New 18th and 19th century acquisitions

Author: Gina Costa


Small Laocoon

 Notre Dame, IN The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame announces the acquisition of several important works which enrich the Museum’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century permanent collections. “Our holdings in this period are among the many strengths of the permanent collection of the Museum,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, Director of the Snite Museum of Art. “Such carefully selected acquisitions will make a further and lasting contribution, individually and collectively.”

Chief among them is the life-size marble sculpture Laocoön and His Sons that depicts a scene from the Roman poet Virgil's Aeneid (29-19 BCE) in which Laocoön, the Trojan priest of Apollo, and his two sons are killed.


Dated to between 1650 and 1780, the Snite Museum’s version is modeled after the ancient sculpture on view at the Vatican Museums in Italy. The slightly smaller replica was most likely made for a wealthy collector's private home, signaling the owner's superior taste and classical education. 


University of Notre Dame benefactors Michael and Susie McLoughlin donated the sculpture after having lent it to the Snite Museum in 2016. “The Laocoön group is the centerpiece of our eighteenth-century gallery where it draws historical, philosophical, and stylistic connections among many of the other paintings and decorative arts on display there,” said Cheryl Snay, Curator of European Art at the Museum. “Visitors are riveted by the scale, technique, story, and the ideas about virtue, violence, and heroism that the sculpture embodies,” she continued.


The Museum is also pleased to announce a major addition to its celebrated collection of 19th-century photography. Portrait of Ella Monier-Williams was created by the artist and writer the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, widely known as Lewis Carroll. “Dodgson was perhaps the most prolific amateur English portrait photographer of his day," observes David Acton, Curator of Photography. "Best remembered, however, as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He grew up in a large family, which nurtured a penchant for storytelling, and an enduring sympathy for children. Both traits contributed to his skill behind the camera.” In the summer of 1866 he made this portrait of Ella Monier-Williams, an albumen print which suggests the sitter’s awakening love of literature.



Notable among other acquisitions to the Museum’s renowned collection of prints and drawings, Edmond de Goncourt by the artist Félix Bracquemond , is a remarkable example of the etcher’s art, incorporating different techniques, invention, and skillsets. Bracquemond’s subject is Edmond de Goncourt, a prominent writer and trendsetter in the second half of the nineteenth century.


Finally, new to the Museum’s important collection of decorative arts is an exquisite, black-ground coffee pot from the late eighteenth century. Dated to around 1795, it is from a service demonstrating a departure from the more common neoclassical style with reserves depicting regional costumes of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. The coffee pot is from the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea, a porcelain manufactory in Naples, best known for its table settings decorated with neoclassical motifs.


“Félix Bracquemond’s 1882 print, Portrait of Edmond de Goncourt—and the black-ground coffee pot, the first of its kind in the Virginia A. Marten Collection—each represents a technical tour-de-force in their respective areas,” states Cheryl Snay, Curator of European Art at the Museum. “Both works add considerably to our understanding of the tastes, intellectual interests, and entrepreneurial motivations that inspired artists and their clients during the nineteenth century.”


These four important acquisitions will enrich the Museum’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century permanent collections, among the many strengths of the permanent collection of the Museum. They will play a major role in the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art scheduled to open late in 2022.



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The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame 

Considered one of the finest university art museums in America, the Snite Museum's permanent collection contains over 25,000 works that represent many cultures and periods. Notable are the Museum's holdings in Mesoamerican and Olmec art, African art, European art from 1400 to 1900, Decorative Arts, Prints, Drawings, Photography, the George Rickey Sculpture Archive, and Ivan Meštrović Collection. Sculpture is displayed in the Mary Loretto and Terrence J. Dillon Courtyard, and in The Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park.