More Getty Buys: A Gerard David Holy Family and a Renaissance Still Life

Gerard David, Holy Family, about 1520. J. Paul Getty Museum

The Getty Museum has just announced three painting acquisitions: a Gerard David Holy Family, an early still life by Ludger tom Ring the Younger, and Anton Raphael Mengs' Portrait of Friedrich Christian, Prince of Saxony. (For the Mengs, see yesterday's post.) The Getty says that all three were purchased separately and are to go on display this week.

Gerard David's Holy Family has been widely published but almost never exhibited. The only known public showing was in 1902. Measuring 16 by 13 in, it is said to be in extraordinary condition. Like many of David's paintings, it imports landscape and still life elements into a psychologically astute devotional scene. In the lake in front of the castle is a tiny swan, smaller than the pupils of the holy figures' eyes. Joseph holds a bowl of milk soup. On the lid, prefiguring Christ's betrayal, is a still life of two rotten apples.

Detail of swan at lower center

The Holy Family was last auctioned at Christies in July 2018, setting a new record for the artist ($6.41 million). Early Netherlandish paintings were popular with the Gilded Age collectors who stocked America's East Coast museums. That hasn't left many such paintings for the West Coast. The Getty Holy Family joins a stunning David Coronation of the Virgin, in retro gold ground, at the Norton Simon. The Huntington has a manuscript illumination by David in its Hours of Margaretha van Bergen.

Ludger tom Ring the Younger, Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handed Vase, early 1560s. J. Paul Getty Museum 

Born to a family of German artists, Ludger tom Ring the Younger made his living as a portraitist. In the early 1560s he produced an unprecedented group of independent still lifes, 40 years before such works became popular in the Netherlands. Folksy blossoms are spotlighted against black and tan bands representing a wall and shelf—a delirious anticipation of Severin Roesen, Cézanne, and Rothko.

Newly discovered, the Getty picture becomes the only example of tom Ring’s pioneering still lifes in an American museum. Judging from online .jpgs, it may be the the most engaging of the group. The others adopt a narrower format, a less interesting vase, and/or suffer from blue pigments that turned brown (seen in the Mauritshuis' Narcissi, Periwinkle, and Violets in a Ewer). The vase in all these paintings is believed to be Venetian milk glass, more prized than ceramics. The Getty's unusual bouquet has roses on the bottom and an assortment of identifiable wildflowers at top. On Davide Gasparotto's Instagram account, Metropolitan Museum curator Keith Christiansen called the Getty tom Ring "one of those amazing landmark paintings." 

Bouquet of Flowers was in a Netherlands family collection for over 200 years. Jan Six Fine Art, Amsterdam, sold it to the Getty. In L.A. it joins a portrait drawing by tom Ring (with skull, hourglass, and other still life bits), and Hans Hoffmann's equally extraordinary c. 1585 painting, A Hare in the Forest. These two works of the late German Renaissance are time travelers from outside the standard narrative of European art history. You won't see their like at any other U.S. museum.

Hans Hoffmann, A Hare in the Forest, about 1585. J. Paul Getty Museum

Today's announcement makes six paintings acquisitions for the Getty in 2023, more than the wealthy but selective institution has added in many years. Besides the three just announced, they include an oil sketch, The Death of Virginia, by Guillaume Guillon Lethière; a small oil-on-copper Madonna and Child with Saints by Annibale Carracci; and (the one that got 99+ percent of the hype) Joshua Reynolds's Portrait of Mai, purchased jointly with the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Portrait of Portrait of Friedrich Christian, Prince of Saxony, 1751. J. Paul Getty Museum
Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Mai, about 1776. National Portrait Gallery, London, and J. Paul Getty Museum


Re your "Early Netherlandish paintings were popular with the Gilded Age collectors who stocked America's East Coast museums.": True enough.

The Met holds the world's largest collection of works by Gerard.
Anonymous said…
I was in London over Thanksgiving and saw Mai at the National Portrait Gallery. It is truly magnificent in the flesh. I can't wait to see it at the Getty.