Three recent acquisitions by the Princeton University Art Museum
are notable for their aesthetic excellence as well as their ability to tell great stories about important moments in the history of their genres and cultures. The works also add new depth to several key collections areas at the museum and reflect a renewed focus on acquiring world-class works of art that are each exemplars of the best of their kind.
A stunning 12th-century celadon ewer adorned with an unusual under-glaze carved and incised design and lotus petal decoration becomes the centerpiece of the museum's Korean collection, which has grown significantly over the past decade through donations of art and will be a focus of future collecting. Ceramics are highly prized in Korean culture (indeed probably the pinnacle of Korean art, from a time when Korea dominated the world's ceramic traditions), and Goryeo-dynasty celadon wares are widely considered the high point of ceramic artistry.
A rare and meticulously detailed painting attributed to the 13th-century Chinese master Wang Zhenpeng (ca. 12801329) is one of the finest examples of jiehua or "ruled line" architectural painting outside of China. Architectural painting was one of the recognized subject categories of traditional Chinese painting and is currently an area of particular interest at Princeton, already the repository of one of the finest collections of Chinese painting outside of China. Although the artist's work became the model for subsequent architectural painters, few authenticated examples of his work have been found and this may well be one of the last such works available to enter into museum collections. The painting depicts the Pavilion of Prince Teng, one of the most frequently cited monuments in Chinese art and literature. Built in 653 and rebuilt dozens of times over the centuries, its current incarnation now stands overlooking the Gan River at present-day Nanchang, Jiangxi province.
An arresting pastel portrait by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (17851823) is one of the most outstanding examples of this quintessentially French 18th-century genre to have appeared on the art market in recent years and represents a major addition to the museum's European holdings. Although best known for his large allegorical paintings and imperial portraits of celebrities, Prud'hon also carried out many oil and pastel portraits of middle-class citizens while living for a time in rural France in the late 1790s. The subjectNicolas Perchet, a local judge and former revolutionarysits confident but unadorned, his vivid engagement with the viewer hinting at his close friendship with Prud'hon. The work is technically masterful, showing Prud'hon's signature method of juxtaposing rather than blending broadly applied layers of pastel, a tactility that forecasts the blurred immediacy of pastel portraits by Impressionist practitioners such as Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas.
All three works are purchases made possible by the extraordinary legacy of past benefactors, notably Fowler McCormick from the Princeton class of 1921, heir to the fortune built by Cyrus McCormick and International Harvester, who cumulatively have established purchase endowments that are unrivaled among university museums.