The newly redesigned Northern Renaissance Sculpture and Decorative Arts gallery brings together collection highlights and spectacular recent acquisitions to situate The Met’s extraordinary permanent collection within the context of northern Europe’s early modern society.
The gallery includes works from roughly 1520 to 1630, when Europeans north of the Alpine mountains experienced civil unrest, religious revolution, and an increasingly globalized world. Dealings with Spanish, Portuguese, and later Dutch, French, and English colonialists, who were exploiting the people and land overseas, added to the regions’ fast-growing wealth as banking systems advanced and merchant networks aggressively extended their markets. Catholic dominance was destabilized as the Reformation led to the rise of various Protestant denominations. Politically, the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) dominated northern lands and linked hundreds of independent territories and Imperial city-states. Due to conflicts between religious groups, peasant wars against oppressive aristocracy, and brutal clashes with neighboring nations, social and political boundaries remained in flux.
Within this complex and changing society, works of art served as expressions of belonging, belief, and power. By grouping works thematically, this reimagined gallery explores the imperial, colonial, and religious contexts in which ceramics, textiles, metalwork, clocks, chess sets, stained glass, and more were made. With this new reinstallation, these objects of encounter, knowledge, wonder, and personal meaning offer a window into the past for a new generation of Met visitors.
Major support for the installation of this gallery was provided by the Marina Kellen French Foundation.
The harmony of this cup’s complex iconographic composition, expressed in rubies and enameled gold, is the extraordinary achievement of four distinct hands working for the Imperial Courts in Prague and Vienna.
This highly prized automaton was produced in very limited quantity for the wealthiest patrons. A windup mechanism moves the group forward on hidden wheels, propelled through minute vibrations.
By about 1520, the device had been developed to such an extent that a tiny watch movement could be incorporated into a jewel or some other small precious object.
A compilation of remarkable things was attempted as a mirror of contemporary knowledge, regardless of whether those objects were created by the genius of man or the caprice of nature.
In addition to the discovery and colonization of far off lands, these years were filled with pronounced advancements in cartography and navigational instruments, along with other advances in the study of anatomy and optics.
From the time of Otto's coronation until the official dissolution of the empire in 1806, the imperial title was held almost exclusively by German monarchs and, for nearly four centuries, by members of a single family.
Prague became, under Rudolf's guidance, one of the leading centers of the arts and sciences on the continent.
Dürer revolutionized printmaking, elevating it to the level of an independent art form. He expanded its tonal and dramatic range, and provided the imagery with a new conceptual foundation.