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Keith Christiansen

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.

Now at the Met

Van Eyck's The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment: Rethinking a Masterwork

Maryan Ainsworth, Curator, Department of European Paintings; and Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

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.

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Now at the Met

Getting Ready for Valentin de Boulogne's Big Day

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

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.

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Now at the Met

What Artists See: The Artist Project, Season 4

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

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.

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Now at the Met

A Florentine Masterpiece Brought Back to Life

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

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.

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Now at the Met

New Arrivals in the European Paintings Galleries

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

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When was the last time you walked through the Metropolitan's European Paintings galleries? If it was more than a year ago, you've missed some major additions and changes.

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Now at the Met

The Jabach Portrait: Reflections on an Extraordinary Acquisition

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

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.

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Now at the Met

Painting Beauty: A Recent Acquisition

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

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.

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Now at the Met

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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Now at the Met

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

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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