By Thomas P. Campbell, Director

Distributed by Yale University Press 2012

Last week, this blog introduced a new guide to the New York’ Metropolitan Museum of Art with the idea of exploring the history of art works in the museum with pictures snapped in 2011 that coincidentally appear in the “…Guide”.  Naturally, each art work has its own story.  Each story is initiated by the guide but other sources are drawn on to flesh out the art works provenance and history; i.e. showing another piece of art in New York.

The following painting by Rosa Bonheur called “The Horse Fair” is a depiction of the horse market in Paris.  The painting was begun in 1852 and was first shown at the Paris Salon of 1853.  The Salon was started in 1725 and between 1748 and 1890, it was considered by some, to be the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world.

ROSA BONHEUR (1822-1899)
ROSA BONHEUR (1822-1899)

Rosa Bonheur was a French artist, 1822-1899, that is best known for her paintings of horses, farm animals, and lions.  Her father was a portrait painter and her mother, who died when Rosa was eleven, was a pianist.  She was the oldest child of four children trained as artists.  For that period in history, she was a maverick in the world of art and life as a symbol of early feminism.  Her father, an avowed socialist, encouraged her independence and drive for equality of men and women.

When Rosa was 37 years of age she commented: Art is an absorbent tyrant. It demands heart, brain, soul, body, the entireness of its rotary. Nothing less will win its hightest favor. I wed art. It is my husband – my world – my life dream – the air I breathe. I know nothing else. My soul finds in it the most complete satisfaction. I married art…what could I do with any other Husband? (Copywrite by Michael D. Robbins 2005)



The famous industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt gifted “The Horse Fair” to the museum in 1887 (this must have been a posthumous gift because Vanderbilt died in 1877).  The painting is huge; i.e. it is 16 feet wide and just over eight feet tall.

The cabinet in the following picture was exhibited in 1867 at the Paris Exposition Universelle.




1867 Cabinet

The cabinet did not get good reviews in Paris but a nearly identical cabinet, done by the same artist, is exhibited in the MMA.  The artist is Charles Guilaume Diehl, a German cabinet maker.  The central plaque was created by Emmanuel Fremiet.

The plaque commemorates a military triumph of King Merovech in 451 AD.  It was a victory for the Visigoth/Roman alliance over Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Catalaunian Field.  Merovech was, according to some accounts, the founder of the first Frankish tribe and this battle was the beginning of the end for the Huns effort to destroy the Western Roman Empire.   This was pyrrhic victory for the Western Roman Empire because it was in precipitous decline by 455.

The plaque shows King Merovech atop a chariot driving over a fallen enemy.


The cabinet was gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Richardson in 1989 (Mr. Richardson was elected Trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1999).  Richardson is a graduate of Princeton University (1961) where he majored in the history of art and went on to Harvard Law School to graduate in 1967.  He practiced law as a member of the Office of the General Counsel of the World Bank.  F. E. Richardson & Co., Inc. of New York City is a firm that specializes in acquisitions and investments in growth companies.

The “…Guide” is an interesting door to the subject of art and patrons of the art world.  [contact-form-7 id=”1710″ title=”Contact form 1″]

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