The wealthy, well-dressed young man, distracted by not one but three beautiful young women, doesn't realise he is being robbed deftly – his gold chain snipped, his pocket picked.
A movie? A scene from a TV show? No, it's an arresting tableau in Georges de la Tour's famous 17th century masterpiece The Fortune Teller – a painting in which the young man is about to have his fortune told by an older woman as the three younger women undertake a wholly different transaction.
It's part of a world-class art exhibition of European masterpieces that has travelled to Brisbane from New York – and it may be some time before New Zealanders can contemplate travelling safely to New York to see these famous paintings in their usual home. Thankfully, our mates across the ditch have us covered with the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) bringing an exquisite piece of the "Big Apple" to Brisbane.
GOMA's new exhibition, 'European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art', runs from June 12 until October 17 – and 'European Masterpieces' is the second time Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) have come together with The Met to host an exclusive exhibition.
With 65 paintings spanning an enormous five centuries, the exhibition includes works by giants of European painting – from Titian, Carravagio, Rembrandt and Vermeer to Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and de la Tour.
The works, many of which rarely leave The Met, have made the trip thanks to a major construction project currently under way at the museum in New York – a four-year effort to upgrade the roof and skylights above The Met's European Paintings galleries, due for completion next year.
"Over the past two years, my colleagues and myself have worked hard to put together a masterpiece show that represents the breadth and the greatness of the collection of European paintings of the Metropolitan Museum," says Keith Christiansen, the John Pope-Hennessy Chairman of The Met's Department of European Paintings.
Among the paintings on display are Renaissance master Fra Angelico's iconic early work The Crucifixion (ca. 1420–23); Titian's sensual Venus and Adonis of the 1550s;
Rembrandt's late work Flora (ca. 1654); Vermeer's highly personal Allegory of the Catholic Faith (ca. 1670–72); van Gogh's triumphant The Flowering Orchard (1888); and Caravaggio's dramatic 1597 painting The Musicians (1597).
"It immediately had a huge impact," says Christiansen of The Musicians. "To negotiate this realm between the allegorical, the emblematic, the real and the genre was Caravaggio's great genius, and this is the picture where it all began."
With still-life, landscape, portraiture and figure studies all featuring in the extraordinary collection, there's something for everyone, young and old. In the age of restricted travel, it's a rare opportunity to bring the grandeur of New York to Brisbane's GOMA.
Max Hollein, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art says: "We hope this remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime, exhibition in Brisbane will give visitors enormous pleasure and we welcome them to visit The Met following the reinstallation of our European Paintings galleries in 2022."
There's more in the "Bris Apple"
The 'Big Apple in Brisbane' experience doesn't have to stop at GOMA – it's also a great opportunity to make the most of the city's world-class shopping precincts, entertainment and alfresco dining.
Home to over 1000 stores – including big-name international luxury brands – Queen Street Mall should be the first stop for shopping in Brisbane. For boutique shopping, head to the James Street precinct – filled with local designer stores and showrooms, art galleries, restaurants and cafes.
For New York-style dining, try the all-day brekky at Frankie & George in the city, complete with an industrial fit-out reminiscent of the heart of Brooklyn. And speaking of the boroughs, try 5 Boroughs for hand-crafted New York-style burgers, sandwiches, waffle fries and even steaks; as well as Red Hook, a CBD eatery and bar inspired by the Big Apple with burgers and street-eats to boot.
For timeless charm and a New York-inspired menu, head to Walter's Steakhouse in the CBD or, for fine dining, try Gauge – it's endorsed by the New York Times, after all.
After filling your bellies with New York-style fare, why not pretend you're on Broadway and head to Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) for a show? Home to over 1200 performances a year, QPAC is all set to present Broadway classic West Side Story, running from July 24 until August 22. Also in August, catch the world-renowned Bangarra Dance Theatre's SandSong – a story told through dance of the ancient knowledge of the Great Sandy Desert and its Walmajarri traditional custodians.
In September, catch the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical for a family-friendly trip to the theatre; or RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under live on stage for a wig-snatching extravaganza featuring all the contestants of Drag Race Down Under season 1.
With winter afoot but sunshine aplenty in Brisbane, there's never been a better time to book your flights to the 'Bris Apple'.