Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYC Journal: The Met

The stories from Fosco and Oz's weekend in NYC continue. Read them all here.

After a long and chilly walk in Central Park (see this post), Fosco and Oz warmed up by bathing in five thousand years of culture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Oz had never been to the Met before and because the whole museum is impossible to see in a few hours (or perhaps even a few days), Fosco and Oz tried to hit the highlights while allowing time for perfectly random detours. The European Paintings gallery is Fosco's favorite place to start. There's always something random and beautiful for you to stumble across. Like this painting (for which we never actually recorded the relevant information):

Or this equally anonymous-to-us beauty:

I mean, just LOOK at that cape on Jesus. Gorgeous.

Also for pure random enjoyment, Fosco and Oz really got a kick out of Tiepolo, an artist that Fosco had never thought twice about. But look at this:

Isn't it absolutely bonkers?

Another artist that Fosco never really considered is El Greco. But for some reason, he really stood out for both Fosco and Oz. There were two canvasses in particular that were absolutely luminous. This is The Opening of the Fifth Seal (The Vision of Saint John):

Whereas Oz's favorite was The Adoration of the Shepherds (ca. 1610):

The Met's collection of French painting has some truly exceptional works, especially Jacques-Louis David's Death of Socrates:

Fosco has always found this painting by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun to be absolutely ravishing:

And then there is this absolutely monumental painting by Jules Bastien-Lepage of Jeanne d'Arc. The expression on her face is exquisite as she listens to the voices of the ghostly saints who appear on the left of the canvas. Fosco looks at a reproduction of this painting over his desk everyday.

Finally, there is the absolutely extraordinary Duccio Madonna and Child (the Met's most expensive acquisition ever). In person, the piece is small and seemingly unprepossessing. And yet, the longer you spend looking at it, the more interesting it gets. I would recommend that someday you do yourself a favor and spend thirty minutes just staring at it. It will repay you.

And, of course, we had to make a quick detour to see the Van Gogh Irises, one of the most refreshingly beautiful paintings in the whole Met.

Of course, no visit to the Met would be complete without a visit to the Egyptian wing and the Temple of Dendur, housed in a dramatic space with a glass-walled view of Central Park. The temple complex is protected by prehistoric cats:

A money-hungry crocodile demands tribute:

Fosco spent several minutes decrying the US cultural arrogance that removed an entire temple from Egypt for display in New York. That is, until he read the part about how Egypt intended to submerge the temple forever under the lake created by the Aswan High Dam. Is it possible that sometimes protecting artistic treasures means removing them from their place of origin? Eek. Careful, Fosco. That way lies imperialism!

Do you dare enter the inner sanctum?

Look! Nineteenth-century graffiti! Kids in those days were just so disrespectful.

At this point, Fosco and Oz were just about exhausted. And they needed to change clothes for their dinner at Jean Georges (coming up in the next installment)!

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