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Mystery donor gives Virginia museum painting worth $40M

This image provided by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts shows the painting "Progress (The Advance of Civilization)" that was painted in 1853 by Hudson River School member Asher B. Durand. The painting was donated to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts by a mystery donor and is its most valuable gift of a single work of art in its decadeslong history. (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — An iconic masterpiece painted to celebrate U.S. expansion across the American continent has a new home, one that promises to add historical context and the Native Americans’ point of view.

“Progress (The Advance of Civilization),” painted in 1853 by Hudson River School member Asher B. Durand, was unveiled Wednesday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, thanks to a mystery donor. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports an unidentified buyer paid $40 million for it in 2011.

“Progress” represents Manifest Destiny, the 19th-century belief that U.S. expansion was justifiable and inevitable. It shows a group of Native Americans in a bucolic setting overlooking a town with a steam train and telegraph poles. It was commissioned by railroad financier Charles Gould. Works from the museum’s Native American collection will join it on display.

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Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.richmond.com

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