The Smallest and Incredibly Significant Museum in Virginia

Williamsburg, Virginia is well known in the public sphere as the perfect place to participate in ghost tours and watch the reenactment of Civil War battles. However, this town has more to it than horror stories, mysteries, and reliving old battles. The small Muscarelle Museum of Art has proven that size or renown does not really matter for a museum to house masterpieces such as the paintings of Michelangelo and Botticelli. 

The Muscarelle Museum of Art

Found in the historic town of Williamsburg, the Muscarelle Museum of Art is a small but essential part of the College of William & Mary. In spite of its size and location, it has an impressive record of showcasing the works and masterpieces of the great Italian masters such as that of Caravaggio, da Vinci, and Michelangelo. These exhibits have been the product of work and effort by CEO and Muscarelle director Aaron De Groft, and curator and Italian art scholar John T. Spike.

The Muscarelle Museum was opened in 1983 through the leadership of current Museum of Modern Art director Glenn D. Lowrey. The museum is set in a historic home in the second oldest college established in the United States and is the first to teach art and collect art way back in the 18th century. Through the museum, the College of William & Mary has a permanent collection of priceless artworks made by Georgia O’Keefe, Hans Hofmann, and Pablo Picasso. Through the leadership of the museum curators and directors, the small museum has been pushing harder to reach its potential.

Bringing Together Exhibits of the Italian Mars

Spike and De Groft often said that relationships ansted connections with Italian colleagues were the keys to the numerous Italian masterpieces that they were able to feature at the Muscarelle.

The first ambitious exhibit held in the Muscarelle Museum of Art was in 2011, and it featured drawings by Michelangelo. These drawings were brought and exhibited in the museum because of Spike’s and De Groft’s connections with the Casa Buonarotti, the Michelangelo museum in Florence, who lent them 12 of the artist’s drawings.

This was followed in 2013 by a more extensive showcase of 25 drawings by Michelangelo which they entitled “Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane.” The drawings were also borrowed from Casa Buonarotti. The exhibit lasted for two months and was able to gather a record-breaking number of 25,000 visitors. The next exhibition was in 2015 when they were able to acquire three masterpieces, which are speculated to be made by Caravaggio or his art followers.

The most successful show held in the Muscarelle featured 15 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. The show was entitled “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty.” The renowned Uffizi Gallery lent the pictures in Florence, Italy. The showcase attracted 63,000 visitors at the Muscarelle during the six weeks of its duration. The show was so successful that art lovers and patrons even came from Australia. The exhibit traveled to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes where 200,000 visitors came in just the first six of opening.

TheTable - 2021