Top ten Old Masters shows in 2016


This year the crowds went bonkers for Bosch at both the Prado in Madrid and the Noordbrabants Museum in Bosch’s hometown of Den Bosch. The latter received its highest ever attendance in its 180-year history. Elsewhere, art-historical bye-ways were the name of the day, with the San Benedetto Group at the Pitti, the Fabritius’s goldfinch at the Scottish National Gallery, and the Botticini altarpiece at the National Gallery. It should be noted that the latter two were single-work shows with free entry—their popularity should be taken with a pinch of salt.

At the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, the Caravaggio and His Time show attracted 4,413 visitors a day to see Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy, which was thought to have been lost until discovered in a private collection in 2014. The most interesting entry is the exhibition of Vigée Le Brun’s portraits, which travelled from the Grand Palais (fifth place) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose show sits just outside our top ten. On the one hand, one might be tempted to think of her popularity as a triumph for feminism, a woman on top of patriarchy, but, on the other, hers was a “Thatcher” victory: a woman, but one who was an upholder of the ancien régime.


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