This is one of five paintings featuring the MFA’s collection executed by Enrico Meneghelli, an Italian-born artist who worked in Boston and New York. Little is known about Meneghelli; even his death date remains uncertain. His known oeuvre includes a small number of landscapes, several street...
This is one of five paintings featuring the MFA’s collection executed by Enrico Meneghelli, an Italian-born artist who worked in Boston and New York. Little is known about Meneghelli; even his death date remains uncertain. His known oeuvre includes a small number of landscapes, several street scenes, and at least one still life, but his specialty was the depiction of museum interiors. Paintings documenting collections, both real and imagined [1975.805], first became popular in Europe in the seventeenth century; among the earliest American examples are Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago), which shows an imaginative display of works selected from the Louvre’s collection, and Amasa Hewins’s The Tribuna of the Uffizi [L-R 65.2010][JMS1] , a view of one of the most admired museum galleries of the day. Meneghelli’s pictures feature the actual installations of well-known art galleries, among them the Boston Athenaeum and the Louvre. The largest group shows spaces in the original Museum of Fine Arts building in Copley Square. Founded in 1870, the Museum opened to the public on July 4, 1876. John Sturgis and Charles Brigham designed its Italian Gothic revival building, inspired by London’s then new and innovative South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum). Their original plans also encompassed two projected expansions: one completed in 1879 and one in 1890. While the first item to enter the MFA’s collection was Elijah in the Desert [70.1] by the American painter Washington Allston, the Museum collected and displayed a wide range of material, including Greek vases and Egyptian mummies, European decorative arts and paintings, Japanese arms, and plaster casts of the great sculpture of antiquity and the Renaissance. As was common practice, the galleries were crowded with objects and paintings were hung salon style, one over the other. A Gallery in the Old Museum is a view from the Engraving Gallery into the Lawrence Room with the Loan Room beyond depicted as it appeared before the 1879 expansion. The oak paneling featured in Meneghelli’s painting of the Lawrence Room [57.675] is visible through the doorway, although the cases shown here, displaying decorative arts, are different. The Ledoux panels [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?keyword=Hotel+de+Montmorency] from the Hotel de Montmorency are still seen next to the window in the Loan Room. The objects in these galleries moved after the expansion, thus the painting records the spaces before the middle of 1879. Notes 1. “About the MFA,” Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, http://www.mfa.org/about/ [http://www.mfa.org/about/]; for more on the MFA’s history, see Maureen Melton, An Invitation to Art: A History of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston [http://www.mfashop.com/780878467457.html] (Boston: MFA Publications, 2009). Karen E. Quinn [JMS1]The Hewins will be formally accessioned at the January 26 Board of Trustees meeting. An accession number will be assigned after that.
Lower right: E. Meneghelli.
About 1879, the artist. By 1979, Mr. and Mrs. Stuart P. Feld; 1979, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart P. Feld to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 16, 1979)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart P. Feld