Hester Diamond, well-known as a collector of Old Masters, has made a nice gift to the Worcester Museum of Art — it’s a tale that shows both her and Matthias Waschek, the museum’s director, to be pretty crafty.
First the gift: it’s a painting by Veronese titled Venus Disarming Cupid, circa 1560, and according to the Worcester museum is “one of the few works by the famed Renaissance master still in private hands.” It shows a smiling Venus playfully taking away the bow of her son Cupid, stopping him in his tracks. The work is currently valued at about $3.5 million, according to a knowledgeable source.
Waschek, who became the museum’s director in fall, 2011, called the gift a “game changer” for the museum, because “While the Museum’s collection includes exceptional Italian Renaissance masterworks by artists such as Andrea Del Sarto and Piero di Cosimo, it has traditionally been stronger in northern European works. This Veronese shifts the spotlight to the south, and reflects our desire to grow and expand the scope and diversity of the Museum’s collection.”
Diamond has only one connection to the Worcester museum — her stepdaughter, dealer Rachel Kaminsky, who joined its board in 2012. She had no connection until then either, but Waschek smartly set out to expand the museum’s connections and increase its support base. He invited Kaminsky to become a trustee. She accepted. The gift ensued, as she and Diamond got to know the museum.
Diamond was also smart to acquire the work at Christie’s in January, 1990. It had been consigned by its owner as “Circle of François Boucher.” But before the sale, art historian and Veronese expert Terisio Pignatti reattributed it to Veronese. When he published it in 1991, he noted the collector’s stamp on the reverse of the canvas, which suggested that the painting was once in the collection of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a county and principality in southwestern Germany.
At Christie’s, it was estimated at $800,000-$1,200,000, and Diamond paid $2,970,000. She placed it on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in late 2006, in the permanent collection galleries. It was also included in the exhibition Venus: Bilder einer Göttin (Images of a Goddess) at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich in 2001. (All this from the press release, which I will link to when it is posted online.)
Diamond said that aside from honoring Kaminsky she had another motive for giving this particular painting to Worcester: “I have always believed that the best public home for a work of art is within an institution where it adds something new to the collection and helps bring in new audiences. Over the years, my collection has evolved, incorporating art from many periods, genres and styles. The Worcester Museum’s willingness to explore new ideas for encouraging audiences of every age to think differently about art reflects the arc of my own collecting.”
Disarming Cupid will go on view at the Worcester Art Museum on September 20, as part of the upcoming exhibition [remastered] — a new installation of its Old Master paintings.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Worcester Art Museum