The strength of the museum’s collection of Chinese art, particularly in ceramics, is due in part to a remarkable gift from Alfred and Margaret Caspary. A successful New York stockbroker and a renowned stamp collector, Albert Caspary followed a unique path to collecting Chinese art. His interest in Chinese ceramics may have grown from his acquaintance with John D. Rockefeller Jr., then a leading collector of Chinese porcelains.
In 1939, Caspary purchased more than 400 Chinese porcelains, primarily made during the reign of the Kangxi emperor (1662–1722), from the estate of Glasgow shipping magnate Leonard Gow. When asked why he had purchased the porcelains, Caspary explained that while he could make more money, he could not guarantee an opportunity such as the sale of Gow’s collection would present itself again—a happy circumstance from which the museum and its visitors have benefited greatly. The collection, including a striking vase formerly in the treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony, was put into storage, where it remained until Caspary’s death in 1955, when it was given to the museum.