European Art

The collection of European art at the Gallery comprises paintings, sculpture, textiles, and decorative arts from the 9th through the 19th century, including one of the world’s finest groups of early Italian Renaissance paintings, as well as notable works by such Northern masters as Hans Holbein, Frans Hals, and Peter Paul Rubens.
Danaë and Perseus on Seriphos(?)
Crucified Christ
Parau Parau (Whispered Words)
Saint Anthony Abbot Tormented by Demons
Le café de nuit (The Night Café)
Reclining Young Woman in Spanish Costume

About European Art

Encompassing close to 2,000 objects, the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection of European art comprises paintings, sculpture, textiles, and a small but distinguished group of decorative arts, spanning the 9th through the 19th centuries. The painting collection is panoramic in range, with particular strength in Italian art of the early Renaissance. Featuring one of the largest and finest groups of 13th- and 14th-century Tuscan paintings in the world, it also contains a significant number of 15th-century Sienese paintings and such acknowledged masterworks as Gentile da Fabriano’s Virgin and Child (ca. 1424–25), Antonio Pollaiuolo’s Hercules and Deianira (ca. 1475–80), and Pontormo’s Madonna del Libro (ca. 1545–46).

The early Italian holdings are complemented by Northern Renaissance art, including Hieronymus Bosch’s Allegory of Intemperance (ca. 1495–1500) and Hans Holbein’s Hanseatic Merchant (1538), along with 17th-century Dutch landscapes and portraiture, highlighted by Frans Hals’s De Heer Bodolphe and Mevrouw Bodolphe and a select group of paintings and oil sketches by Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. Nineteenth-century works include important paintings by Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme, strong groups of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Vuillard, and Paul Cézanne, as well as Édouard Manet’s Young Woman Reclining in Spanish Costume (1862–63) and Vincent van Gogh’s seminal Night Café (1888).

Note from the Curator

This closely cropped, glowing “portrait” is one of the most memorable tronies (studies of heads and characters) by 17th-century Dutch artist Jan Lievens. A renowned portraitist from a very young age, Lievens painted his subtlest tronies in Leiden, the Netherlands, between 1625 and 1632, when his reputation rivaled that of his fellow townsman Rembrandt van Rijn. With her cascade of golden hair pulled back by a pearl-studded band and her partly downcast eyes, the young girl appears mysteriously alive. Her profile, outlined against a dark background, her precocious beauty, and her pensive mood are masterfully conveyed through the artist’s command of light and refined handling of paint. In his idiosyncratic manner, Lievens gently scratched the wet paint with the back of his paintbrush in some areas to simulate the texture of a few straying strands of hair.

Young Girl in Profile is among 24 paintings currently on view at the Gallery, which are on loan from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection. Masterpieces by Hendrick Avercamp, Gerrit Dou, Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyck, and Peter Paul Rubens join recent additions of notable works by Joachim Anthonisz Wtewael, Aert van der Neer, and Balthasar van der Ast in new juxtapositions that demonstrate the Dutch and Flemish masters’ formidable pictorial skills, their dramatic flair, and their distinctive interest in naturalistic representation. These 24 paintings will remain on view in the second-floor European art galleries until May 2018.

Laurence Kanter

Chief Curator and the Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of European Art

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Jan Lievens, Young Girl in Profile, ca. 1631–32. Oil on panel. Lent by the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection

Featured Media

Recent collection research has recovered from storage a rare and richly decorated automaton clock, made around 1610 in Augsburg, Germany. Probably drawing inspiration from contemporary prints, the clock portrays the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, on a chariot pulled by two leopards. Precious clocks like this were collaborative enterprises among goldsmiths, sculptors, clockmakers, engravers, and even cabinetmakers. They were important status symbols in European courts, representative of the most cutting-edge technology of their time, and they were often used as diplomatic gifts. This clock—which has been recently restored—is also a table carriage, a lavish form of tabletop entertainment during banquets. This short video unveils the highly sophisticated inner mechanism of the clock, delicate parts that are otherwise hidden from view and are remarkably still intact. The video also captures the mesmerizing movements and sounds the clock makes when wound, revealing the creative and technical mastery behind this ingenious work of art.

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Meet the Curator

Laurence Kanter

Laurence Kanter is Chief Curator and the Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of European Art at the Gallery, and he was formerly Curator-in-Charge of the Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He received his PH.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in 1989. He is the author of the catalogue of Italian paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1994), and coauthor of Luca Signorelli (2001) and of numerous exhibition catalogues, including Painting in Renaissance Siena, 1420–1500 (1988), Italian Renaissance Frames (1990), Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, 1300–1450 (1994), Botticelli’s Witness (1997), The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi (1999), Fra Angelico (2005), and most recently Italian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection (2010). He has published widely on specialized problems in 14th-, 15th-, and 16th-century Italian painting and has organized major exhibitions on subjects ranging from Italian maiolica (1989) to monographic shows of the 19th-century English Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1998) and the 20th-century Italian master Giorgio Morandi (2008).

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Further Reading

Dean, Clay. A Selection of Early Italian Paintings from the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2003.

A Description of the Gallery of Fine Arts and the Collections: School of the Fine Arts, Yale University. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1931.

Forster-Hahn, Françoise. French and School of Paris Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery: A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968.

Italian Primitives: The Case History of A Collection and Its Conservation, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.

Kanter, Laurence B., and Carl Brandon Strehlke. Rediscovering Fra Angelico: A Fragmentary History, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2002.

Kenney, Elise K., ed. Handbook of the Collections: Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992.

Moore, Lamont. Rediscovered Italian Paintings, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1952.

Neilson, Katharine B. Selected Paintings and Sculpture from the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1972.

Offner, Richard. Italian Primitives at Yale University: Comments and Revisions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1927.

Seymour, Charles, Jr. Early Italian Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.

Sirén, Osvald. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Jarves Collection Belonging to Yale University. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1916.

Sturgis, Russell, Jr. Manual of the Jarves Collection of Early Italian Pictures. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1868.

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