If you’ve seen the New York Spectacular, then you know that Emily and Jacob’s first stop to search for their parents is at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Jacob watches the beautiful works of art come to life in the galleries, he forgets to do one thing: Read the backstory behind each masterpiece! From “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold” to “The Penitent Magdalen”, learn the history on each incredible artwork that comes to life on the Great Stage. Learn more about these works of art here and on The Met’s website, where you can explore over 5,000 years of art from every corner of the world:
1. “Madame X” (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
Artist: John Singer Sargent
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 771
This striking portrait of Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, a Louisiana-born Parisian socialite known for her personal style, stirred controversy when it was shown for the first time in 1884. Learn how the public—and the artist John Singer Sargent—reacted here.
2. “A Matador”
Artist: Édouard Manet
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 810
Despite a fascination with seventeenth-century Spanish art, Édouard Manet only visited the country once, in 1865. During that trip to Spain, he saw the illustrious matador Cayetano Sanz y Pozas in action and was inspired to paint him when he returned to France. Learn more about “A Matador” here.
3. “The Penitent Magdalen”Artist: Georges de La Tour
Date: ca. 1640
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 617
Also known as the Magdalen with Two Flames, this work is one of four paintings created by La Tour of Mary Magdalen, who renounced her former life to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The candle depicted most likely symbolizes Mary’s spiritual enlightenment. Learn about other objects in this painting and what they represent here.
4. “The Roaring Forties”Artist: Frederick J. Waugh
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 774
While this oil on canvas is called “The Roaring Forties,” it was produced in 1908 by Frederick J. Waugh, an American artist best known for seascapes. The title refers to the latitudes of the stormy North Atlantic Ocean, which the artist painted from memory after a voyage. Get a closer look at the turbulent waves created by Waugh’s broad brushstrokes here.
5. “Juan Legua”Artist: Juan Gris
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 905
An early attempt at Cubism, this portrait of a bearded man smoking a pipe has a humorous air, betraying Juan Gris’s previous work as a satirical illustrator for French magazines. Although Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, the two artist-colleagues Gris most admired, were creating Cubist art in 1911, Gris actually took inspiration from the earlier work of Paul Cézanne. Learn more about “Juan Legua” here.
6. “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold”Artist: Charles Demuth
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 902
Between 1924 and 1929, Charles Demuth painted eight faceless, abstract portraits as tributes to modern American artists, writers, and performers. Demuth honored his friend, poet and physician William Carlos Williams, by infusing this picture with a rushing energy that expresses the spirit of Williams’s poem “The Great Figure”. Read the poem and learn more about this work here.
7. “Dancers Practicing at the Barre”Artist: Edgar Degas
Where to find it in The Met: Gallery 815
Edgar Degas created some 1,500 works of art—paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs—that explored the movement of ballet dancers. He studied their physicality and discipline, expressed in his art through the use of contorted postures and unexpected vantage points. Surprisingly, few works show ballerinas on stage in performance. He focused mainly on dancers in rehearsal, as seen in this painting. Find out why there’s a watering can in “Dancers Practicing at the Barre” here.