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Full Circle: The Irene Leache Memorial Gift

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An Extraordinary Gift at an Extraordinary Time

The Story in Pictures

The Official Press Release

Irene Leache: A History

The community spirit that led to the opening of this museum is back with a major gift as we prepare for our reopening.

In the late 19th century, Irene Leache was on a mission to bring art and culture to a rough-and-tumble Navy town.

In the 20th century, the Irene Leache Memorial established by Anna Wood helped the Chrysler Museum in a variety of ways for decades.

'I cannot overstate how grateful I am—we are—for these remarkable gifts. You have immeasurably enriched both the Museum and the community we all serve.'
  Jeff Harrison
  Chief Curator

Now, as the Chrysler readies to reopen in the 21st century, the Memorial has gifted the Museum dozens of valuable medieval and Renaissance artworks, and also has transferred a significant sum of money long held in trust. That generous gift will endow the Irene Leache Curator of European Art, a position currently held by Jeff Harrison, who is also the Museum’s chief curator.

The Irene Leache Memorial, which had in recent years been issuing grants to support the arts throughout the region, will cease its work as a foundation but will continue its mission of arts support in new and innovative ways. Its board, consisting of 25 women appointed for life, applauded the move, and Museum trustees voted unanimously in favor.

Said Vickie Bilisoly, ILM president: "Our members are thrilled with this culmination of an 80-year partnership between the Irene Leache Memorial and the Chrysler Museum. It fulfills the founding vision of Annie Wood to create an art collection—and a museum in which to house it—in memory of Irene Leache. We hope that the art and the curatorial endowment will always serve as a living memorial not only to Irene Leache, but also to those she inspired to foster the arts in our community."

The Irene Leache Memorial collection comprises 27 works of art dating from the 14th through 19th centuries, many of which have been on view in the Museum since the '30s. Also included in the gift are decorative items and resource materials destined for the Jean Outland Chrysler Library.

The Irene Leache Memorial focused on European art dating to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and Harrison said this has given the Chrysler a rich heritage of important paintings, sculpture, and decorative objects that would be both difficult and costly to obtain today.

"Their early acquisitions of paintings by Nadda Ceccarelli, Francesco Botticini, and Cornelis van Cleve, among others, have proven to be shrewd and invaluable additions that any museum would love to have," he said. Were it not for their distinguished sculptures of the Madonna, the Archangel Michael, and Saints Peter, Mark, and Margaret, the Chrysler would have virtually nothing in that medium to display in our galleries for those critical centuries, he added.

For full details, click here. For photos, click here, and for a look at the history involved, click here.

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Shown above, an Irene Leache Memorial Collection tapestry on view at the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences in 1959. Click image to enlarge and see in color. Attributed to François Geubels, The History of Hannibal: The Spoils of Cannae, wool and silk, ca. 1540-60.