The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City opened its doors to the public for the first time on 20 February 1872.

By Martina Bollini

The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City opened its doors to the public for the first time on 20 February 1872. The Museum was founded two years earlier, when 174 paintings were acquired from three private sources in Europe. Since then, the MET has been enriched by numerous donations and bequests, including the Robert Lehman Collection, particularly rich in the field of Italian art. A notable collection of 17th-century Italian painting has also been built up by the European department, thanks to curatorial purchases and gifts.

Originally located at 681 Fifth Avenue, in 1873 the MET moved in the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street, until, in 1880, the Museum opened its first building at its current location in Central Park. Today, its permanent collection contains over two million works, making the MET the largest art museum in the United States and one of the most visited art museums in the world.

Last week, the MET announced a new open access policy, allowing free and unrestricted use of any images of public-domain artworks – about 375,000 – in its collection.

Reference: The MET website; The New York Times.

Further reading: METPublications.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Opening reception of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 20 February 1872.

Giovanni di Paolo, Paradise, 1445, tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood. Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1906. Accession Number: 06.1046

Fra Carnevale (Bartolomeo di Giovanni Corradini), The Birth of the Virgin, 1467, tempera and oil on wood. Credit Line: Rogers and Gwynne Andrews Funds, 1935. Accession Number: 35.121

Andrea del Sarto, Study for the Head of Julius Caesar, 1520–21, red chalk. Credit Line: Partial and Promised Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey, 2008. Accession Number: 2008.367

Raphael, Lucretia, 1508–10, pen and brown ink over black chalk, partially incised with a stylus (recto); rubbed with black chalk for transfer (verso). Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1997. Accession Number: 1997.153

Bronzino, Portrait of a Young Man, 1530s, oil on wood. Credit Line: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. Accession Number: 29.100.16

Caravaggio, The Musicians, c. 1595, oil on canvas. Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1952. Accession Number: 52.81

Salvator Rosa, Self-portrait, c. 1647, oil on canvas. Credit Line: Bequest of Mary L. Harrison, 1921. Accession Number: 21.105

Marcantonio Franceschini, The Last Communion of Saint Mary of Egypt, 1680, oil on copper. Credit Line: Wrightsman Fund, 1996. Accession Number:1996.9

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