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Ten Million Dollar Art Bequest by Jewish Merchant Accepted by New York Metropolitan Museum

January 5, 1932
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced its acceptance of the ten million dollar art collection bequeathed to it by the late Colonel Michael Friedsam, the head of the famous Altman Department Stores in New York.

The collection, which consists of 135 paintings, mostly Old Masters, and 200 other important objects of art, including valuable sculptures, will be kept intact by the Museum in accordance with the wishes expressed by Colonel Friedsam in his will.

The Friedsam collection, as it will be known, will be placed on view in the Museum in November 1932.

Colonel Michael Friedsam, who died on April 7th., 1930, was outside the great business founded by his uncle, B. Altman, into the name of which he did not even incorporate his own name, although he was responsible for the great position which it had built up, practically unknown. He was a retiring man who did not take any active part in organisations or committees. Behind the scenes he did a good deal on behalf of education, art, and commerce in New York and in the country generally. He was greatly interested, however, in art, and was a director of many art museums and academies. He was the founder of the Art Department of New York University, and the French Government conferred, on him a decoration for his contributions to the Louvre. During the whole of his life he built up a wonderful collection of art, which was reputed to be one of the greatest private-owned collections of Old Masters in the world, including Durer’s “Saviour”, Vermeer’s “Allegory of the New Testament”, the first privately-owned Vermeer in the United States, and many Rembrandts, Hals, and Italian, French and Flemish primitives.

Colonel Friedsam was believed to be 71 years of age at the time he died, but it was one of his peculiarities that he never divulged his real age. None of the biographical notes contained in the reference books gave the date of his birth and none of his associates were ever told exactly how old he was. He lived a modest and quiet life in a big house in New York which he had built for himself and for his art collection. He had never married.

In Jewish affairs Colonel Friedsam was active in the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York, and was Chairman of one of its “Million Dollar Days”. He was also a large contributor to the Jewish Education Association.

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