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 [2011.2102, 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. The Lawrence Room, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston records the second-floor gallery named in honor of benefactor Timothy Bigelow Lawrence. His original bequest of armor to the Boston Athenaeum in 1869 was the catalyst for prominent Bostonians to found a separate, new museum for fine arts the following year: the Athenaeum did not have enough space to house the armor, nor enough room to expand to build the new gallery that Lawrence’s wife offered to help finance. Mrs. Lawrence gave $25,000 toward the new museum—the Museum of Fine Arts. Lawrence’s armor, stored in a warehouse that burned in the Great Fire of Boston in 1872, was lost before construction began. Nevertheless, planning for the MFA continued, and the insurance money collected for the loss of the armor helped the Athenaeum trustees to purchase Renaissance textiles, metalwork, and woodwork for the new institution. The walls of the MFA’s Lawrence Room are shown lined with the sixteenth-century English oak paneling that had originally been purchased by Elizabeth Chapman Lawrence, widow of the donor, as the setting for the armor collection. Royal portraits are set into the walls and the room is filled with decorative arts and furniture, including a sled [73.5a-c] from Friesland, a Dutch province, which is partially visible at the right. Beyond the Lawrence Room, the Loan Room is visible, containing between the windows two of the panels by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux originally from the Hotel de Montmorency in Paris [http://www.mfa.org/search/collections?keyword=Hotel+de+Montmorency]. 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
Lower right: E. Meneghelli. 1879.
1879, the artist. With private dealer. By 1957, with M. Knoedler and Company, New York; 1957, gift of M. Knoedler and Company to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 9, 1957)
Gift of M. Knoedler & Co., Inc.