An unprecedented exhibition, The Princely Collections, Liechtenstein: Five Centuries of European Painting and Sculpture unites nearly one hundred Old Master and 19th-century works by over 60 artists from the Princely Family’s current and historic collections.
The American Federation of Arts (AFA) is pleased to announce an exhibition celebrating one of the most storied private collections in Europe, The Princely Collections, Liechtenstein: Five Centuries of European Painting and Sculpture. The exhibition features masterworks by some of the most prominent figures in Western art, and presents the evolution of the Princely Collections against the backdrop of five centuries of European history. Spanning from the reign of the first Prince of Liechtenstein, Karl I von Liechtenstein (1569-1627), through the current reigning prince, (HSH) Hans-Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein (born 1945), the collection was shaped over successive generations to include world-renowned holdings of European art. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the family was compelled to deaccession a number of exemplary paintings and sculptures, many of which are now in leading museum collections around the world. This exhibition is the first to present the reunion of some twenty-five of these deaccessioned masterpieces alongside outstanding recent acquisitions by the Princely House of Liechtenstein, many of them never-before-exhibited in public.
Artists in this exhibition are some of the most important in the history of European art, including Renaissance painters and sculptors Antico, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Sandro Botticelli, Fra Filippo and Filippino Lippi, Andrea Mantegna, Simone Martini, and Leonardo da Vinci; masters of the Baroque period, including Anthony van Dyck, Orazio Gentileschi, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Peter Paul Rubens; and, from the eighteenth century, Canaletto, Jean Siméon Chardin, and Hyacinthe Rigaud. The nineteenth century is represented by German and Austrian artists such as Friedrich von Amerling and Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, whose works are rarely seen in North America.
Tracing the evolution of this aristocratic collection, The Princely Collections, Liechtenstein: Five Centuries of European Painting and Sculpture will explore the relationship between princely collecting practices and the international art market. Collecting by the Liechtenstein family began in earnest during the 17th-century, inspired by Baroque ideals of princely arts patronage characteristic of the period. Successive generations of the princes of Liechtenstein shared this devotion to patronage, a commitment conveyed in the exhibition through a number of key commissioned works, including 18th-century princely portraits such as Hyacinthe Rigaud’s Portrait of Prince Joseph Wenzel I von Liechtenstein in the Full Regalia of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1740), as well as more intimate portraiture of the young Liechtenstein princesses by lauded 19th-century Austrian painter Friedrich von Amerling.
While the tastes and collecting proclivities of the princes of Liechtenstein changed throughout the centuries, certain artists, such as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, were perennial favorites and the collection once contained a remarkable 65 works by these two 17th-century painters. Today, Rubens is represented more prominently than any other artist in the princely collection, and nearly a dozen examples by this Flemish Baroque master will be on view. In 1643, Karl Eusebius I von Liechtenstein (1611– 1684) was the first Prince to acquire Rubens for the collection, followed by his son Prince Johann Adam Andreas I von Liechtenstein (1657–1712), who was responsible for acquisitioning such key Rubens works as the Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens (c. 1616), a charming highlight of the exhibition.
The exhibition will also reveal the role of historical events in shaping the princely collection’s holdings. Loans from the National Gallery of Art and National Gallery of Canada, reunited with the current Princely Collections for the first time since their deaccession, demonstrate the bearing on the collection of political upheaval, particularly following the Second World War.
Due to the expropriations in the Czechoslovakian Republic after 1945, the princely family lost 80% of their assets, including enormous territories, castles and industries that to this day have not been returned by the Czech Republic following the collapse of communist rule. Consequently, between 1950 and 1969 Prince Franz Josef II (1906 –1989) von und zu Liechtenstein found it necessary to sell a number of significant works, many of which entered important institutional collections. As a result, the National Gallery of Art holds Ginevra de’ Benci, the only painting in the Americas by Leonardo da Vinci (shown exclusively in Washington, D.C.), which was acquired from the Liechtenstein collection during this deacquisition period. Similarly, the National Gallery of Canada’s A Woman at her Toilet by Rembrandt van Rijn (shown exclusively in Ottawa) entered the museum’s collection during this postwar phase along with other major masterworks from the Princely Collections.
During the past three decades, the reigning Prince Hans-Adam II has renewed the artistic legacy left by his ancestors, reestablishing the Princely Collections as one of the world’s preeminent private collections of European art. In this time, nearly 1000 works have been acquired – among them prime examples by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Canaletto, Rembrandt, and Rubens – adding even greater brilliance to this superlative collection.
The exhibition is curated by Johann Kräftner, Director of LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections; with Alexandra Libby, Assistant Curator of Northern Baroque paintings at the National Gallery of Art, Washington; and Anabelle Kienle Ponka, Acting Senior Curator of European and American Art at the National Gallery of Canada. The organizing curator for the American Federation of Arts is Suzanne Ramljak.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated scholarly catalogue co-published by the American Federation of Arts and DelMonico Books•Prestel. Leading scholars will contribute essays addressing the historical evolution of the Princely Collections, contextualizing the Collections within the history of taste, and discussing the importance of the Liechtenstein purchases for the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the National Gallery of Canada and other public collections. These essays will be complemented by chronologically arranged entries on individual paintings and sculptures by the curatorial team and independent scholars.
The Princely Collections, Liechtenstein: Five Centuries of European Painting and Sculpture is organized by LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vaduz–Vienna; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the American Federation of Arts.
The exhibition is supported by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.