New York City’s Hispanic Society Museum & Library (HSM&L) started out in 1904 as a research library and rare-book collection, before going on to assemble one of America’s finest caches of Spanish Old Master paintings. Its mature mission eventually expanded to take on the whole of the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world, and now the HSM&L is announcing a set of ten new acquisitions that reaches from 16th-century Portugal to 20th-century Mexico.
Over the last several months, collectors have donated Portrait of Ángel Cansino (1933) by Spanish painter José María López Mezquita, as well as a pair of portraits of a Mexican couple (1847-48) by Pelegrín Clavé y Roqué, a Spanish painter active in Mexico. All three works were donated by the families of the sitters, says HSM&L director and chief executive Guillaume Kientz, including a France-based descendant of Cansino who is a celebrated dancer—and, as it happens, the uncle of Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth.
Kientz says the bequests coincided with a number of purchases, including a drop-front Mexican secretary (1650-1700) made of mixed wood and wrought iron bought from London-based collectors, and an allegorical portrait of Francisco Goya painted in 1860, some three decades after the Spaniard’s death, by another Romantic painter, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-1870), who has a number of works in Madrid's Prado Museum. The HSM&L bought the painting for an undisclosed price from Madrid's Nicolás Cortés Gallery. To enhance its rare books and manuscript collection, the HSM&L also purchased for an undisclosed price an early 17th-century letter patent with an unusual decorative binding.
Kientz says the HSM&L has been especially eager to expand its Portuguese holdings, and this new round of acquisitions includes a rare ink-on-paper annunciation by Fernaõ Gomes, a Portuguese artist of Spanish origin who created the only known portrait of Portugal's national poet, Luís de Camões.
The drop secretary may need some conservation treatment, says Kientz, but 20 charcoal drawings by Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco are ready to go on display in early 2023, when the HSM&L will mount a show about the artist.
Donated by California collectors Michael and Salma Wornick, the set of drawings includes studies for Orozco's mural Man on Fire (1939) in Guadalajara, Mexico. A key Orozco work, the vast fresco fills up the neoclassical dome of the main chapel of the city’s Hospicio Cabañas complex. In addition to the new Wornick bequest, the upcoming show will include works that trace Orozco’s influence on other artists.