The Discovery Museum presents Kress collection of ten old master paintings to Fairfield University


Image: Kress paintingTen old master paintings dating from the mid 14th through the early 18th centuries and representing the major periods, styles and schools of Italian Renaissance and Baroque painting, were recently presented to Fairfield University by The Discovery Museum in Bridgeport, Conn.

The paintings represent a spectrum of religious and secular images generally attributed to the followers or the studio workshops of some of the noteworthy major painters of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. An appropriate and secure installation plan is being developed for the paintings, where students and the public may view the artworks.

The acquisition enhances an already thriving art history program, said Fr. Aloysius P. Kelley, President of Fairfield University, in a letter thanking the Discovery Museum for the gift. "Fairfield University is proud of its excellent Department of Visual and Performing Arts and its art history program. The possibility that our students and faculty will have these paintings as a resource for their academic work is most exciting," Fr. Kelley wrote.

The donation will provide an excellent study tool for art history students, who will have the opportunity to explore every aspect of the paintings, from origins to themes to restoration, said Philip Eliasoph, Ph.D., professor of art history at Fairfield University.

"This is a magnificent study collection which comes to us through enviable provenance of the Kress family allowing students to have first-hand access for their class assignments" Dr. Eliasoph said.

"Within the next few years, art history students will be developing a comprehensive catalogue of these paintings enabling us to place them into their historical, cultural and artistic contexts."

The paintings were originally given to The Discovery Museum by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation just before the museum opened in 1962 as the Museum of Art, Science and Industry. Since then, the museum's mission has changed to focus on science and technology. The gift of the paintings to Fairfield, along with other donations made to Bridgeport-area institutions, completes the museum's transition.

"The reason we selected Fairfield University to receive the Kress collection was its exceptional art history program, its reputation for collections management and its accessibility to the public," said Paul Audley, president of the Discovery Museum Inc.

To make the paintings available for study by art students and the general public preserves the original intent of the Kress Foundation. The New York-based Foundation's main collection is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., but the foundation has offered smaller collections to numerous institutions nationwide with the hopes of increasing access to great works of art. The foundation was started by Samuel H. Kress and following his death, continued to procure paintings under the leadership of Kress' brother, Rush H. Kress. The entire collection consists of more than 3,000 works of European art. In acquiring the paintings, Fairfield joins the ranks of such colleges as Amherst, Bowdoin and Oberlin and universities such as Princeton, Harvard and Notre Dame who also maintain Kress collections.

The oldest paintings in the collection given to Fairfield, "St. Anthony Abbot" and "St. Andrew" are gilded egg tempera panels that date to the late 14th century. "One can only imagine these two saints appearing on the wooden structure of a Sienese altarpiece painted as an 'ex voto' (sacred offering) after the devastating impact of the Black Death. The Bubonic Plague, which killed more than two-thirds of the population of Siena beginning in 1348, was remembered in most of the devotional paintings by artists of the next generation," commented Dr. Eliasoph.

"These saintly images are very close to the hand of the master of Siena, Pietro Lorenzetti. Inspecting the details we see marvelous passages in the texture of their drapery, the faultless treatment of the hands, and highly expressive physiognomic facial details. This was an anonymous Tuscan painter who must have survived the catastrophe of the plague."

The paintings are: "Madonna and Child," circa 1525, a follower of Ambrogio Borgognone; "Portrait of a Lady," c. mid 16th century, a follower of Bronzino (Agnolo di Cosimo); "Portrait of a Boy," c. 1655-1743, attributed to Fra Vittore Ghislandi; "Madonna and Child," c. 1530/40, attributed to Pietro degli Ingannati; "Landscape with Figures," c. 1783, Basilio Lasinio; "St. Anthony Abbot," c. late 14th century, a follower of Pietro Lorenzetti; "St. Andrew," c. late 14th century, a follower of Lorenzetti; "Andromeda and Perseus," c. 1710, attributed to Paolo de Matteis; "The Nativity," c. late 16th century, a follower of Jacopo Tintoretto; and "A Judgement Scene," c. 1450, attributed to Lorenzo Vecchietta.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 12, 2003

Vol. 35, No. 181