The new sculpture galleries present more than nine hundred works of art. In addition to masterpieces of sculpture from the Middle Ages through the early twentieth century, the galleries feature decorative arts of the Renaissance and eighteenth-century France, major collections of Italian Renaissance medals and plaquettes, and Chinese porcelains.
After a four-year renovation, made possible through a gift from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in honor of Paul Mellon, the entire northwest quadrant of the West Building ground floor--some 24,000 square feet--has been transformed. Former offices and smaller exhibition galleries have been replaced by expansive columned and vaulted rooms with large windows. Abundant light and space now foster full appreciation of the special qualities of sculpture.
The rooms display some of the Gallery's most important new acquisitions. The sculpture collection has grown dramatically in recent years, benefiting from exceptional donations such as Paul Mellon's gift of forty-eight original wax statuettes by Edgar Degas. They can be seen alongside the artist's paintings of the same subjects, especially ballet dancers and race horses. Several other new galleries pair sculpture with painting as well. Significant purchases have also expanded the collection, including the South German Holy Kinship altarpiece, a major work in carved and painted wood, acquired in 2002. Nearly a quarter of the works featured in this Web tour were acquired after 1990.
The renovated ground floor galleries do not hold the entire sculpture collection of the National Gallery. Visitors will continue to find sculpture exhibited in the main floor galleries of the West Building, and all works created after the early twentieth century in the East Building.