The Met Museum receives a rare painting by Poussin –

Passed down, bought and sold over the centuries, a lavish 17th-century collector’s item has finally entered a museum collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has received the work of Nicolas Poussin agony in the garden (1626–1627), courtesy of New York collectors Barbara and Jon Landau, who have been listed on ART news‘s Top 200 Collectors list every year since 1995.

The Met already owns six paintings by Poussin, including Midas Lavant at the Source of the Pactolus (ca. 1627), which was part of the original seed purchase that established the museum in 1871. Now it has seven paintings by the artist with the addition of agony in the gardenwhich is in theaters today.

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The Landaus possessed agony in the garden over the past 22 years, and has since held pride of place in the “Central Hall Gallery with four of our greatest masterpieces,” Jon said in an email. They recently loaned the work to the Louvre’s 2015 ‘Poussin et Dieu’ exhibition. He continued: “The Met already had the largest group of Poussins in North America, and our photo really adds and enhances its collection. of the artist.”

“Poussin is this titan of European art, even if he is not necessarily, for some people, a household name,” said David Pullins, associate curator in the European painting department at the Met. “One of the reasons it is so important is that it is crucial in the color versus line debate that would dominate European artistic creation and art theory for centuries.”

This work is particularly unusual in Poussin’s oeuvre, as it is one of only two works the artist accepted as oil on copper (as opposed to oil on canvas). Measuring just over 24 inches by 19 inches and barely a millimeter thick, agony in the garden was made shortly after the French painter’s arrival in Rome in 1624. There he studied Italian Renaissance painting and the new archaeological discoveries of Greco-Roman antiquities.

At the time, Poussin was largely unknown, as he had only just begun to establish the connections necessary to secure a significant following. He needed something to draw attention to himself, so he bought a large sheet of copper, which at the time would have been an expensive material for a young artist. Typically, copper would have been used to make an engraving, and because one could execute prints using copper as a plate, it would help an artist recoup the out-of-pocket cost for a sheet of it.

“This oil-on-copper medium in 17th-century Europe was always considered a real collector’s item, a luxury item – it upped the ante,” Pullins said. “It’s a glitzy object from the start, drawing attention to itself. It would have been the kind of thing that a collector would have kept as a smaller storage space that was really meant for a close look, and so naturally it rewards that kind of close look.

A slightly rusty copper surface with a Latin inscription reading 'SALVATORIS IN HORTO GETSEMA / NI A NICOLAO POVSSIN COLORIBVS / EXPRESSA'

Nicholas Poussin, agony in the garden (back), approx. 1626–27.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Jon and Barbara Landau in honor of Keith Christiansen

On the back of the painting is a Latin inscription, “SALVATORIS IN HORTO GETSEMA / NI A NICOLAO POVSSIN COLORIBVS / EXPRESSAwhich is consistent with how the work would have been inventoried when it entered the collection of Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo, the brother of Cassiano dal Pozzo, who would eventually become Poussin’s greatest patron in Rome.

agony in the garden represents the scene from the New Testament in which Jesus, after the Last Supper, goes with Saints Peter, James and John to the Garden of Gethsemane. His apostles quickly fall asleep, as seen in the foreground, while Jesus prays to God the Father, asking him if he might be spared from his near death and later for strength in what is to come. In response, a stream of angels descends to Earth, bringing the cross that Jesus will carry and then be crucified until the next day. To this composition, Poussin adds an architectural structure in stone blocks which has not yet been identified but which could possibly refer to the founding of the Church at the death of Jesus. The scene is mostly set in a reddish ocher palette accented by pops of color in the characters’ clothing.

“What’s wonderful about this work is that you still see Poussin developing his own thoughts on the color versus line debate,” Pullin said. “There is still a real legacy of Venetian painting in the light and the manipulation of certain parts, but there are also these heavy sculptural and classical references with the figures in the foreground and the architecture and the background. He is still fixing the problem.

Landau called Poussin a “divine artist,” adding, “The emotional and artistic underpinnings of religious paintings are what matter. When done brilliantly, religious paintings can touch us all.

The Landaus began to collect in the 1970s, beginning with American modernists including Arthur Dove, Milton Avery, Stuart Davis and Marsden Hartley. In the 80s they broadened their interests to pre-Impressionist French artists like Courbet, Corot, Delacroix and Millet, and in the 90s they finally came to Old Master paintings and Renaissance sculpture.

Around this time, the Landaus befriended Met curator George Goldner. Over the years, Goldner “one day asked me if I was interested in seeing the best painting for sale in New York,” Jon recalls. Together they traveled to the famous Wildenstein & Co. gallery in New York, where they laid eyes on Poussin’s agony in the garden. “We thought it was one of the most beautiful paintings we had ever seen and quickly arranged to acquire it,” added Jon.

Although the Landaus at one time owned two works by Poussin, they eventually parted ways with the other work and have since doubled down on their commitment to purchase Renaissance sculptures. Chez Poussin agony in the gardena baroque work of art, “has become an outlier in the collection,” Jon said.

Like most great collectors, the Landaus have had an ongoing relationship with the Met for decades, having loaned pieces from their collection to the museum over the years, served on committees and pledged another work, the work of Théodore Rousseau. . Hamlet in Auvergne (1830), in 2020. “The Metropolitan has been our most important teacher of all,” Jon said. “Countless staff members have reached out to us in every way possible to increase our knowledge and experience of great art.”

Among them is Keith Christiansen, the former chairs of the Met’s European painting department, in whose honor the Landaus donated the work. “Keith Christiansen taught us more than anyone about art,” Jon said. “We consider the Met to be our second home and the nation’s greatest arts institution.”

Pullins added: “As a curator, you don’t really expect to knock on the door adding a Poussin – that’s a big deal.”

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