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Making a Scene in Paris in the Age of Louis XIV

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Charles Le Brun (French, 1619–1690) | Everhard Jabach (1618–1695) and His Family | 2014.250

Charles Le Brun (French, 1619–1690). Everhard Jabach (1618–1695) and His Family, ca. 1660. Oil on canvas; 110 1/4 x 129 1/8 in. (280 x 328 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 2014 (2014.250)

«Ever wonder what it would have been like to live in Paris in the golden age of the French monarchy and to have the money to do it in style?» That's what the German banker Everhard Jabach did. He moved to Paris in 1638, built a luxurious mansion near the present-day Centre Pompidou (alas, destroyed), and formed one of the most significant collections of paintings and drawings of his day. Most of his works ended up in the Louvre Museum—but not the picture the Metropolitan just bought!

The work shows Jabach and his family in their grand mansion, together with objects symbolizing his cultural interests and, reflected in a mirror, the artist Charles Le Brun at his easel. The family sold the picture in 1791; since 1832, it has been in a country house in England, with the top bit of canvas folded over because of its huge size (see the painting's object record for details). Just getting the work to the Metropolitan was an ordeal.

We took some photographs of the work as it entered the building and made its way to the Museum's Sherman Fairchild Center for Paintings Conservation, its home for the next few months.

Opening the crate

Riggers opening the crate containing the picture. The work needed to be shipped with minimal packing material in order to fit on a cargo flight. Photograph by Andrew Caputo

Putting the picture on a side-truck

Putting the picture on a side-truck for transport to the Museum's Sherman Fairchild Center for Paintings Conservation. Photograph by Andrew Caputo

Putting it on an easel in conservation

Riggers loading the work onto an easel in the conservation studio. Sheets of facing paper were applied to portions of the canvas as protection before the work was transported. Photograph by Andrew Caputo

Group of people admiring the new acquisition

Met staff admiring the new acquisition in its temporary home in conservation. Photograph by Andrew Caputo

The picture is now being cleaned for its debut sometime next year. Check in over the next few months for updates.


  • philippe demontebello says:

    A fabulous acquisition of a major painting --top 5 for the artist-- of a major figure.
    So glad it came in smoothly. Keith surely remembers that to bring the Rubens Assumption for the Liechtenstein exhibition, we had to cut a groove in the ceiling near Receiving, and even break the jamb of two doors in the paintings galleries...
    Can't wait to see its step by step rejuvenation...

    Posted: July 16, 2014, 11:35 a.m.

  • Hester Diamond says:

    Dear Michael and Keith,

    I think it's great that you're putting this kind of information available to the public. I think people will be fascinated by the whole process. Bravo!

    Posted: July 16, 2014, 12:13 p.m.

  • Andrew Washton says:

    This is a spectacular acquisition and I can't wait to see it, after you get rid of that crease, fortunately up near the top of the work.

    Posted: July 16, 2014, 3:27 p.m.

  • Jorge Zamudio says:

    It is a very beautiful painting, thumbs up!!

    Posted: July 18, 2014, 8:39 a.m.

  • Jorge Zamudio says:

    It is a visual delight of the life

    Posted: July 18, 2014, 8:41 a.m.

  • Paul Jeromack says:

    I was just in London for the Old Master sales and there is much regret there that this picture 'slipped through' while everyone was working themselves into a fund-raising froth to secure the (very beautiful) van Dyck self-portrait....especially as LeBrun is one of the rare painters not represented in the National Gallery, London.

    One British friend told me he was annoyed that the picture had not been offered to the Louvre (which lacks any painted portrait of Jabach): "They need it more than the Met does!" Much sipping of bitter tea.

    It is something of a miracle that the picture was folded over to fit into that British country-house hallway when it would have been much simpler to have just sliced off the extra canvas!

    Looking forward to seeing this masterpiece fully restored and refreshed!

    Posted: July 21, 2014, 7:46 a.m.

  • Marisela says:

    This painting is just stunning. Its so beautiful. I am currently taking an art history online class, and looking at this painting just makes me think its similar to other paintings i have come across in my book. Personally I see similarities between this painting and the painting by Leonardo da Vinci: The Virgin of the Rocks. The way the people are painted in both paintings just strikes me. There dressed similar, and in both paintings the background seems to be almost mysterious.

    Posted: July 21, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

  • Ted Gallagher, Esq. says:

    Any time the Met fills the lacunae in its estimable Euro. paintings collection, it's a time to rejoice.
    And this gem promises to be among the museum's great masterpieces! Cannot wait to see it on the walls.
    I'm hardly one to carp, but the work of the Met to bring masterworks of great Europeans masters to New York continues. The slope is steep, to be sure.
    Paintings by the following old masters are not featured at the Met:
    Henri Bellechose
    Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar
    Michel Sittow
    Master of St. Giles
    Matthias Grünewald
    Jacopo Bassano
    Pietro de Cortona
    Adam Elsheimer (loan notwithstanding)
    The Le Nains
    Theodor Rombouts
    Tanzio da Varallo
    Frans Snyders
    Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (the phenom loan now at the Met doesn’t count)
    Pieter Jansz. Saenredam
    Gerrit van Honthorst
    Hendrick Avercamp

    Hope springs eternal.

    Posted: July 22, 2014, 5:05 p.m.

  • IlovetheMet! says:

    This is a coup. Like Ted Gallagher above, I rejoice with every purchase that closes a gap in the collection. It would be great to hear from Mr. Christiansen about that list. However, I did note a few things in that list that could be subtracted (just as some might be added to it). For example, the museum now possesses paintings by Jacopo Bassano (an absolute masterpiece and a coup of a purchase) and the Master of St. Giles (Lehman Collection). The museum is apparently promised a small Le Nain, very charming, that was temporarily on view some months ago in the Poussin room. If one wanted to be really greedy (and unrealistic), we would push for more of the Quattrocento masters (Donatello, Masaccio, Piero, a better Fra Angelico, etc.), which seems to me the real weak point of the collection. We might also seek to acquire a Parmigianino (judging from loans and books, still a possibility), a Rosso, and a Pontormo. We should pursue Feigen's Orazio Gentileschi, the Fabritius on loan (a rare opportunity), a Lanfranco (among other Baroque artists like da Cortona). Indeed, I can think of lots of other Baroque painters: Maratti, Dolce, Crespi, Sassoferato, Albani, etc. If we were to get greedy, we would want a few extra Dutch works: where is the Potter, better still lives, and (like Ted said) the Hondthorst and, especially, Saenredam. They haven't bought anything Dutch in ages, and some of these artists sell regularly in excellent examples (Montreal's Hondhorst that was restituted looked like a fine picture in photographs--and we needn't mention the absolute masterpiece just purchased by the National Gallery in D.C.). In the end, I suppose it's all about money. I trust that with such able leadership, however, the Met will eventually triumph in many things. Christiansen should know how much he's appreciated by many of the silent museumgoers of NY and beyond!

    Posted: July 28, 2014, 8:00 p.m.

  • Ted Gallagher, Esq. says:

    Thank you, IlovetheMet!, for your support.

    My fault on the Bassano. I have spent an hour in front of the Met’s “The Baptism of Christ” by Jacopo Bassano, so don’t know why I didn’t strike his name from my ancient list of ‘missing’ artists that I keep on my desk.

    And I say, that was an awesome Le Nain that resided for what seemed a only a moment when the new hang opened. Couldn’t we possibly extract that from its current owner somehow? By any means necessary?

    My amateur reading in art history has long gravitated toward the neoclassical/baroque period of 1580-1680, especially toward the Caravaggisti, the Utrecht School and the Corpus Rubenianum. So I leave it to others with greater skill to nominate additions from the innumerable Quattrocento and late Renaissance masters that we lack in the Met.

    Whenever I see “private collection” my heart skips a beat. “Couldn’t the Met have it?”, my mind says as I daydream, hoping one day another masterpiece will be with us forever in New York.

    Immediately after I sent my list, above, I realized one of my very favorite masters was missing: Gerard Houckgeest. His “Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, with the Tomb of William the Silent” from 1650 is worth mortgaging my dreams for. Alas, it’s in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg. One day I hope the Met will ask to borrow it.

    As an aside, I wish the Met could give its frequent patrons a break and let us know what loans are on the walls, so that we don’t have to “find Waldo,” as it were. What would be the harm?: “We have the honor of presenting a masterpiece by Carel Fabritius through Oct. 1” (for example). Then New Yorkers would be sure to find it and enjoy it fully while it lasts. My eighty cents.

    Posted: July 29, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

  • Étienne Muller says:

    I heard that the Met was offered a very beautiful and important rediscovered Giorgione fragment of David's head from a lost David and Goliath from the Arundel collection which had been authenticated by the great expert on the painter Professor Mauro Lucco and they turned it down.

    Posted: August 4, 2014, 4:00 p.m.

  • Keith Christiansen says:

    Great to hear these comments and enthusiasm. As for Honthorst and Saenredam: we've been trying. Same for many others. Purchasing is a complicated business. Sometimes you manage a coup, as i think we did with the great Hodler we managed to buy at auction last year. And sometime you just don't have the funds in hand to compete when the moment arrives. Which is why the support of our trustees and friends is so crucial. Incidentally, that beautiful Le Nain is a promised gift. We did not have the funds when it became available, but a donor stepped forward and it will come to the Met one day. Ditto that exquisite Giovanni da Milano. Go around and read the credit lines: they're a revelation and testament to the generosity of our supporters.

    Posted: August 7, 2014, 8:15 p.m.

  • Austin Chinn says:

    From the above comments it is wonderful to read the erudite thoughts of other Met-aholics or Meta-philes if you will. They are all as devoted and knowledgable group as there could be. I consider every painting, especially as revealed in the new hanging of the new European Paintings Galleries, a wonder and a gift to us all. As much as I wish the Met had everything that it could ever wish for the collection, that is simply not possible. But what the collections do represent in breadth and importance is simply astonishing. To this present there is always the expectation of what the furture will bring. The work never ends and never will. We all have wish lists for additions to the collection, and the miracle is that over the years the brilliant curatorial staff continues, by gift or purchase or a combination of both, to strengthen and broaden the collection with magnificent works. Their untiring work is the real gift of the Met to us and my admiration for what the staff has accomplished and will continue to accomplish is great, including in the last year TWO Le Bruns, in a collectioni that had been Le Brun-less until now! As for my own personal wish list, I could only hope that the owner of the most beautiful Poussin "Christ in the Garden of Gesthsemane" may one day make it a gift to the Metropolitan. It is one of the most singular of works in Poussin's oeuvre, and one of the most beautiful essays in the color Red that I have ever seen. It is mesmerizing and will remain at the very top of my own personal Wish List for the Department of European Painting. And then of course there is everything else!

    Posted: August 8, 2014, 8:19 p.m.

  • Menno Jonker says:

    Very interesting family portrait. Especially with reference to his own mirrored image. Thanks to the high resolution image on your website, it looks like Charles le Brun depicted himseld with a philosophers bust of Seneca. That might be an interesting clue.

    Posted: August 13, 2014, 6:34 a.m.

  • Jay Fahey says:

    A very exciting acquisition, and I congratulate Keith and everyone at the Met responsible for its purchase. The Met is my Met –– I almost feel as if it's my personal property –– and I celebrate with each new glorious acquisition. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, more like me who feel the same proprietorial pride in our superb Museum.

    Posted: October 25, 2014, 12:23 a.m.

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About the Author

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Department of European Paintings, began work at the Met in 1977, and during that time he has organized numerous exhibitions ranging in subject from painting in fifteenth-century Siena, Andrea Mantegna, and the Renaissance portrait, to Giambattista Tiepolo, El Greco, Caravaggio, Ribera, and Nicolas Poussin. He has written widely on Italian painting and is the recipient of several awards. Keith has also taught at Columbia University and New York University's Institute of Fine Art. Raised in Seattle, Washington, and Concord, California, he attended the University of California campuses at Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, and received his PhD from Harvard University.

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