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Press release

The Met to Reopen 45 Newly Installed European Paintings Galleries on November 20, 2023

A collage of the eyes of seven paintings in even rows

Dates: November 20, 2023–Ongoing
Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 600–644

Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800
will highlight new narratives and juxtapositions among more than 700 works of art, following an approximately five-year-long project to replace the galleries’ skylights

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will reopen its full suite of 45 galleries dedicated to European paintings from 1300 to 1800 on November 20, 2023, following the completion of an extensive skylight renovation project that began in 2018. A chronological sequence of engaging displays showcases more than 700 works from the Museum’s world-famous holdings, offering fresh dialogues and thematic groupings. The newly reconfigured galleries—which include recently acquired paintings and significant loans, as well as select sculptures and works of decorative art—illuminate the interconnectedness of cultures, materials, and moments in the collection.

Major support for Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 is provided by Candace K. and Frederick W. Beinecke.

"The Met has one of the greatest collections of European paintings in the world. The highly anticipated reopening of this vast suite of galleries will invite visitors to reunite with old favorites—and discover incredible recent gifts and lesser-known artworks—all within a newly considered context,” said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and Chief Executive Officer. “The completion of the enormous skylights renovation project allows us to display these exceptional works of art within a superb setting, and we look forward to welcoming all to enjoy this splendid presentation of art and ideas for many years to come.”

Stephan Wolohojian, the John Pope-Hennessy Curator in Charge of the Department of European Paintings, added: “The skylights project presented us with an important opportunity to reconceptualize the presentation of The Met’s extraordinary collection through a fresh lens. Our goal is to engage meaningfully with our many audiences and make the experience of viewing our collection as rich, layered, and rewarding as possible.” 

The gateway gallery located at the top of the Great Hall staircase, featuring three monumental paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, introduces the geographic boundaries of the collection while simultaneously inviting consideration of the dynamic nature of European borders and the diverse global afterlives of Mediterranean antiquity. The galleries then unfold chronologically, setting works of Northern and Southern Europe into direct dialogue, a departure from the previous display, which focused on national schools and geographic distinctions. In addition to featuring longstanding strengths of the collection—such as individual masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Poussin; the largest collection of 17th-century Dutch art in North America; and the most extensive holdings of El Greco and Goya outside Spain—the reconfigured galleries give renewed attention to women artists, explore Europe’s complex relationships with New Spain and the Viceroyalty of Peru, and look more deeply into the histories of class, gender, race, and religion. “Collection highlights,” designated by their wall labels, anchor galleries and guide visitors through the space.

Recent acquisitions help expand the narratives told through the collection. A still-life by Clara Peeters, an early 17th-century artist working in Flanders, reveals the close link between floral painting and botanical illustration during the Scientific Revolution and also highlights women’s foundational role in the history of European still life painting. William Wood’s portrait of Joanna de Silva, painted during a time of rapidly expanding British colonialism, is an extremely rare independent likeness of an identifiable Indian woman by an 18th-century English artist. Francesco Salviati’s painting of Bindo Altoviti, an outstanding example of Italian Renaissance portraiture, is the first painting on marble to enter The Met collection. A rare painting by the French painter Antoine Le Nain is also shown in the galleries for the first time as part of the permanent collection. 

Exceptional groupings of varied works, made possible by the vast richness of The Met collection, encourage consideration of European paintings within the greater arc of history and artistic production. Works from the Department of European Paintings are juxtaposed with works from other curatorial areas, including sculptures, metalwork, decorative arts, musical instruments, arms and armor, and modern art. A gallery dedicated to the topic of “The Artist’s Studio,” for example, features Kerry James Marshall’s Untitled (Studio) (2014) surrounded by paintings made in centuries past that similarly suggest the generative activity of the workshop, draw the viewer into the process of the work’s making, and highlight the Museum’s longstanding tradition of engagement with practicing artists. The rediscovery of El Greco by European Modernists is evoked by the inclusion of Paul Cézanne and early Pablo Picasso among The Met’s world-renowned collection of works by this earlier painter. Venetian paintings by Titian, Jacopo Tintoretto, and Paolo Veronese are shown alongside five Venetian bronzes.

The reinstallation also celebrates works that have been committed as promised gifts to the Museum, Ludovico Carracci’s The Denial of Saint Peter and Pierre Jacques Volaire’s The Eruption of Vesuvius, A View of Naples Beyond, among others. These join a number of special loans from private collectors. Highlights include two important works by Sofonisba Anguissola and Judith Leyster—loans from the Klesch Collection that contribute to the greatly expanded presence of women artists in the display—and Jacques-Louis David’s spirited oil sketch for a major contemporary history painting now at Versailles.

The Met undertook several conservation projects to prepare works for the reinstallation and strengthen our understanding of the collection. Select examples include the carefully focused cleaning and retouching of Giotto di Bordone’s The Adoration of the Magi (possibly ca. 1320); the transformative removal of degraded varnish from The Met’s landmark Poussin, The Abduction of the Sabine Women (ca. 1633); the treatment of Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1653), whose appearance had deteriorated significantly since it was last conserved more than 40 years ago due to the increasing opacity of the modern, synthetic varnish; and the restoration of a spectacularly carved giltwood frame for Marie Guillemine Benoist’s 1802 portrait of Madame Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont and her son Eugène. Technical examinations revealed new information about works, such as the absence of the Black page in the underdrawing for Paris Bordon’s Portrait of a Man in Armor with Two Pages (ca. 1550) and the compositional evolution of Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo’s Saint Matthew and the Angel (ca. 1534).

The European Paintings Skylights 

The complete replacement of 30,000 square feet of skylights above Galleries 600 to 644 marked the largest infrastructure project in the Museum’s history, requiring a $150 million budget. The momentous undertaking significantly improves the quality of light in the space and considerably enhances the viewing experience, in addition to resolving basic maintenance issues and increasing energy efficiency. The previous skylights, constructed in 1939 and last remodeled in 1952, had deteriorated over time. The process of replacing and upgrading the roof, skylights, and all the HVAC systems began in April 2018 and was carried out in phases. With construction finished, The Met temporarily closed the full suite of galleries in late March 2023 for reinstallation, in preparation for the November 2023 reopening.

While renovation focused on the skylights and roof above the galleries, the interiors of the galleries received enhancements as well, including new wall colors that reinforce the chronological sequence. The repositioning of doorways has created dramatic vistas throughout the space.

History of the European Paintings Collection and Galleries

The origins of The Met’s European paintings collection date to the Museum’s founding purchase in 1871, when 174 paintings were acquired from three private sources in Europe. The collection has since been enriched by numerous donations, bequests, and purchases so that today it possesses one of the most comprehensive surveys of European painting anywhere in the world. For 140 years, the Museum’s collection of European paintings has been displayed prominently in galleries at the top of the staircase leading from the Great Hall. Part of the original 1880 building, these galleries were modernized and refitted between 1951 and 1954 to accommodate the expanding collection. Further growth required a major reinstallation of the galleries in 1972 in 42 contiguous galleries, which still could only provide enough space for the display of 60 percent of the 2,500 works in the collection. To remedy this, the 19th-century European paintings were moved to a newly constructed wing at the south end of the Museum in 1980, and the 20th-century paintings were moved to the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing when it opened in 1987. An extensive renovation and reinstallation completed in 2013 increased the space for old master paintings by almost one-third and resulted in the current configuration of 45 galleries. 


The reinstallation of the galleries was overseen by Stephan Wolohojian, the John Pope-Hennessy Curator in Charge of the Department of European Paintings, working with the Department of European Paintings' team of curators and staff members—including Adam Eaker, David Pullins, Tiffany Racco, and Anna-Claire Stinebring—as well as the curatorial staff of the departments of The American Wing, Arms and Armor, Asian Art, Drawings and Prints, Egyptian Art, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Greek and Roman Art, Medieval Art and The Cloisters, Modern and Contemporary Art, Musical Instruments, and Robert Lehman Collection. 

Examination and conservation of paintings was carried out by the Museum’s Department of Paintings Conservation under Michael Gallagher (Sherman Fairchild Chairman of Paintings Conservation) and including Kristin Holder, José Luis Lazarte Luna, Derek Lintala, Dorothy Mahon, Michael Alan Miller, Cynthia Moyer, Jeanette O’Keefe, Evan Read, and Sophie Scully; and the Department of Scientific Research under Marco Leona (David H. Koch Scientist in Charge) and including Federico Carò and Silvia A. Centeno.

For the skylights construction, the Museum collaborated with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners and Skanska USA Building. The Met’s Capital Projects and Buildings teams—overseen by Jhaelen Hernandez-Eli (Vice President, Capital Projects) and Tom Scally (Buildings General Manager), respectively—included Maik Atlas, Deepesh Dhingra, Michael Dominick, Paul McHale, Taylor Miller, and Charlie Tantillo. The gallery design was overseen by Alicia Cheng (Head of Design), with Clint Coller, Dan Kershaw, Mort Lebrigre, and Aichi Lee, as well as Chelsea Garunay, Amy Nelson, and Maanik Chauhan, with support from Tyler McGuckin, Tomo Mitake, Sarah Parke, Kamomi Solidum, and Kate Truisi.

The Museum benefitted from the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York City Council, the Manhattan Borough President, the New York State Senate and Assembly, and Governor Kathy Hochul.

Related Content

An Audio Guide accompanies select paintings on display to explore how European paintings relate to contemporary concerns like family, relationships, class, and identity. Listeners will hear observations from Met experts and their responses to questions from the public—including a psychoanalyst, food historian, photographer, and poet—as they consider the collection in a fresh light. The content will be accessible online and through a QR code in the gallery.  

The Audio Guide is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

Special related programming will include an afternoon of drop-in gallery talks on Sunday, December 3, from 1 to 4 pm (no registration required). Additional programming will include interactive art-making and story-writing stations, a musical performance, and Storytime with specially chosen picture books that connect to themes in the collection. Further information will be made available on The Met’s website.

Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 is featured on The Met’s website and on social media using the hashtags #MetEuropeanPaintings and #MetSkylights.

About The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by a group of American citizens—businessmen and financiers as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day—who wanted to create a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. Today, The Met displays tens of thousands of objects covering 5,000 years of art from around the world for everyone to experience and enjoy. The Museum lives in two iconic sites in New York City—The Met Fifth Avenue and The Met Cloisters. Millions of people also take part in The Met experience online. Since its founding, The Met has always aspired to be more than a treasury of rare and beautiful objects. Every day, art comes alive in the Museum’s galleries and through its exhibitions and events, revealing both new ideas and unexpected connections across time and across cultures


November 15, 2023

Contact: Jennifer Isakowitz

Image: Details of European Paintings in The Met Collection

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