During Andrew Mellon's visits to London in the mid-1920s with the famous art dealer, Joseph Duveen, they would frequently visit the National Gallery in London, a state-funded art gallery that was free to the public. It is probable that during these visits Duveen pointed out to Mellon that the United States did not have a national art gallery. So it is in the winter of 1927-1928 that Andrew Mellon began to seriously plan his creation of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. This is when Mellon's art purchasing strategy totally changes. He would no longer purchase English and Dutch portraits and landscapes to decorate his personal homes; he would now purchase European Old Masters, Italian Renaissance paintings and religious paintings to complete a great collection that would become his founding gift to the museum.

Niccolini-Cowper Madonna (1508) by Raphael

In 1928 Mellon purchased through Duveen this exquisite Raphael (so-called for its former owners, the Niccolini family and the Earls of Cowper) for over $836,000, which at that time was the most ever spent for a painting. It is the first purchase Mellon made after his decision to create a national gallery. Raphael was considered the most highly-esteemed artist for rich American collectors at the time.

In 1930-1931 an astonishing opportunity would present itself  to Mellon which would allow him the opportunity to purchase 21 of the world's greatest masterpieces that would become the core of the collection that began the National Gallery of Art. I will write about that amazing story in my next post. 

The National Gallery of Art is located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets along Constitution Avenue.
  • Admission is always FREE.
  • Open Monday-Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • Open Sunday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Closed on December 25 and January 1. 
All photos in this blog post were taken by me during my visit in September, 2013.

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