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This Week In History

The Met. February 20, 1872.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially known nowadays as The Met) is one of the most well-known museums of the world. It is placed in Manhattan, in the City of New York, and it first opened to the public on February 20, 1872.

The collection of the museum has over 2 million pieces from all the world, from treasures from the Classical antiquity, represented in it´s Cyprus and Greece galleries, to paintings and sculptures from almost all the great European masters, as well as a huge collection of American Art. The Museum houses masterpieces of Raphael, Tiziano, El Greco, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Picasso, Pollock, Braque among many others.

The Museum houses also a great repertory of Egyptian art, African, Asian, Byzantine and European heritage.

In April 13, 1870, the New York State Legislature granted the new museum an Act of Incorporation, “for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said City a Museum and Library of Art, of encouraging and developing the Study of the Fine Arts, and the application of Art to manufacture and natural life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and to that end of furnishing popular instruction and recreations.”

A later Act reinforced the idea of having a museum completely open to the public, that would encourage the study of Arts and History: “shall be kept open and accessible to the public free of all charge throughout the year.”

The museum first opened in a building in 681 Fifth Avenue. Its first president was John Taylor Johnston, a railroad businessman and patron of the arts who had an art collection that constituted the first collection featured in the museum. Other co-founders were the publisher George Palmer Putman, the artists Eastman Johnson and Frederick Edwin Church, the industrialist Howard Potter and the former Civil War officer Luigi Palma di Cesnola.

Under their management the initial collection, that consisted of a stone Roman sarcophagus and 174 European paintings quickly grew beyond the space available in the building with the purchase of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities and had to take up the Douglas Mansion. The collection continued growing quickly, so these accommodations demonstrated to be insufficient soon enough. The collection moved to its actual site in 1880. The Met was granted the land between the East Park Drive, Fifth Avenue, and the 79th and 85th Street transverse roads in Central Park.


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