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European Painting and Sculpture Collection

About the AGO's European Collection

The works in this collecting area have traditionally represented a survey of European art from the Italian Renaissance to the mid-1900s. More than 1,000 works of art from the Thomson Collection have bolstered the core strength of the European holdings, adding mostly small-scale sculpture dating from the Middle Ages to the 1700s. While the centrepiece of the Thomson Collection is Peter Paul Rubens's monumental Flemish Baroque painting Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1611–1612), the works that most typified Kenneth Thomson's collecting interests were diminutive, precious and made from natural materials such as ivory and boxwood.

Among the objects that comprise the Thomson Collection are sacred Medieval enamel and ivory works, Medieval and Renaissance devotional diptychs and secular ivory and boxwood utilitarian objects, Renaissance rosaries and prayer beads; Baroque secular boxwood and ivory sculptures, goldsmith works from the 1300s to the 1600s, and painted and carved portrait miniatures. Other prominent additions from the Thomson Collection include diminutive Egyptian antiquities, small-scale Greek and Roman antiquities, Asian works of art, Chinese snuff bottles dating back to the 1730s, Japanese wood and ivory netsuke and ojime carvings, and some Japanese lacquered objects from the early 1900s. A significant portion of the Thomson Collection is devoted to European ship models.

The AGO's Old Master Collection is comprised of three pillars of strength: Dutch painting from the 1600s, Italian painting and sculpture from the 1600s, and French Salon and Impressionist painting from the 1800s. The Dutch painting collection is particularly rich in landscape, still life and portraiture, and includes key portraits by Frans Hals and Rembrandt, landscapes by Albert Cuyp, Jan van Goyen and Salomon van Ruysdael, and still lifes by Hendrick Andriessen, Johannes Fabritius, Frans Snyders, Hubert van Ravesteyn and Jan Weenix.

The Italian collection is particularly strong in Baroque sculpture, in particular two outstanding works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Corpus (c. 1655), a life-sized bronze donated by Murray Frum and family in 2006, and a marble bust of Pope Gregory XV (c. 1621) that was given to the AGO by Joey and Toby Tanenbaum in 1997. The AGO also has one of the finest collections of Florentine Baroque bronze sculptures and medals in the world (The Margaret and Ian Ross Collection).

The French painting collection includes academic pictures by Charles-François Daubigny, Eugène Devéria, Jean-Léon Gérôme and James (Jacques-Joseph) Tissot, as well as outstanding examples of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, and Vincent van Gogh.

The Thomson Collection of European Art

Get overview information on the Thomson Collection of European Art, which comprises some 900 objects dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid 19th century, and includes The Massacre of the Innocents, by Peter Paul Rubens

Henry Moore Sculpture Centre installation is generously supported by:

  • The Henry Moore Foundation

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