The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York wanted it. So did the National Museum of American Art in Washington.
But James Ricau's collection of 70 pieces of 19th-century American sculpture went to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, thanks to the efforts of art connoisseur Walter P. Chrysler Jr.When Chrysler acquired the collection in 1986, the museum that bears his name had no room to put all of it. The entire collection was briefly shown when a new wing was unveiled in 1989, then pieces were scattered again and many went into storage.
Now, about half the collection is spotlighted in a new, permanent display that's part of a $1.5 million addition to the museum.
The 1,800-square-foot Ricau gallery has a skylight and walls painted a deep, Italian terra-cotta red that nicely contrasts with the gleaming white marble statuary.
The display will be rotated so museum visitors eventually will get to see all of what chief curator Jeff Harrison calls one of the finest collections of its kind in the country.
Thomas Crawford, Chauncey B. Ives and Hiram Powers are among the more than 20 sculptors represented in the collection. They were neoclassicists who looked to ancient Rome and Greece for inspiration, resulting in a style that Harrison said could be seen as "a kind of sculptural equivalent of the U.S. Capitol, the Virginia Statehouse or Monticello."