The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened its full suite of 45 galleries dedicated to European paintings from 1300 to 1800 on 20 November 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.
Look Again: European Paintings 1300–1800 begins at the gateway gallery located at the top of the Great Hall staircase. Here, visitors are introduced to 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, 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.
The reinstallation also celebrates recent acquisitions by Clara Peeters, Hendrick ter Brugghen, and Rachel Ruysch. These join a number of special loans from private collectors. Highlights include two important works by Judith Leyster and Sofonisba Anguissola — loans from the Klesch Collection that contribute to the greatly expanded presence of women artists in the display — and a well-preserved fruit still life by Balthasar van der Ast.
Several conservation projects were undertaken to prepare works for the reinstallation, including 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.