The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College’s art museum, recently made a major acquisition: The Finding of Moses, a Florentine Baroque oil painting by Jacopo Vignali.
“This work of art stands as a perfect example of the gravitas and decorum of the finest art in Florence,” said James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass Director of the Art Center. He also noted some key aspects of the painting. “The grace of the presentation, the fluid concatenation of gestures, the bravura painting performances in the rich, pearl-encrusted gown of Pharaoh’s daughter and the submerged legs of the attendant, all speak to the mastery of the artist at the peak of his powers,” Mundy explained.
Vignali (1592-1664) was among a group of key artists, including Jacopo da Empoli, Giovanni Bilverti, Agostino Ciampelli, Cigoli, Lorenzo Lippi, Gregorio Pagani, and Il Passignano, who provided church and palace decorations to the Medici and other Tuscan noble families. The Finding of Moses is considered among his most important works.
“Vignali is one of the unrecognized great masters of 17th century Florentine painting,” said Miles Chappell, professor emeritus at the College of William and Mary, and the foremost U.S. scholar on Florentine Baroque art.
The addition of this work to the museum’s collection is significant for a few reasons. The Art Center was already in possession of one of only two known oil sketches for the painting. The work’s provenance, exhibition and publication history have been clearly detailed; the painting was with the Pucci family of Florence from its commission in 1625 until the 1960s and then it went to a private collection until last fall, thus assuring its authenticity. Also, the Art Center was among the first generation of museums in the United States to take an interest in Baroque art in the 1930s, and this acquisition serves to deepen that commitment. The Finding of Moses will be on view through August.
Yvonne Elet, assistant professor of art history at Vassar, sees many applications for using this work in the college’s curriculum. “This painting was commissioned to decorate a noble villa and offers interesting opportunities for teaching in art history at every level of coursework, engaging issues from formal and iconographical study to social and cultural history,” said Elet. “Beyond art history coursework, I think the painting will be interesting to students of Italian culture, the history of religion, women’s studies, and costume.”
Elet continued, “Of course, the presence in our collection of both a preparatory oil sketch for the work and the finished painting is a tremendous teaching opportunity. There are significant differences in composition, the number and arrangement of figures, their pose, costumes, and the disposition of colors; these differences will allow for rich comparisons.”
Mitchell Merling '83, the Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, also expressed his enthusiasm for his alma mater’s acquisition of this work. “There is no doubt that this is a major painting, with its life size full-length figures set skillfully in a pastoral landscape. It is sure to be a major focal point in the gallery,” said Merling. “The painting, in Baroque terms, brings us both joy and gladness, and causes us to marvel, both at the great deeds of the past and at the painter’s skill at rendering them.”
About The Finding of Moses
Jacopo Vignali (Italian 1592-1664)
Signed and dated 1625
Oil on canvas
72 ½ x 82 ¾ inches (184 x 210 cm.)
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 19,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.