Introduction

This exhibition is the first public presentation of the thirty-three figurative bronze statuettes assembled over the past twenty-five years by Janine and J. Tomilson Hill. The collection spans the fifteenth through the early eighteenth centuries, when the statuette reached its highest stage of development in Europe. Sculptures from Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are represented, including many rare examples, some of which are exhibited here for the first time.

The bronzes highlight the achievements of generations of European master sculptors who were inspired by the creative potential of the figure in all its manifestations: human, animal, mythological, and divine. The compositional inventiveness, technical refinement, and artistic quality of these powerful works provide a stimulating introduction to the art of the statuette. From the Renaissance to the present, small bronzes generally have been displayed in visual dialogue with works in other media. In order to evoke the contrast and kinship between the Old Master and modern traditions, some of the sculptures are shown with twentieth-century paintings from the Hill collection, which is distinguished by its inclusion of works from disparate periods.

Each of the exhibition’s three installations reflects an aspect of the Hills’ collecting sensibility. In one gallery, larger bronzes are juxtaposed with Hill collection paintings by Cy Twombly and Ed Ruscha. Another gallery is devoted solely to the statuette, from its classical revival in Renaissance Italy to its flowering in France under Louis XIV. Upstairs in the Cabinet Room, religious sculptures are paired with Old Master and contemporary works of art. In all three galleries, the bronzes are shown freestanding and without vitrines, affording a rare opportunity to view these small sculptures with the same intimacy that their original patrons and collectors enjoyed.