The Metropolitan Museum's world-famed collection of European paintings encompasses works of art from the thirteenth through the nineteenth centuries—from Giotto to Gauguin. Most, though not all, are displayed in the galleries of the Department of European Paintings. Others works of art can be found in the Lehman Collection, the Linsky Collection, The Cloisters, and in various period rooms.
Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2016
The past as fixed in amber? Nothing more to learn about an artwork? Nonsense! Digging deeper into the history of a work of art depends on the questions one asks and the ways in which scholars use the investigatory tools at their disposal.
On January 25, the Department of European Paintings let everyone in on one of the most fascinating and unexpected reassessments I can think of, relating to one of the Met's most prestigious masterpieces: Jan van Eyck's "diptych" (but was it a diptych?) of the Crucifixion and Last Judgment, which is on view through April 24 in the exhibition A New Look at a Van Eyck Masterpiece.
Posted: Monday, January 25, 2016
On October 5, 2016, the Department of European Paintings will open a magnificent exhibition—the first ever to be devoted to Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), one of the most original followers of Caravaggio. A French painter active in Rome, Valentin was famous in his own day, and his unique voice continues to speak to us now. I first encountered his paintings in the Louvre in 1967, and I have been hooked ever since. This is an exhibition I have wanted to do for years.
Posted: Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Have you tuned in to The Artist Project yet? If not, you really should. Now in its fourth season, each episode of this web series features a contemporary artist who chooses a work from the Met's collection and talks about why he or she finds it so important.
Posted: Monday, September 28, 2015
How does an artist go about composing a view? In the nineteenth century, convention dictated that scenes of everyday life should have a well-defined sense of space and a clear focal point, with figures—the "human interest" aspect of a picture—front and center. However, one of our new acquisitions, Hortensia, by the Belgian artist Fernand Khnopff, tackles the question of composition from a whole new angle.
Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015
What do you do when you have a Renaissance masterpiece in a truly cheap, junky, modern frame? You travel to Florence and have a handcrafted copy made of an original one.
Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2015
I often remind people that when the Met was founded in 1870, it did not own a single work of art. The collection that we know and love today is the collective achievement of many collectors and donors—private citizens determined to share their passion for art with the public. The giant names—J.P. Morgan, Louisine and H.O. Havemeyer, Benjamin Altman, Robert Lehman, Charles and Jayne Wrightsman, Walter Annenberg, and most recently Leonard Lauder—join hundreds of others who were, and are, profoundly generous in supporting the development of our collection.
Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015
The second and final phase of the retouching of the Jabach portrait—which has been undergoing conservation since July 2014—is virtually finished. This step brings the losses that had previously only been underpainted up to a full match with the surrounding original. Also, areas where the paint layer has been abraded in the past can be corrected.
Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Michael Gallagher has been taking readers of this blog series step by step through his conservation work on the remarkable Jabach portrait. So I thought this might be the moment—in the few weeks remaining until its installation in the galleries—to reflect on how we came to acquire this extraordinary picture.
Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015
"Almost invariably," writes Stendahl in the Italian Chronicles, "foreigners coming to Rome ask to be taken, at the outset of their tour of inspection, to the Barberini gallery; they are attracted, the women especially, by the portraits of Beatrice Cenci and her stepmother." Beatrice, of course, not only had possessed beauty, but she had a story, having been publicly executed for the murder of her cruel, molesting father.
What was thought to be her portrait (above) was painted by the "Divine Guido Reni" (1575–1642). Reni was a great artist, but the picture Stendahl admired was not, in fact, by him and certainly cannot hold a candle to the portrait of an unknown beauty recently given to the Metropolitan Museum and now hanging—following its cleaning and reframing—in gallery 623.
Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Michael Gallagher uses gouache paint to retouch losses in the Jabach portrait, which has been undergoing conservation for the past eight months.
With the exception of the inevitable damage caused by the turning over of the top of the canvas to attach it to a smaller stretcher (see my September 24, 2014, post about this aspect of the painting's history), the great Jabach family portrait is in exceptional condition. Nevertheless, there are several small losses and scrapes that are typical for a painting of this age and size and which hung in domestic interiors—albeit quite grand ones—for centuries. So the next step is to retouch these areas.
Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015
We sometimes imagine that no one before the twentieth century thought of a painting in terms of line and color and the play between surface and depth—that before the advent of Cubism, painting was a matter of mere description. Wrong.
Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Michael Gallagher applies the first layer of varnish to the surface of the Jabach portrait.
After the completion of cleaning and structural work on the Jabach portrait, the next step in its conservation is the application of a first layer of varnish. The varnish acts as an isolating layer between the original painting and the retouching—which will come later—but, most importantly, it begins the process of saturating the surface, which is so crucial to a painting of this period.
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015
Conservators Michael Gallagher, George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour reattach the Jabach portrait to its stretcher in preparation for the final phases of conservation.
Just before the holidays, we reached a major milestone in the conservation of the Jabach portrait: the reattachment of the canvas to its stretcher. The short video above gives a good sense of the process undertaken with George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour. In all, it took about a couple of hours.
Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The Jabach portrait is now back on its stretcher, and Michael Gallagher is about to move on from the complex structural work that has occupied him these past few months to the final retouching and varnishing. In other words, we are in the home stretch.
Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014
After the severe distortions at the top of the Jabach portrait were successfully reduced, the next step was to prepare the painting for re-stretching. This involved the attachment of a new strip-lining; new pieces of canvas were adhered along all four edges of the reverse of the painting using a heat-activated adhesive. (It should be noted that these can be easily removed in the future if necessary.)