Now I know that Joseph Stalin was not the most likable person in world history. However lovers of the National Gallery of Art should give thanks to him for ordering the sale of over 250 masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum in 1930 and 1931. The Russians needed American currency to finance their industrialization, so Stalin ordered the Hermitage to sell some of the museum's most important paintings, some of which had belonged to both Czar Nicholas I and Catherine II, empress of Russia.  Andrew Mellon took advantage of this amazing opportunity to purchase 21 of the world's greatest masterpieces for nearly $7,000,000. These paintings became part of the collection that Mellon donated to the museum as his founding gift. How ironic that Andrew Mellon, the archcapitalist, would purchase paintings from the archcommunist, Joseph Stalin.

Several of those paintings are part of the museum's superb Italian collection:
The Alba Madonna (1510) by Raphael
St. George and the Dragon (1510) by Raphael

By purchasing these two Raphael paintings, the Alba Madonna for $1,700,000 (surpassing the price he paid for  the Niccoli-Cowper Raphael) and the St. George and the Dragon for $745,000, Mellon became the only American to have purchased three Raphael paintings.  

Venus with a Mirror (1555) by Titian

Titian made the depiction of the female nude his quintessential subject. Some 15 copies and variations of this painting are known, either by him or his assistants, but this canvas is by Titian’s hand alone. However, for some reason he painted this portrait over another completed painting.  

The Adoration of the Magi (1478/1482) by Botticelli

Like Titian and his Venus paintings, Italian Renaissance painter Botticelli painted several versions of the theme of the Adoration of the Magi. This version was probably painted in Rome because Botticelli was there at the request of Pope Sixtus IV to fresco part of the Sistine Chapel, along with other leading Florentine masters of the day.

The Finding of Moses (1570/1575) by Veronese

Along with Titian and Tintoretto, Veronese was one of the great trio that dominated Venetian painting in late 16th-century Renaissance. He was known for his large biblical paintings, commissioned for monasteries and churches in Venice and Verona, plus he was the leading painter of fresco ceilings in Venice including in the Doge's Palace. 

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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