Summer Show Presents Major Gift of Portrait Medals

portrait medal of Leonello d’Este by Pisanello

The Frick Collection recently announced the largest acquisition in its history—a gift of approximately 450 portrait medals from the incomparable collection of Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher. Comprising superlative examples from the art form’s invention in Renaissance Italy through four centuries of its flourishing across Europe, the Scher Collection is arguably the world’s most comprehensive and significant collection of portrait medals in private hands. Comments Director Ian Wardropper, “Henry Clay Frick had an abiding interest in portraiture as expressed in the paintings, sculpture, enamels, and works on paper he acquired. The Scher medals will coalesce beautifully with these holdings, being understood in our galleries within the broader contexts of European art and culture. At the same time, the intimate scale of the institution will offer a superb platform for the medals to be appreciated as an independent art form, one long overdue for fresh attention and public appreciation.”

This summer, The Frick Collection celebrates the gift of the Scher Collection with The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals. The exhibition, which showcases more than 120 medals along with sculptures and works on paper from the Frick’s own holdings, examines the history of these objects and the range and versatility of the fine art form. Exploring medals as essential to the history of portraiture in Western art—produced by artists who were also well-known painters, sculptors, and printmakers, from Pisanello in Renaissance Italy to David d’Angers in nineteenth-century France—the exhibition honors portrait medals as a triumph of sculptural production on a small scale. As part of the exhibition, a short film demonstrates one method by which medals were made, and visitors will have the opportunity to handle a reproduction of one of the most famous medals of the Renaissance.  

The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals is organized by Aimee Ng, Associate Curator at the Frick, and Stephen K. Scher, collector and art historian. Accompanying the exhibition is a richly illustrated exhibition catalogue including an essay by Aimee Ng. (In the spring of 2018, a catalogue of the entire Scher Collection will be published, featuring essays by leading medals scholars and illustrated entries about each of the almost one thousand medals in  the collection).

The exhibition is made possible by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, with major support from an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden and the Centennial Foundation in honor of Matthew McLennan. Additional funding is provided by Margot and Jerry Bogert, Frances Beatty and Allen R. Adler, the Christian Keesee Charitable Trust, and Charles Hack and Angella Hearn. The exhibition catalogue is underwritten, in part, by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.  


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