On 28 January 1998, the Foundation sold Michelangelo’s drawing, Christ and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well, at Sotheby’s in New York. The success of the sale and the generosity of its donors and friends provided the Foundation with the means to expand its collection.
A number of other drawings were sold both through private transactions and at a public auction at Christie’s in New York on 23 January 2002. They included the Madonna al Gatto by Leonardo da Vinci, a card from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother portraying the Parc d’Arles, as well as a series of 47 drawings. The money raised enabled the establishment of an acquisition fund. The decision to sell was not made lightly; Martin Bodmer considered drawings as ‘the written expression of artistic intuition’ and the drawings concerned were an integral part of the collection. However, the Foundation still houses some 50 drawings closely related to Bodmer’s perception of Weltliteratur (Isaac Blessing Jacob by Rembrandt, Tartuffe by Boucher, Virgil and Dante by Füssli, Shakespeare’s King John by Blake, Faust by Delacroix, The Minotaur by Picasso, etc…).
The Foundation’s decisions to sell were based on three considerations: at the State level, reduced subsidies since 1992, and particularly in 1997-98, had forced the Foundation to find new sources of funding; developments in art history had raised questions about the authenticity of some of the old masters and had an impact on Martin Bodmer’s collection; finally, to retain its reputation as a ‘dynamic’ collection, the Foundation had to acquire new works. An acquisitions committee was established within the Foundation, with the participation of the Director, to determine guidelines and a budget.