New York City, NY
"Tomorrow I must see you—somewhere where we can be alone," [Newland Archer] said, in a voice that sounded almost angry to his own ears . . .
"In New York? But there are no churches . . . no monuments."
"There's the Art Museum—in the Park," he explained. . . .
[And the next day, upon meeting:] "It's odd," Madame Olenska said, "I never came here before."
"Ah, well—. Some day, I suppose, it will be a great Museum."
"Yes," she assented absently. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (1920)
Ever since its foundational acquisition of 174 Old Master paintings in 1871 — the very time frame for Edith Wharton's acclaimed novel — The Met has aimed to become that "great museum" Newland Archer imagined. Thanks to generous donations and bequests, as well as purchases, the collection of European paintings has grown into one of the finest in the world.
But this does not mean it is static or complete. Our understanding of the past is in a constant state of revision, and curators must always be on the lookout for works of art that reshape the stories we tell, sometimes in subtle and other times in striking ways. The department's most important acquisition of the past few years is unquestionably the monumental portrait of the family of the great banker-collector Everhard Jabach by Charles Le Brun —one of the landmarks of French 17th-century painting (on view in gallery 617). Each painting presented in this exhibition enlarges in a significant fashion the narrative we attempt to relate under the roof of this now great museum.
Exhibition overview from museum website