Investigations: Art, Conservation, and Science

Investigations: Art, Conservation, and Science

Listen to experts investigate artists' materials and techniques, as science and art come together.

Listen to a sample of the Investigations program.


This triptych is in astonishing condition. As part of our "investigations" tour, we join conservator Michael Gallagher and curator Maryan Ainsworth.

Michael Gallagher: It's nice to be able to stand in front of a painting and not talk about problems or changes that diminish anything. The Penitence of Saint Jerome is really just a painting to drop your jaw and enjoy. It's extraordinary.

Maryan Ainsworth: They're in such marvelous condition, the three interior panels. And even the exterior ones.

Michael Gallagher: It's really phenomenal. One of the things that's worth noting is the way . . . the transition from the naturalistic green tones as it drops back very, very gradually to the bluish distance, the sort of aerial perspective the artist has created. It's completely intact. Often, these greens, these copper-based greens, get very dark. They probably are somewhat darker than they were when the painting was first executed. But they retain their green hue. It's just seamless, that dropping further and further back.

Maryan Ainsworth: It achieves what Patinir really was after, and that is this miraculous recession into space, into the far depths, back to the mountains. What do you think accounts for the fact that this has survived so well and particularly the tones in the landscape, which so often change over time?

Michael Gallagher: The short answer to that is I don't know. The reason is it's history—a history we can only know a part of. But it's clearly being displayed in a way, stored in a way that has prevented the painting being subjected to excessive amounts of light. It hasn't been harshly cleaned numerous times. It's a luck of history. But, you know, we should really celebrate something that is in such extraordinary condition. You just want to stand in front of it and lose yourself in the landscape.

See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

Director, Thomas P. Campbell

Explore the Met's encyclopedic collection with Thomas P. Campbell.

The Director's Tour is available in English, French (français), German (Deutsch), Italian (italiano), Japanese (日本語), Korean (한국어), Chinese (Mandarin) (中文), Portuguese (português), Russian (русский), and Spanish (español).

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