The Wadsworth Atheneum.

Hartford, Conn.'s Wadsworth Atheneum, the oldest public art museum in the U.S., has unexpectedly received a $9.6 million gift, thanks to the estate of former museum member and Connecticut native Charles H. Schwartz. According to a museum spokesperson, news of the gift—the largest in the museum's history—was "an incredible surprise."

Schwartz died in 1995 at the age of 71. According to the Hartford Courant, his mother's family founded the paper-goods company Kimberly-Clark Corp. Schwartz's estate supported his partner, Nathaniel G. Robertson, until the latter's death last fall. At this point, the Wadsworth received news that Schwartz had bequeathed the remainder of his charitable trust to establish an endowment for the acquisition of European art from the 18th century and earlier. Schwartz's collection of Old Master paintings and European decorative art was sold at auction after his death.

While Schwartz was a "premier" member of the Wadsworth for the last eight years of his life, he never gave a large donation to the museum (his membership level came with an annual $2,500 joiner's fee).

Oliver Totsmann, the newly appointed curator of European art, intends to focus on adding to the museum's collection of Baroque art, as well growing its Renaissance and early European sculpture holdings.