NEW YORK.- The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired a drawing of the Archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of Christ by the Netherlandish master Lucas van Leyden (Leyden ca. 1494 1533 Leyden), it was announced today. The drawing, dating to the 1520s, enters the Museum's collection through the combination of a promised gift by Leon D. and Debra R. Black and purchase by the Museum. It is now the only drawing by the artist in America. The work, in pen and brown ink with traces of squaring in black chalk, is the pendant to a drawing depicting the Virgin looking up from her book that is in the Kupferstich kabinett, Berlin. Both works were monogrammed by the artist and were most likely conceived as models for stained-glass windows. The monumentality of the figures, and especially that of the Archangel, as well as the affecting, controlled, yet sensitive drawing style, situate them among the masterful drawings of the artist's maturity.
"Given its quality, importance, and rarity in the field, this drawing is a spectacular addition to the Metropolitan Museum's drawings collection and we are most grateful to the Blacks for making it possible," stated Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Museum. It also crowns our efforts over the past 15 years to make the Met the most comprehensive repository of Netherlandish drawings in America."
Lucas van Leyden was the greatest artist of the Northern Netherlands to have emerged before the end of the 16th century. He gained his international fame mainly through his prints; as a painter he is known only by around 15paintings. His drawings, which belong to the highlights of 16th-centuryNetherlandish art, are almost equally rare only 28, including the one just acquired by the Metropolitan, are generally accepted by scholars as by the artist, many of which are in the collections of the British Museum (eight sheets) and the Louvre (four).
The drawing is a typical example of Lucas's late pen drawings, characterized by the concentration on one, or few, figures, which are given full importance in the composition, and by a subtle net of varying hatchings and cross-hatchings. The composition follows a long-established iconographic tradition that also includes the Metropolitans own Merode triptych and a contemporary Annunciation by Joos van Cleve. However, in this drawing and its pendant, Lucas concentrates almost exclusively on the figures, omitting all details of the interior in which the scene takes place except for the lectern at which the Virgin is reading and Gabriel's usual attribute of a scepter. The drawing will be included in the fall 2008 exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum's curators in honor of Director Philippe de Montebello's31-year tenure at the Metropolitan Museum, on the occasion of his upcoming retirement. The exhibition, The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions, will be on view in the Museum's Tisch Galleriesfrom October 24, 2008, through February 1, 2009.