The MFA’s collections of European paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts are among the finest in the world. A great way to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of European art from the Middle Ages to Modernism is by joining the Swan Society, the friends group for the Art of Europe department at the MFA. Our group takes its name from Colonel James Swan, a colorful figure from the end of the 18th century who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and ran his ships around the British blockade of France. He also brought to Boston a remarkable group of decorative arts from French royal residences, making him one of the first major American collectors of European decorative arts. The bulk of Swan’s collection was passed down through his Boston descendants for generations before coming to the MFA.
The Swan Society is composed of European-art collectors, enthusiasts, and those who just love to travel to Europe. We offer five exclusive programs a year, each intimate and in-depth. In a typical year, members enjoy three behind-the-scenes programs at the MFA, an insider’s visit to a museum in New England or an outstanding private collection, and a major lecture on European art with a renowned speaker. These programs provide focused opportunities to learn about European art from the experts and offer a higher level of access to curators and conservators. Favorite events in recent years have included a conservator’s take on the painting technique of Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, the surprising stories behind the organization of major exhibitions such as “Goya: Order and Disorder” and “Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer,” and close looking at treasures in the MFA’s storerooms, ranging from Baroque silver to Degas pastels. By joining the Swan Society you’ll also get to know the MFA in a new and special way.