New Acquisitions

The Wadsworth Atheneum’s world-renowned collections continue to grow with new acquisitions, carefully selected by our curators on an ongoing basis. Some highlights:


BowlThe Stephen Gray Collection of American Arts and Crafts
In 2014 the Wadsworth received the final installation of 50 objects from the collection of celebrated Arts and Crafts collector Stephen Gray (1936–2013), including early Gustav Stickley furniture and an array of Arts and Crafts metalwork, prints and pottery. Shown here is Goose Bowl by Albina Mangini of the Saturday Evening Girls-Paul Revere Pottery (August 1914, glazed earthenware)




Gentileschi press res

Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593–c. 1656)
Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, c. 1616–18
Oil on canvas
Charles H. Schwartz Endowment Fund, 2014.4.1

This self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi is one of only a few known self-representations by the artist. By depicting herself as a cultivated woman, dressed in a luxurious costume and playing a lute, Artemisia shows herself at a decisive moment of her career, when she looked for support among the circle of elite patrons in Florence. This portrait was owned by the powerful Medici family, perhaps by Cosimo II de’ Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany. Its illustrious provenance documents the extraordinary success of this female artist during her lifetime. Although her works have been sometimes confounded with those of her father Orazio, Artemisia became one of the leading painters of the seventeenth century thanks to her bold innovations, use of sensuous colors, and mastery of the brush. –Oliver Tostmann, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Paintings, Sculptures, and Drawings

Self-Portrait as a Lute Player is not currently on view; it will be a centerpiece of the Fall 2015 reopening of the Morgan Memorial Building.



Covered Cup
Augsburg, Germany,
c. 1670–74
Mounts by Hieronymus Priester (master 1649–d. 1697)
Ivory, narwhal, silver-gilt, precious and semi-precious stones
Gift in memory of Mae Cadwell Rovensky by exchange, The Anna Rosalie Mansfield Gift by exchange, Gift of Miss Mary C. Barton by exchange, The European Decorative Arts Purchase Fund, and the Douglas Tracy Smith & Dorothy Potter Smith Fund, 2012.4.1

This extraordinary cup and cover was most likely carved and mounted in Augsburg in the early 1670s, and is arguably one of the finest examples of a group of similar cups avidly collected by the German sovereigns for their Kunstkammern, or cabinets of curiosities. Through exploration and trade, Europeans were brought into contact with curious natural products and exotic peoples, depicted here in the beautifully carved stem figures of American Indians. The “sea unicorn” depicted on the front of the cup references the belief that narwhal tusks were actually the magical horns of unicorns and thought to cure melancholy, eliminate nightmares, detect poison, and protect against the plague. Narwhal tusks were a staple of Kunstkammer collections because of this association, and were prized by the likes of Edward I of England, Philip II of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots Elizabeth I, and Francis I. –Linda Roth, Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts

Covered Cup is not currently on view; it will be a central figure in the Cabinet of Art and Curiosities for the Fall 2015 reopening of the Morgan Memorial Building.

2012.2.1Fall-Front Desk, c. 1870
American, Madison County, Mississippi
William Howard (c. 1805–after 1870)
Southern yellow pine, salvaged crate wood, and varnish
The Elijah K. and Barbara A. Hubbard Decorative Arts Fund, The Evelyn Bonar Storrs Trust Fund, and The Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund, 2012.2.1

Carved symbols adorning this desk speak to plantation life in the Deep South. Images such as shovels, picks, and water buckets allude to the grueling work of field slaves, while wash boards, scissors, and tableware illustrate the tireless toils of domestic slaves. At the center, a hand points to a pistol perhaps in reference to the Civil War. The creator, William Howard, was an emancipated slave from the Kirkwood Plantation owned by William and Catherine McWillie. Like many of the clocks, chairs, firearms, and decorative arts in this gallery, Howard’s desk reflects a new spirit in American culture and design that flourished in the nineteenth century. –Alyce Perry Englund, Richard Koopman Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts

Fall-Front Desk is currently on view in the museum’s Avery Building, 2nd floor mezzanine



Pair of Andirons, 1900–02
American, East Aurora, New York
Roycroft Studios
Designed by William Wallace Denslow (1856–1915)
Probably cast by Peter Robarg
Cast and wrought iron
The American Decorative Arts Purchase Fund and the Henry D. Miller Fund, 2012.5.1 – .2 

Book illustrator William Wallace Denslow designed these captivating abstract seahorse andirons while he served as the publications manager for the Roycroft Studios. Denslow is best known for his colorful illustrations in the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and used the seahorse motif in his artist’s signature as well as in the Roycrofter’s magazine, The Philistine. The acquisition of these andirons represents the first example by the Roycroft Studios to enter the Museum’s collection. –Alyce Perry Englund, Richard Koopman Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts

Pair of Andirons is currently on view in the museum’s Avery Building, 2nd floor mezzanine



Reginald Marsh (American, 1898–1954)
Wooden Horses, 1936
Tempera on board
The Dorothy Clark Archibald and Thomas L. Archibald Fund, The Krieble Family Fund for American Art, The American Paintings Purchase Fund, and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 2013.1.1

In Wooden Horses, Marsh pictured himself holding a young woman in his arms while riding on the Racing Derby Merry-Go-Round at Coney Island in Brooklyn. During the Great Depression, when the popular resort was known as the Nickel Empire, a reporter declared, “For five cents Coney will feed you, frighten you, cool you, toast you, flatter you, or destroy your inhibitions. And in this nickel empire, boy meets girl.” This ride was designed to mimic live competitive races, propelled by innovative technology. The horses moved back and forth, controlled by cables beneath the platform, which rotated at twenty-five miles per hour. In this painting, Marsh was exploring speed and acceleration, and modern forms of romantic pursuit. The energetic curving contours, the carousel’s spinning spokes, and the sketchy, vigorous lines convey the ride’s dizzying motion and the sensual abandon of the exhibitionist riders. –Robin Jaffe Frank, Chief Curator and Krieble Curator of American Painting and Sculpture

Wooden Horses is currently on view in the Avery Building, third floor mezzanine, and will be part of the upcoming exhibition, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 – 2008, opening January 31, 2015


2013.25.1Richard Tuttle (American, born 1941)
Formal Narration, 1973/2013
Wood, paint
Gift of the artist, in the name of the Trinity College Class of 1963, 2013.25.1

Richard Tuttle, who had his first solo museum exhibition in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s MATRIX 10 (1975), is well known for his unorthodox work as much as its unorthodox presentation. His pieces have variously been adhered to the ceiling, glued to the baseboard, emerged as a wire from a wall, and hung in midair. The floor sculpture installation Formal Narration is one such unusual and emblematic work. In the artist’s personal collection since its creation in 1973, it has only been presented in one exhibition in Japan, and was reworked in 2013 for its gift to the Wadsworth. A signature work by the artist, it is neither painting nor sculpture, but both. Each block is hand-painted with a simple graphic pattern of two colors, then placed in the specific configuration on the floor, near the wall, as determined by the artist. –Patricia Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art

Formal Narration will be on view  as part of an installation of contemporary works by American artists May 24 – September 21, 2014 in the museum’s Avery building.



Kara Walker (American, born 1969)
Wall Sampler I, 2013
Cut paper, on latex paint, on wall
The Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund, 2013.23.1

“Most pieces have to do with exchanges of power, attempts to steal power away from others.” —Kara Walker

Kara Walker has become among the most important and internationally recognized artists of her generation. Her explorations of issues of race, gender, sexuality, and violence take the form of the eighteenth-century medium of cut-paper silhouettes, similar to those in the museum’s collection depicting the likenesses of important figures like Daniel Wadsworth, George and Martha Washington, and Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. While the use of the silhouette format demonstrates Walker’s mastery of craft and composition, it also tempers the difficult dramas depicted. Set in scenes evoking the antebellum American South, Walker confronts troubling periods in American history and the fantasies and abuses that continue into the present day. Wall Sampler I draws on twenty first-century cultural realities, such as the election of the first black American President, the incitement to patriotism, racialized (or post-racialized) nationalism, fear of race or gender contamination coupled with perverse desire—abuse—which is the inscription of fear onto a body, and the eruption of violence directed toward that body. –Patricia Hickson, Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art

Wall Sampler I is not currently on view; it will be displayed upon the reopening of the museum’s contemporary art galleries in early 2015.

From Our Collection

1594, Caravaggio 1731, Canaletto 1749, Panini 1773, Wright

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