05. detail of Louis XIV long case clock (régulateur
violonné à tête en cartouche allongé), about 1685
06. Vase (one of a pair), about 1760–65
07. Louis XV mounted “Maiblümen” vase,
08. Cabinet on stand, about 1805
09. Regency “Buhl” 07. Louis XV mounted “Maiblümen” vase, inkstand, about 1815
11. Louis XVI mounted vase (beau bleu vase « Daguerre
ovale » or « cassolette à monter »), about 1786–88
14. Cabinet on stand, about 1665
15. Louis XVI clock with vestals carrying the sacred fire
(Vestales portant le feu sacré), about 1789
16.Console Table, about 1735
18. Pair of Louis XV mounted double gourd
vases, about 1740–50
SPLENDOR AND ELEGANCE: EUROPEAN DECORATIVE ARTS AND DRAWINGS FROM THE HORACE WOOD BROCK COLLECTION
January 22, 2009-May 17, 2009
Deep insight and a highly personal approach to beauty and harmony of design are the hallmarks of the sumptuous Brock collection of aristocratic furniture, decorative objects, drawings, and paintings showcased in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from January 22 through May 17, 2009. Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection, on view in the Torf Gallery, features more than 160 works assembled in the last 30 years by New York collector, Dr. Horace Wood (“Woody”) Brock.
Heavily concentrated in the French and English 18th-century, the furniture and decorative arts range from 17th-century Flemish to the Regency period (George IV) of early 19th -century England. Art cabinets, console tables, vases in rare materials splendidly mounted in gilt bronze, sturdy blue and white Delft ware, fine porcelain from Chelsea, Meissen and Sèvres, French clocks and andirons in imaginative forms all testify to the beauty and fantasy of design characteristic of the Baroque, Rococo and Neo-Classical eras. The some 70 choice drawings reveal Dr. Brock’s passion for drawing materials that have a subtle but rich coloristic impact—examples include drawings with glowing ink washes from gold to brown, red chalk, and blue paper. The drawings are primarily Italian and French in origin and range in date from the mid-16th to the early 19th centuries. These include outstanding works by such masters as Peter Paul Rubens, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Jean Honoré Fragonard, and Guercino, as well as many equally expressive drawings by less-celebrated artists.
The works assembled in the exhibition are an eclectic mix of furniture, decorative objects, drawings, and paintings that showcase breathtaking craftsmanship, abundant fantasy and perfect harmony of proportion, whether it be a rare long-case clock made by André-Charles Boulle for Louis XIV, a fantastic English Chinoiserie tea table from the age of George II, or a François Boucher oil sketch—a preliminary study for a tapestry on mythological themes.
The drawings and paintings are extremely diverse in subject matter, including: Biblical and mythological narratives, literary illustrations, architectural fantasies and ruins, landscapes, studies of the human figure and design drawings for the decorative arts. Many of the narrative drawings involve the sculpturally rendered human figure in action, but the key figure drawing in the collection is the pen anatomical study by the young Rubens. The outstanding landscape in the collection is a painting, Mountain Landscape with Travelers (1623), a large-scale painting, part of a set of six created by Joos de Momper in the 1620s for the Spanish ambassador to the Netherlands. The greatest Biblical illustration on paper is Domenico Tiepolo’s Resurrection of Christ, one of the finest pen and wash drawings from the series of over 300 large format finished New Testament drawings Tiepolo made after 1785. Among the liveliest literary illustrations are those on blue paper by J.B. Oudry for the fables of La Fontaine, such as The Rat and the Elephant (1732).
The exhibition involves a complex dialogue between harmonious stylistic groupings of furniture and objects (Louis XIV, English Neo-Palladian, German Rococo, Empire, etc.), arranged in a roughly chronological sequence, alternating with thematic clusters of drawings that provide a counterpoint to, as well as a cultural backdrop for, the objects. Splendor and Elegance was initiated by the late Tracey Albainy (Russell B. and Andrée Beauchamp Stearns Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture) and is curated by George Shackelford (Chair of the Art of Europe and Arthur K. Solomon Curator of Modern Art at the MFA) and Clifford S. Ackley (Chair of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs and Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Curator of Prints and Drawings at the MFA).
A 160-page catalogue, Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection, accompanies the exhibition. It features essays by Dr. Horace Wood Brock, English decorative arts specialist Martin P. Levy, and Clifford S. Ackley. The hardcover catalogue, produced by MFA Publications, is available for $55 at the MFA Bookstore and Shop or by visiting www.mfa.org.
For more information please visit The Museum of Fine Arts Boston