Birmingham’s noteworthy collection of Italian art is thanks largely to a generous gift by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation shortly after the Museum was founded in 1951. These thirty-nine paintings and sculptures form the core of the European art collection. With additional gifts and purchases, the Museum is able to provide a survey of Italy’s artistic achievement from the explorations of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the innovations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to the exuberance of seventeenth and eighteenth century production. Several of the works are by celebrated artists of their day, such as Pietro Perugino, Paris Bordon, and Antonio Canaletto. Numerous other works, albeit by lesser-known masters, are among the finest examples of their kind. Paintings more recently added to the collection include a delicate devotional painting by Marco Zoppo, a luminous St. Sebastian by il Bacchiacca, and a dynamic, unfinished work by Giovanni Lanfranco. The disproportionate number of paintings to sculptures is changing, with acquisitions in marble, bronze, and terracotta that augment the visitor’s understanding of artistic practices over the centuries.
In 2009 the Kress Foundation sponsored a photographic campaign at various museums throughout the United States to document the installation of Kress works using panoramic photography. Click here to view four galleries in the Birmingham Museum of Art.