The Triumph of Venus, still in its original frame, commissioned by Tessin and exhibited at the Parisian Salon of 1740.
Nationalmuseum treasures in New York
Here’s a rare opportunity for New Yorkers and visitors to enjoy: a view of more than 75 masterpieces hardly (if ever) shown outside Sweden since their acquisition in the 18th century. The exhibition Treasures from the Nationalmuseum of Sweden: The Collections of Count Tessin is showing at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York. Conveniently located a few blocks south of Grand Central Station on Madison Avenue, a visit is a must if you’re anywhere close to Manhattan this spring. The show, open through May 14, features work by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt van Rijn, Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, and is the first collaboration between the two institutions in almost fifty years. The Nationalmuseum’s core holdings were assembled by Count Carl Gustaf Tessin (1696–1770), a diplomat and one of the great art collectors of his day. The son and grandson of architects Tessin held posts in Vienna, Berlin, and Paris, where he came into contact with the leading Parisian artists of the time and commissioned many works from them. By the time he left the city in 1742, he amassed an impressive collection of paintings and drawings. Among the fourteen paintings in the exhibition are three commissioned by Count Tessin and exhibited at the 1740 Parisian Salon. Chief among these is Boucher’s Triumph of Venus, above, which has made its first journey to North America. The Nationalmuseum in Stockholm has been closed for renovation since 2013 and will reopen in 2018. Don’t expect another chance to see this collection on this side of the Atlantic in our lifetime.
The Morgan library and museum itself, with several exhibitions, a shop, café and frequent musical entertainment in the Gilbert court is worth a visit. But right now and just as impressive as the show itself are the facts you will pick up from the life and times of the count Tessin along with Sweden’s 18th century role in Europe prior to the reign of Gustav III and the French Revolution.
The Morgan Museum is at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, NYC, a short walk from Grand Central and Penn Station. www.themorgan.org
The Triumph of Venus
François Boucher’s mythological painting, The Triumph of Venus, still in its original frame, was made for Tessin and exhibited at the Parisian Salon of 1740. The ambitious composition comprises complex interlocking figural groups modeled with supreme assurance. Venus emerges from the waves, accompanied by nereid sea nymphs and robust tritons; the nereid at left resting with her eyes closed and stroking the neck of a dove is one of the most carnal figures in Boucher’s body of work. It was the most expensive painting Tessin acquired during his Paris sojourn and one of his most prized acquisitions, but it was also among the works he was driven to sell to King Frederick in 1749