This exhibition celebrates a noteworthy event in the history of the Museum: the acquisition of an encyclopedic collection of European prints, made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Muriel and Philip Berman. In 1876 the most extensive collection of graphic arts then extant in this country was bequeathed to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by John S. Phillips. His gift was later complemented by substantial collections of European prints formed in the early 20th century by John T. Morris and John F. Lewis and given to the Academy by their respective wives in 1925 and 1933. Last year the three collections, comprising over 43,000 prints, were acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Academy, thanks to a major gift from Mr. and Mrs. Berman. The Museum also transferred to the Academy in exchange six works of American art acquired as gifts from Lisa Norris Elkins, Bryant W. Langston, and Samuel S. White, 3rd, and Vera White, and with funds given by John H. McFadden, Jr., Thomas Skelton Harrison, and the Philip and A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation. John S. Phillips (1800-1876), the son of a successful China trade merchant in Philadelphia, was a founder of the Franklin Institute, an early member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, and an indefatigable mechanic who was delighted to assist in constructing microscopes, steam engines, and clocks. He became a notable collector of prints and drawings in the last three decades of his life, visiting England, France, Germany, and Italy. His goal was historical completeness, and his vast collection provides an invaluable source for study and reference. As is so apparent in this exhibition, Phillips had a special penchant for collecting complete series of prints. John F. Lewis (1860-1932) was primarily a collector of American painting but his range of interests included Indian miniatures and the technical aspects of printmaking. His collection was especially strong in chiaroscuro woodcuts of the 15th and 16th centuries and in prints by William Hogarth. John T. Morris assembled a collection of about 1,000 prints, with an emphasis on portraits such as those in the exhibition by two leading French portraitists, Robert Nanteuil and Pierre Imbert Drevet. The Museum now possesses one of the most comprehensive print collections in this country. The selection of this initial exhibition drawing upon the Berman Gift reflects the great breadth of the collection and emphasizes the richness of certain aspects: works by 17th-century Italian masters, Dutch and Flemish Mannerist prints, and chiaroscuro woodcuts. Among the artists represented here not only by particularly fine impressions but also by a variety of images are Giorgio Ghisi, Hendrik Goltzius and his followers, Pietro Testa, and William Hogarth. Individual objects of great rarity include Antonio Pollaiuolo's ambitious Battle of the Naked Men, the unique and charming image of The Virgin Bestowing a Scapular on a Monk by Jacques Bellange, and a complete set, of which a number are shown here, of Giovanni Piranesi's grandiose Prisons in the first edition. From Mantegna to Goya can only begin to suggest the full range and depth of the newly acquired European print collection, from which many future exhibitions will be drawn and which will offer a wealth of knowledge and pleasure to future generations of scholars and viewers.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College