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MIA Adds Prized Objects to its Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection
Saint Benedict of Palermo, attributed to Jose Montes de Oca, c. 1730-–40.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA), one of the nation’s leading art museums, is undertaking a thoughtful and purposeful expansion of its sculpture and decorative arts collection. Over the past few months, the museum has acquired a seminal piece of 18th-century French silver, rare examples of 17th- and 18th-century Spanish religious iconography, and 16th-century Venetian cutlery, among other significant objects. The museum’s James Ford Bell Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Eike D. Schmidt, leads the MIA’s department of Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture. Schmidt, who joined the MIA in 2009, is overseeing the purchase of these important works and is carefully evaluating the MIA’s collection, and its display and interpretation.

“The Decorative Arts collection is the largest and most diverse in the museum,” Kaywin Feldman, MIA Director and President, said. “We brought Eike Schmidt on board as our curator of decorative arts and sculpture because of his keen eye and encyclopedic knowledge of the field. He’s been able to evaluate and identify where our holdings are particularly strong and where we should consider filling gaps.”

In the past six months, the museum has added a number of important objects to its sculpture and decorative arts collection, including:

Masterpiece Cup and Cover, Johann Friedrich Baer, 1746
French silversmith Johann Friedrich Baer created this silver cup to gain master-craftsman status in the Strasbourg silversmith guild. As an example of his proficiency, the cup showcases all silversmithing techniques, incuding casting, embossing, chiseling, and chasing. The cup also demonstrates Baer’s command of popular iconography, integrating rocaille foliage ornamentation with expressive depictions drawn from mythology and history.

Saint Benedict of Palermo, attributed to Jose Montes de Oca, c. 1730–40
This polychromed and gilt-wood statute of St. Benedict, attributed to José Montes de Oca, is the only known work by the artist not held in a Spanish collection. Saint Benedict of Palermo, also known as Saint Benedict the African (1524–89), was the first African to be canonized a Christian saint in modern times. Africans in 18th-century European sculpture were frequently represented as subordinates; this rare example celebrates an African’s accomplishments.

Two-piece Cutlery Set, late 16th century
This rare example of a knife and fork from 16th-century Venice is particularly noteworthy for its deep red coral and intricate gold inlay.

Ludovisi Saint Peter, marble body made in 2nd century Rome; gilt-bronze head, hand and feet, and red marble throne attributed to Bastiano Torigiani (Italian, flourished 1573–96)
This sculpture is a remarkable artistic achievement in adapting a Roman fragment for new use during the Renaissance. The figure of a togatus, which may have originally represented a philosopher but also bears resemblance to late ancient sculptures of the Egypto-Roman deity Serapis, was adapted in the late 16th century to portray Saint Peter.

“Given our recent reassessment of the collection, we were able to quickly evaluate these pieces’ relevance to our own collections,” said Schmidt. “With the support of our trustees and members we have been able to move swiftly to acquire these objects to enhance our permanent collection. We’ve also found important sculptures in storage that were hiding in plain sight and are now receiving their proper due and a prominent display in our galleries.” One of the most exciting discoveries is a large ivory crucifix by the Master of Guadalcanal, which had originally been labeled French, but which Schmidt determined to be Spanish, likely from the important Catholic city of Seville.

Schmidt’s area of particular focus is European sculpture of the Renaissance, ivory and bronze sculpture, and Greco-Roman art collected in the early modern age. Before joining the MIA, he served as director and department head, European Sculpture and Works of Art, Sotheby’s, London. Prior to that, he was the associate curator, Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts | Eike D. Schmidt | Kaywin Feldman |

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