashionable or even respected[in the United States perhaps
how did this woman escape peer-review?] Frequently the artists whose works Jarves bought were
called “Primitives.” Nevertheless, he amassed what remains today, in spite of changing attributions, one of the most signific
antcollections of early Italian paintings outside Europe. The decision by Yale to exhibit those paintings was not an obvious one. It cameabout because of the perception and intrepidity [sic] of a few key faculty members. The first was Lewis R. Packard (B.A. 1856), who, just appointed as Hillhouse Professor of Greek [with a B.A.?] met Jarves on a transatlantic crossing in June 1867. Jarves told Packardof his pictures and of his unfulfilled desire that they should reside in a museum in Boston or New York, and offered to sell them to Yale for $ 40,000, allegedly a fraction of their cost. Packard communicated the offer to a friend at Yale, the librarian Addison VanName (B.A. 1858), with the request that Van Name put the question to Professor Edward Salisbury. Salisbury was receptive, andfurther information about the collection was sent to him. The Jarves Collection was already well known. It had been exhibited at theNew York Institute of Fine Arts in 1860 and at the New-York Historical Society in New York, and Jarves claimed that Mr. Corcoran wished to acquire them for the gallery he was building in Washington. Clarence Cook, the art critic for the
 New York Daily Tribune
,had published a notice in the August 1867 issue of the
, a New York monthly, that the collection was for sale, along with a pleathat some wealthy New Yorker buy it for the city as the basis for a metropolitan picture gallery. This appeal failed, but the idea of agallery took hold: in 1870 the Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded. Only later did the Metropolitan acquire its early Italian
paintings. Charles Eliot Norton, one of the cultural leaders of Boston and a trustee of the Boston Athenaeum, had workedcontinuously to have the Jarves pictures acquired by the Athenaeum, although without success, from 1859 until they were depositedat Yale. Norton had also first met Jarves on a transatlantic crossing [it is illuminating to see how many transatlantic crossings people would take at the time], in this case in 1855, and he had visited Jarves and his pictures in Florence in 1857. As part of his campaign,Norton called testimonials from all over the world from supporters as diverse as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sir Charles Eastlake, T. A.Trollope, and Signore Bucci, the director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, but it was not enough. The Athenaeum had never shown
pictures like Jarves’s Italian paintings, having focused instead on contemporary American and British artists, and its patron
s werenot interested in contributing to the purchase. Norton was a graceful loser, and he was confident in his assurances that the
collection would bring distinction to Yale and New Haven… Norton wrote:
It is several years since I saw the collection, and I have no doubt that its value and importance have been muchincreased by the additions which Mr. Jarves has made to it. But even as I knew it, it was a collection of t he highest
 value in this country, as illustrating by well chosen examples the historic development and progress of Italian art. […]
Such a collection would make a truly magnificent foundation for a gallery, and the institution which should acquire it, would have an easy preeminence over all other schools of art in America.Congratulatory articles about the loan appeared in the
 New York Daily Tribune
The New Englander and Yale Review
, and
The Nation
;but there remained some concern over the possible reception of the pictures by the public. Gilman, writing in
The New Englander and Yale Review
, warned that:Such pictures must not be looked at with the same eye for entertainment and amusement, with which people areaccustomed to run through the annual exhibitions of modern pictures. There is need for the same appreciative inquiry and study which is needed for the works of Dante and Homer. The aims of the painters, their beliefs, theirsurroundings, their aspirations, must be borne in mind, or the visitor will turn away unrewarded by the sight.Russell Sturgis, Jr., a New York architect and a Ruskinian like his friend and fellow architect P.B. Wight, was asked to prepare acatalogue of the paintings. Sturgis was a member of the committee charged by the Art Council with arranging for the reception anddisplay of the pictures. Other members were Professor Salisbury, who paid for the catalogue, Professor Gilman, who wrote about thecollection for The
New Englander and Yale Review
, and Luther Maynard Jones (B.A. 1860), a New York attorney who was, along with
Sturgis, Jarves’s official representative in the negotiations with Yale. Sturgis attempted to add
ress the possible public concern and
misunderstanding of the pictures in his introduction to the catalogue. He discussed authenticity and the notion of “Primitives,”
offered explanatory and historical notes on each picture, and provided a historical table of the general sweep of Italian art. Going far
beyond the simple lists of works that made up the catalogues of the 1858 and 1867 loan exhibitions at Yale, Sturgis’s catalog
ue of the Jarves pictures is the first at Yale, and apparently in any American museum, to approach a modern scholarly exhibition catalogue. Also included as further encouragement for the viewer were some of the testimonial letters from the earlier catalogue of thecollection from its showing in New York in 1860, which described the pictur
es as the ‘unique Jarves Collection of Old Masters.”
The Jarves pictures were hung in the north gallery of the School of Fine Arts building, whose Ruskinian Gothic architecture, based by the
architect’s own admission on Italian sources, was especially suit
able for them. Jarves supervised the hanging personally. The gallery did not open at once, however. Concerns about the public reaction caused College officials to delay the opening until Sturgis
catalogue was ready, and when the gallery did open to the public in May 1868, it was opened without a formal ceremony or
reception. […]
The installation that Jarves arranged remained in place until 1892, when following conservation, the pictures were re-hung with new labels. The original hanging was chronological. Like many 19
century displays, the pictures were densely hung, oftenone above another, sometimes as many as five deep. Their ornate Gothic-style gold frames and their rich jewel-like colors were cause
for much comment. […] Among the pictures are some extremely important works, even with today’s less ambitious attributions,including… the
Hercules and Deianira
by Antonio del Pollaiuolo; two fragments from a
Temptation of St Anthony
cycle on analtarpiece by the Master of the Osservanza Triptych; a
Portrait of a Lady with a Rabbit
by Rodolfo Ghirlandaio, and an Annunciation
by Neroccio de’ Landi.
The terms of the agreement of 1867 stipulated that Jarves was to repay the loan in three years, or forfeit thepictures that had been deposited as collateral. The pictures being his only significant asset, Jarves was obliged to put them up for saleto raise the $ 20,000 he owed. An auction was arranged for November 9, 1871, to be held in the gallery where the pictures hung at Yale. The sale was advertised in the New York and Boston press, a catalogue was prepared, and an auctioneer was brought in fromBoston [the passive form allows room for interpretation]. Jarves had expected to sell the pictures individually in order to raise thenecessary funds, but the day before the auction [typical Yale style] he learned that the College would only permit the sale of thecollection en bloc [they had no right to do so, but they wanted to buy the collection for nothing]. Jarves was devastated [see whathappens when you enter a pact with the devil]. He had been well aware, based on past experience, that there was no individual, norany institution in either Boston or New York who could or would bid on the whole collection. The auctioneer began the sale shortly before noon with a s
tatement that had he known of the College’s lien on the pictures, the sale would never have been advertized as it
 was [they had kept him in the dark regarding their intentions]. To say that the pictures could be sold individually only on thecondition that
the total price realized by the collection would exceed $ 20,000 was unrealistic, “a farce” at best, and the only solution

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