Belleville painting headed from mayor’s office to Rutgers

 A valuable painting that has been the source of controversy in Belleville could soon be moved to Rutgers University’s art gallery.

Donated by descendants of Belleville’s founding father and painted by Thomas J. Natt, “Landscape of Belleville” was previously displayed at the township library before it was moved into Mayor Michael Melham’s office in 2020, with approval from the library trustees. Melham is on the trustee board.

The switch angered the donor’s family and the Belleville Historical Society, which demanded its return to the library.

In a letter to Township Manager Anthony Iacono, Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone said the organization was entering into a loan agreement with the Rutgers University Zimmerli Art Gallery, where the painting would be on display for five years.

Perrone said Melham did not ask permission from the historical society or the family to take the painting.

A historical painting of Belleville is a center of controversy after it was removed from the library  and placed in Mayor Michael Melham's office. The family who donated it to the historical society and the historical society are demanding it be returned to the Belleville Library.

The painting depicts a scene of Belleville in 1831, from the Schulyer Estate on the opposite bank of the Passaic River, and shows a bridge designed by a relative of Henry Rutgers, giving it a connection to the state university.

Donna Gustafson, director of the Zimmerli Art Gallery at Rutgers, called the painting beautiful and said it would be a wonderful addition to the gallery.

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