Exhibit of Religious Art Pays Tribute to 50th Anniversary of the Diocese
January 05, 2012 at 12:01 PM
By TARA CONNOLLY
The first special exhibition at the newly renovated Allentown Art Museum of Lehigh Valley honors the vision of a local philanthropist and pays special tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Allentown Diocese.
The museum reopened its galleries last October after a renovation project by welcoming the return of art from the Kress Collection to its walls with “Shared Treasure: The Legacy of Samuel H. Kress.”
The exhibition, which opened Oct. 16 and runs Sundays through Jan. 15, 2012, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the permanent art gift collection from the Lehigh Township-born native who worked in the stone quarries before establishing the S. H. Kress & Co. five and ten cent store chain.
J. Brooks Joyner, the museum’s Priscilla Payne Hurd president and chief executive officer, said the special exhibition features an estimated 30 works borrowed from other museums, universities and organizations who were recipients of pieces of art from Kress.
The exhibition honors the vision and philanthropy of Samuel Kress and his desire to enrich the cultural life of the nation by presenting almost 3,000 works of European art to churches, museums, universities and other institutions across the United States.
With his fortune, Kress amassed one of the most significant collections of Italian Renaissance and European artwork assembled in the 20th century.
He began the collection in the mid-1920s, while living in a penthouse across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. He purchased a collection of Italian Baroque paintings and sculpture that were thought to be “out of date” and “old fashioned.”
Kress added to his collection in 1929 after giving the Italian government a large sum for the restoration of a number of architectural treasures in Italy.
Joyner said the museum and diocesan officials selected a 13th century Venetian “Madonna and Child” panel painting as part of the year-long celebration of the diocese’s 50th anniversary and in honor of its patroness, Mary Mother of Church.
The panel painting is featured at the entrance to the museum with a recognition and text panel commenting on the joint 50th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the diocese and the gift of the Kress Collection to the museum.
“It is a handsome tribute to the diocese with a description of the significance of this devotional image and its relationship to the diocese,” said Joyner.
According to Joyner, more than half the images are on loan from chapels and cathedrals across the nation, and are primarily Italian, French or Spanish.
“They are magnificent pieces of art that are devotional, sacred and iconic images,” he said.
Pieces range from “The Finding of Moses” by Sebastiano Ricci to the “Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John the Evangelist” by Guidoccio Cozzarelli.
Other pieces include the “Immaculate Conception” by Francisco Zurbaran, “Pope Clement XIII” by Anton Raphael Mengs and “Joseph Presenting His Father and Brothers to the Pharoah” by Francois Boucher.
Along with “Shared Treasure: The Legacy of Samuel H. Kress,” the museum’s permanent Kress Collection is also on display on the second level.
The exhibition is open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and admission is free.