• Among the masterpieces in the MFA’s collection are three exceptional works inspired by contemporary political events: Edouard Manet’s extraordinary “unfinished” canvas of the Execution of the Emperor Maximilian (1867), which closely followed the posthumous publication of Francisco Goya y Lucientes’ unsettling, graphic series of etchings Disasters of War (1810-20; published 1863), and, painted a century later, Pablo Picasso’s Rape of the Sabine Women (1963), created at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Each is a powerful statement confronting disturbing events during the lifetime of the artists. “War and Discontent” highlights these timeless and universal works, shown alongside provocative and subtle recent work by artists critically engaged in the present.

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  • Execution of the Emperor Maximilian

    1867
    Edouard Manet (French, 1832–1883)

    Description

    In 1867, Maximilian, emperor of Mexico, was executed with two of his generals by order of the opposing leader, Benito Juárez. The Parisian press reacted with horror against the rebel troops in Mexico and against Napoleon III in France; Napoleon had installed the Austrian Maximilian on the Mexican throne in 1864, but later withdrew support for his regime. Breaking with tradition, Manet represented the contemporary event on the grand scale usually reserved for scenes from ancient history or myth. This unfinished canvas is the first of several versions.

    Provenance

    1883, probably passed by descent from the artist to his widow, Suzanne Leenhoff Manet (b. 1830 - d. 1906), Asnières, France [see note 1]; given by Mme. Manet to her son, Léon Koëlla Leenhoff (b. 1852 - d. 1927), Paris [see note 2]; 1899, sold by Mr. Koëlla Leenhoff to Ambroise Vollard (b. 1867 - d. 1939), Paris; July 1, 1909, sold by Vollard to Frank Gair Macomber (b. 1849 - d. 1941), Boston [see note 3]; 1930, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Gair Macomber to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 1, 1930) NOTES: [1] The provenance given here (to 1899) is provided by Adolphe Tabarant, "Manet et ses oeuvres" (Paris, 1947), p. 176. [2] Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff in 1863. Her illegitimate son, Léon, born in 1852, was almost certainly Manet's child. He inherited Manet's estate after his mother's death. [3] The sale to Macomber is recorded in Vollard's stock book on July 1, 1909; it was shipped to Boston on September 16, 1909 (Bibliothèque des Musées Nationaux, Fonds Vollard, MS 421 [5,4] f. 134 and MS 421 [4,13] f. 19). Additionally, in a letter from Vollard to Macomber (September 11, 1909), the dealer discusses the latter's payment for the "sketch of the Execution of Maximilian, which you purchased from me." According to notes in the MFA object file (about 1939, taken by Charles C. Cunningham), Mr. Macomber said that he purchased the painting in Paris upon the advice of the painter Mary Cassatt, after she had taken him to see it at "Kelekian's shop." Whether Kelekian played a role in the transaction has not been determined. Correspondence between the MFA and Vollard, dating to September and October 1909, indicates that Vollard had been responsible for the sale and shipment of the painting.

    Credit Line

    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Gair Macomber

    Details

    Dimensions

    195.9 x 259.7 cm (77 1/8 x 102 1/4 in.)

    Accession Number

    30.444

    Medium or Technique

    Oil on canvas

    On View

    The Beal Gallery (Gallery 251)

    Collections

    Europe

    Classifications

    Paintings

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  • No se puede saber por qué. (There is no way of telling why); Fatales consequencias de la sangrienta guerra en España con Buonaparte. Y otros caprichos enfaticos [Disasters of War], plate 35.

    Drawn and etched about 1810–143
    Francisco Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828)

    Description

    Working proof, before engraved letters and numbers, before additional drypoint, before burin (H. I, 2).

    Markings

    No watermark

    Provenance

    1863, sold by Valentín Carderera y Solano (b. 1796–d. 1880), Madrid, to Sir William Stirling Maxwell (b. 1818–d. 1878), Keir House, Scotland; 1878, by inheritance to his son, Brigadier General Archibald Stirling (b. 1867–d. 1931), Keir House; 1931, by inheritance to his son, Lieutenant Colonel William Joseph Stirling (b. 1911–d. 1983), Keir House; September 13, 1951, sold by William Joseph Stirling, through Colnaghi & Co. and Philip Hofer (b. 1898–d. 1984), Cambridge, MA, to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 13, 1951)

    Credit Line

    1951 Purchase Fund

    Details

    Catalogue Raisonné

    Harris 155, I, 2; Delteil 0154

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 15.4 x 25.6 cm (6 1/16 x 10 1/16 in.) Sheet: 22 x 31.3 cm (8 11/16 x 12 5/16 in.)

    Accession Number

    51.1658

    Medium or Technique

    Etching, sulfur tint (?), burnished lavis, and drypoint; working proof

    Not On View

    Collections

    Europe, Prints and Drawings

    Classifications

    Prints

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  • Rape of the Sabine Women

    1963
    Pablo Picasso (Spanish (worked in France), 1881–1973)

    Description

    Painted when he was eighty-two, this is Picasso’s last major statement about the horrors of war, perhaps inspired by the Cuban missile crisis. Here, Picasso transforms a familiar subject from the art of the past-the story of early Romans who, suffering a shortage of marriageable women, invited the neighboring Sabines to Rome and then carried off all their young women. Against a sunny background of blue sky and green fields, the overlapping forms of grotesquely distorted figures are compressed into the foreground space, the horses and soldiers trampling a woman and her child.

    Inscription

    Upper right: Picasso; Reverse: 4.1.63. / 10. / 11. / 12. / 13. / 14. / 15. / 16. / 17. / 18. / 19. / 20. / 21. / 22. / 23. / 25. / 26. / 28. / 29. / 31. / 2.2.63. / 7. (in irregular columns)

    Provenance

    Probably sold by the artist to the Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris [see note 1]; 1964, sold by the Galerie Leiris to M. Knoedler and Co., New York (stock no. A8624); 1964, sold by Knoedler to the MFA. (Accession Date: May 13, 1964) NOTES: [1] It was included in the exhibition "Picasso Peintures 1962-1963" (Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris, January 15 - February 15, 1964), cat. no. 17.

    Credit Line

    Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection, Tompkins Collection—Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund, and Fanny P. Mason Fund in memory of Alice Thevin

    Copyright

    © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Details

    Dimensions

    195.3 x 131.1 cm (76 7/8 x 51 5/8 in.)

    Accession Number

    64.709

    Medium or Technique

    Oil on canvas

    Not On View

    Collections

    Contemporary Art, Europe

    Classifications

    Paintings

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  • Airplanes

    2002
    Suara Welitoff (American, born in 1951)

    Description

    Description: 2 minutes 50 seconds

    Provenance

    The artist; to MFA, Boston, 2002

    Credit Line

    Maud Morgan Prize Purchase Fund

    Copyright

    By Suara Welitoff © 2002 film/video

    Details

    Dimensions

    Duration: 2 minutes, 50 seconds

    Accession Number

    2002.611

    Medium or Technique

    Video (color, sound)

    Not On View

    Collections

    Americas, Contemporary Art

    Classifications

    Film and video

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