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European Paintings

European Paintings

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.

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Surface, Depth, and Description in Le Brun's Portrait of Everhard Jabach and His Family

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

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.

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The Jabach Portrait: The First Varnish

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

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.

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The Jabach Portrait: Back on Its Feet

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

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.

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The Jabach Portrait: An Update on the Frame

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

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.

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Now at the Met

The Jabach Portrait, Right Side Up

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

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.)

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Reflections: Charles Le Brun's Mirrored Presence in the Jabach Portrait

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

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

While Michael Gallagher has been busy dealing with the structural issues of Charles Le Brun's great family portrait, I have felt privileged to be an attentive observer. But I have also been thinking about one of the many features that makes this painting so fascinating—the fact that Le Brun included his own reflection in a black-framed mirror propped on a table.

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Interview with Dita Amory, Curator and Co-author of Madame Cézanne

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Monday, December 1, 2014

Paul Cézanne is central to the study of modern art, yet one of his most frequently painted subjects, his wife, Hortense Fiquet, is often neglected in the scholarship on the artist. If she is mentioned at all, Hortense is described as ill-humored and as a negative influence on Cézanne's painting. Madame Cézanne, the catalogue accompanying the eponymous exhibition currently on view through March 15, 2015, aims to reevaluate these perceptions of Hortense. I sat down with Dita Amory, curator of the exhibition and co-author of the catalogue, to discuss the book and the complicated, enigmatic relationship between Cézanne and his wife.

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Now at the Met

The Jabach Portrait: A Change of Plan

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One thing you learn quickly in conservation is that the objects under your care make the rules! Frequently, well-thought-through plans or strategies for approaches to treatment have to be tweaked or completely rethought.

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The Latest on the Jabach Portrait: What, No Frame?

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

Posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014

That's right; our newly acquired Jabach portrait arrived at the Museum with no frame. When I inquired about the omission, I was told that the frame it had had in London was not worth sending over. Besides, that frame no longer fit the picture, since it had been made when the top of the canvas was folded over. (See "The Jabach Conservation Continued: Next Steps" for more on the fold in the canvas.)

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Now at the Met

"Please Lie Down; This Won't Hurt a Bit": The Jabach Conservation Continues

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Now that I've finished the cleaning of the Jabach portrait, it is time to deal with the distortion resulting from the top of the picture having been folded over (as described in my last post). We first had to construct a platform on which to lay the picture face down while working on the reverse side of the canvas. This was custom built by our structural specialist, George Bisacca.

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Now at the Met

Meet the Jabachs

Christine Seidel, 2013–2014 Slifka Foundation Interdisciplinary Fellow, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In the few months that have passed since the arrival of Charles Le Brun's monumental canvas depicting Everhard Jabach and his family, we've begun to get acquainted with the members of this extraordinary family, which moved from Cologne to Paris and established a life of courtly elegance.

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Now at the Met

The Jabach Portrait Conservation Continued: Next Steps

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Now that the varnish removal from the Jabach portrait is finished, it's time to turn to a rather more thorny issue: the structural conservation work.

The original and surprisingly fine canvas is constructed from five pieces of fabric: a large, central rectangle; two horizontal bands, one each top and bottom; and two vertical bands, one each at the left- and right-hand sides. The horizontal bands run the full width of the composition. This construction is entirely original, planned from the outset to accommodate the monumental scale of the painting while carefully situating the seams in the peripheral areas of the composition.

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Now at the Met

What's That? A Closer Look at Objects in the Jabach Portrait

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

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014

​Those of us who work in museums are as curious as any visitor to know about all the objects that fill a given painting. In the case of Charles Le Brun's Jabach portrait, a painting of a well-to-do family in a luxurious Parisian residence, there's a lot to catch your eye; we see a number of things the family must have owned and treasured.

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Now at the Met

The Conservation Continues: Revealing Jabach's Daughter Anna Maria

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The cleaning of the Jabach portrait is going well, and we in Paintings Conservation are all transfixed by the exceptional quality of the painting. One area I was particularly looking forward to seeing without the yellowed varnish was the beautiful figure of Jabach's daughter Anna Maria. She really anchors the right-hand side of the composition, and her self-aware, direct gaze pulls us into the Jabach family's rarefied world. Below are some photographs that I took during the cleaning.

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Now at the Met

Le Brun's Jabach: Who's Got the Best?

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

Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Well, if you live in New York and work at the Metropolitan Museum, there's really only one acceptable answer to that question! But what happens when two versions of a picture exist, as is the case with the Metropolitan's new painting by Charles Le Brun of the German banker Everhard Jabach (1618–1695)? I worried about this as we entered into negotiations for the purchase of the picture.

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Way to Gogh

Alison Hokanson, Assistant Curator, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014

For the first time in recent memory, all seventeen of the Met's paintings by Vincent van Gogh—the largest collection of the artist's work on this side of the Atlantic—are in house and on view in galleries 823826, and 961. Visitors can enjoy a full range of highlights from the artist's prolific years in France, from portraits to still lifes to landscapes. These masterpieces are often committed to exhibitions around the world, making this a not-to-be-missed occasion.

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First Things First: Commencing the Conservation of the Jabach Portrait

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I had first seen the Jabach family portrait in a warehouse in London over a year ago and loved it, but I'll admit that when it finally arrived in our paintings conservation studio at the Museum this past June, I was a bit overwhelmed—it's enormous! Fortunately, the work's current condition needs to be fully documented before conservation can begin. This not only helps a conservator understand the painting and its issues but also provides some breathing space and thinking time.

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Now at the Met

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

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?

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Featured Catalogue—Interview with the Curator: Keith Christiansen

Nadja Hansen, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters, a new catalogue by Keith Christiansen—the John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of the Met's Department of European Paintings—is the first publication to explore the private devotional works of one of the Renaissance's great masters. Published in conjunction with the eponymous exhibition (on view through March 30), the appropriately small book matches the intimate exhibition, which focuses on one of the gems of the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice: Piero della Francesca's Saint Jerome and a Supplicant, a work that has long mesmerized Christiansen, and has never before left Italy. I sat down with him to discuss this work and why he felt compelled to put this show and publication together.

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Artists on Artworks Celebrates One Year at the Met

Molly Kysar, Former Assistant Museum Educator for Gallery Programs, Education

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013

On Friday, September 20, the fall season of Artists on Artworks began as visitors gathered in the Vélez Blanco Patio to meet artist Lisa Corinne Davis, who led a tour of the galleries and an hour-long discussion of a few paintings that she had personally selected. During the tour, Davis shared her perspective as a painter, talking about the choices that artists make as they are creating a new work—including what they choose to include and not include in terms of both subject and composition.

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About this Blog

Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.