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MFA Installs Iconic Sargent In New Wing

John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit." (Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

BOSTON — The Museum of Fine Arts reached another milestone Friday in its massive expansion project — the installation of a priceless painting by John Singer Sargent.

In the morning, experienced handlers rode hydraulic lifts to prepare the wall, then delicately hung Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.” The large-scale painting is the centerpiece of a gallery dedicated soley to Sargent in the new Art of the Americas wing.

Once up, MFA Director Malcolm Rogers said, “It looks beautiful. We just have to put the final touches, decide the perfect height for it.”

And the ideal lighting, he added. Rogers has been overseeing every detail of the museum’s $500 million construction. This is a huge moment for the director and the team of curators and designers who’ve worked for years planning the museum’s enormous expansion. And this Sargent painting is particularly symbolic, said Rogers, “because it’s an icon of American art, and it’s an icon of the Boston museum.”

“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” just returned from Spain, where it was on loan to the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Art of the Americas curator Elliot Davis said she’s thrilled to have it back home. It’s a “star of the MFA’s collection,” she said, and it will thrill visitors who come to the new wing when it’s fully installed.

Sargent’s seven-foot-tall portrait is provocative. For decades art lovers have speculated about the lives of the little girls it depicts. The actual vases that are captured in the painting will be on display in the gallery as well, right next to “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.”

The Sargent Gallery is one of 53 galleries in the new Art of the Americas wing. At this point, the museum has 14 more to install before opening day in November. Malcolm Rogers said he and the rest of his team have a lot a lot of work to do between now and then, but assured me they’ll reach their deadline.

Ultimately more than 5,000 works of art will be on view in the new wing, many which have never been seen before by the public.

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