The Wallace Collection's First Transatlantic Loan


The Wallace Collection's First Transatlantic Loan

We are excited to announce that we will be loaning Titian's Perseus and Andromeda, to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for its upcoming exhibition Titian: Women, Myth & Power.

The loan marks the first time American audiences will be able to see Titian’s poesie in its entirety, commissioned over 400 years ago, following exhibition showings in London and Madrid.

Sixteenth-century painting of a naked woman and a man fighting a sea creature
Titian (Italian, 1488-1576), Perseus and Andromeda, 1556

Perseus and Andromeda is one of a series of six large-scale mythological paintings commissioned from Titian by King Philip II of Spain, and painted between 1551 and 1562. Each painting was inspired by a scene from The Metamorphoses, an immensely popular epic poem by the Roman poet Ovid. Philip II did not however prescribe which subjects should be chosen, leaving the choice to Titian.

The commission was a milestone in Titian’s career, and he was conscious that he was creating something unprecedented. He referred to the paintings as his poesie, or poetry, because he wanted them to be the visual equivalent of poetry. The Wallace Collection’s Perseus and Andromeda, perhaps the most dramatic of them all, is also the painting most closely associated with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's Rape of Europa. Although separated by some years, the two were conceived as a visual and emotional counterpoints and it is therefore especially meaningful to reunite this pair in Boston.

Sixteenth-century painting of a woman and a bull
Titian (Italian, 1488-1576), Rape of Europa, 1562

The significance of this loan renews the special connection between the Wallace Collection and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that dates back from before the Wallace Collection was gifted to the nation in 1897. A visitor in her own right, Isabella Stewart Gardner journeyed to Hertford House from Boston on two occasions, once in June 1890 and then again in July 1897, shortly after the death of Sir Richard Wallace’s widow, Lady Wallace. This second visit was with her art dealer Bernard Berenson, and a few years later in 1903 she established the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

This announcement follows the landmark decision in 2019 that the Wallace Collection will loan works on a temporary basis, for the first time in its 120-year history. This power to lend allows the Collection to join other national museums in lending works from its collection, both within the UK and internationally. Although the Wallace Collection is traditionally considered to be a ‘closed’ collection, the terms of Lady Wallace’s bequest do not expressly forbid lending or borrowing.

Sir Richard Wallace himself loaned works extensively to other institutions in Paris and London, notably the Royal Academy and the Bethnal Green museum. This decision has been instrumental in reuniting Titian’s poesie, as well as the Collection’s upcoming exhibition focusing on Rubens’s great landscapes over Het Steen. It demonstrates the significance of the Wallace Collection and its importance to the ongoing narrative of art history.

Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, said:

“I am delighted to help the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum make this historic event possible with our inaugural loan to the United States and to reunite Titian’s legendary poesie. With Isabella Stewart Gardner herself having visited the Wallace Collection on multiple occasions, we like to imagine that that she was inspired by our museum to found her own, with her absolutely marvellous collection at its heart. A major international philanthropist and collector, Sir Richard Wallace firmly believed in sharing his inheritance with a wider audience. Since it was bequeathed to the nation in 1897 by his widow Lady Wallace, this astonishing collection, filled with some of the greatest masterpieces ever created, has captivated audiences from all over the world - a sentiment this important loan embodies as we take this important step in working ever more internationally.”

Discover more about the Wallace Collection's painting by Titian here.

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