The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: Lauren Cavalli.

The Met Receives Historic Bequest of $80 Million and 375 Artworks

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has received a major bequest of $80 million and more than 375 artworks from the late Jayne Wrightsman (1919–2019), a trustee emerita whom the institution described as “one of the most generous benefactors in the museum’s history.” Over the course of six decades, Jayne and her husband, Charles, have given more than 1,275 works to the Met.

“Jayne and Charles Wrightsman served as model patrons and standard-bearers for a generation of donors,” Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Met, said in a statement. “Their legendary eye for art was exceeded in magnitude only by their unwavering dedication to the Met collection, galleries, and staff. They truly became part of the museum’s family, and we are eternally grateful for the infinite ways they profoundly impacted—and will continue to impact—this institution.”

The bequest includes significant gifts to the Met’s departments of drawings and prints, European paintings, and European sculpture and decorative arts, as well as to the department of Asian art, the department of Islamic art, and the Watson Library. The $80 million amount was added to the existing Wrightsman Fund, which supports acquisitions of works of art from Western Europe and Great Britain that were created during the period from 1500 to 1850. Wrightsman’s bequest is part of the $211.5 million total in new gifts and pledges received by the Met in its 2019 fiscal year.

Previously, the Wrightsmans have provided funding to the museum to help it improve its French period rooms and have championed European paintings. They gave the Met money for the purchase of Johannes Vermeer’s Study of a Young Woman, Peter Paul Rubens’s self-portrait with his family, and Jacques Louis David’s landmark portrait depicting Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and his wife, as well as for other masterpieces. Charles became a trustee of the institution in 1956; Jayne joined the board in 1975, and between 1975 and 1997 she served as a member of the museum’s acquistions committee, eventually serving as chairperson.

Museum director Max Hollein said: “Jayne Wrightsman’s extraordinary bequest is a capstone to more than half a century’s worth of inspired acts of generosity. Nearly every aspect of the museum has benefitted enormously from the Wrightsmans’ devoted patronage. . . . The Met would not be what it is today without Jayne and Charles Wrightsman.”