The Legion of Honor, formally known as the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, is part of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museum (which also houses the De Young Museum). The name is used both for the collection of the museum and for the building in which it is housed.
The Legion of Honor, San Francisco’s most beautiful museum, presents an impressive collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art in an unforgettable setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
Built to commemorate the death of the Californian soldiers in World War I, the Legion of Honor is a beautiful Beaux-Arts building located in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge and all of San Francisco, the Legion is best known for its breathtaking setting. Its collections include Rodin’s Thinker, which sits at the Court of Honor of the Museum, European decorative arts and paintings, Ancient Art, and one of the largest collections of prints and drawings in the country.
The Fine Arts Museums’ collection of European paintings is shown throughout the elegant Beaux-Arts architecture of the Legion of Honor ‘s Galleries. The Legion ‘s rich collection of over 800 European paintings includes masterpieces from the 14th to the early 20th centuries. Approximately 250 paintings on view present a survey of the artistic achievements of leading European masters, from Fra Angelico to Claude Monet.
The permanent collection of the Legion reflects the history of patronage of its founders, Adolph B. And Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, whose particular collection focus was on French art in the 18th and 19th centuries. Other early donors include Archer M. Huntington, Mildred Anna Williams and Albert Campbell Hooper, whose generosity shaped the early character of the collection. The Roscoe and Margaret Oakes collections brought highlights of 17th , 18th and 19th century Dutch, Flemish, French and British art, including works by Georges de la Tour, Thomas Gainsborough, Henry Raeburn, Joshua Reynolds, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Rembrandt van Rijn.
A selection of important paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection brought together major works by Pieter de Hooch, El Greco and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Edgar Degas, Théodore Géricault and Édouard Manet, among others, added a memorial gift from Dr. T. Edward and Tullah Hanley. The collection continues to grow and expand through donations and acquisitions, including paintings by Gustave Caillebotte, Laurent de la Hyre, Eugène Delacroix and Édouard Vuillard.
Ancient Art has been an integral part of the Legion of Honor and of Young since its foundation. Antiquities were considered to be essential to any museum in the early 20th century, and both to M. H. De Young, the founder of De Young, and Alma Spreckels, the founder of the Legion of Honor, have furnished their institutions with a variety of ancient objects. The works they brought to the museums and those that have been added over the years cover a broad geographical and chronological range across the ancient Mediterranean basin—primarily Egypt, the Near East, Greece, the Aegean Islands, Etruria, and Rome. One of the earliest and largest gifts of ancient art was a group of antiquities received by Spreckels from Elisabeth, the Queen of Greece.
The collection is housed in the Legion of Honor, both in the Hall of Antiquities and in the Mummy Room in Gallery 1. It contains a number of rare works of great quality and importance from Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome. Splendid examples of art from these early civilizations, spanning more than 5,000 years, provide the foundation for understanding Western art and the procession of cultures through the ages. Ancient art objects on view in the Legion have a wide range of sculptures, figurines, vessels, jewelry and carved reliefs made of various materials, such as marble and other stones, bronze, gold , ivory, terracotta, wood and glass.
Notable works include Assyrian stone relief and carved ivories from the ancient site of Nimrud, Achaemenid Persian wall relief from the palace of Darius in Persepolis, Egyptian mummies, coffins, and a 4,000-year-old carved wood figure from Seneb, the Egyptian royal scribe, as well as classical marble sculptures and painted vases.