Friday, December 16, 2011

A Day at the Met

By Charles Kessler

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was especially crowded Wednesday so I spent most of my time in the less popular galleries — the English and French Period Rooms and the galleries containing medieval and ancient sculpture. I don’t know why these galleries aren’t popular, but it’s fine with me.

I recently wrote that when I look at art I often notice that many works I'm looking at share some visual characteristic or a theme or subject. In Washington, for example, a lot of work struck me as funny, and at the Met I noticed that a lot of art from different cultures and periods was abstract. Not abstract in the sense of non-representational, but abstract in the old sense of the word — abstracted or simplified nature. These two heads from Graeco-Phoenician sarcophagi of the 5th century B.C struck me as très Art Deco.
And this and other 5000-year old Cycladic figures could have been made by Brancusi:
The Bastis Master, female figure, early Cycladic II, 2600 - 2400 B.C., marble, 25 inches high (#66.148)
There were even several small wrought iron Medieval sculptures that fell into the abstract theme:

And I noticed that the backs of a lot of sculptures were not only abstract, but were also funny.
(I apologize for the poor photos -- I couldn't find them on the Met's site so I had to use the ones I took with my iPhone.) 

The other common theme that kept coming up was what I call the  "awww, how charming motif" -- these sculptures for example:
And then there were the English and French Period Rooms located on either side of the Medieval Sculpture Hall where the Met's famous Christmas tree is located. (BTW, no photographs of the tree are allowed because, a guard explained to me, the tree is copyrighted! You can find a good photo here if you want.)

You're not going to find many good paintings in the Period Rooms, but the rooms themselves are appealing and pleasant, especially when they simulate light coming through the windows. And the galleries are practically empty so you have them to yourself for long periods. 
And on the way out, don't miss the Crypt Gallery of Byzantine Egypt under the Great Stairway.

All and all, an agreeable day at the Met.

Next post: a show at the Met that took my breath away, Heroic Africans, Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures (until January 29, 2012).


Carl Belz said...

Re: The "Door Knocker" and "Hunting Dog," check out Judy Kensley Mckie--
Pretty amazing, eh?

Charles Kessler said...

I don't know how those medieval artists could have ripped her off like that but it's pretty shocking!!!