The fifty thousand objects in the Museum's comprehensive and historically important collection of European sculpture and decorative arts reflect the development of a number of art forms in Western European countries from the early fifteenth through the early twentieth century. The holdings include sculpture in many sizes and media, woodwork and furniture, ceramics and glass, metalwork and jewelry, horological and mathematical instruments, and tapestries and textiles. Ceramics made in Asia for export to European markets and sculpture and decorative arts produced in Latin America during this period are also included among these works.
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
In the eighteenth century, promenading among the shops along the rue St. Honoré became a fashionable leisure activity for men and women alike. This street was home to Paris's marchands merciers (known as "mercers" in English), a class of merchants who dealt in all manner of luxury goods, including textiles for furnishing and clothing. The mercers' exclusive right to finishing work—arranging for the addition of embroidery, buttons, braids, and sequins through a network of specialized workers—allowed their customers to choose the exact colors and patterns they wanted at the point of sale. The range of embroidery samples currently displayed in the exhibition Elaborate Embroidery: Fabrics for Menswear before 1815, on view through July 19, offers a small window into the level of decoration and customization possible for fashionable men of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015
It is not difficult to appreciate the allure of the silver objects now on display in the exhibition Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Nicolas M. Salgo Collection, on view through October 25. The patrons who originally commissioned them between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries surely appreciated the way that they glittered in the light and how they demanded to be admired in all of their sumptuous glory, but there may have been another glint in the eye of their beholders: that of their wealth reflected back to them by these utilitarian objects. Their aesthetic value was only paralleled by their monetary value; after all, these objects are literally made of money, fashioned by talented goldsmiths from silver ore.
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015
In April 1925, the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes introduced French Art Deco to the public at large. Ninety years later, French Art Deco, one of the only books in English focused on this subject, provides a detailed account of this important movement, encapsulating the complex modern sensibilities of the early twentieth century through a selection of objects from the Met's impressive collection. I spoke with Jared Goss, author of the catalogue, about French Art Deco and the effects of the Industrial Revolution on artistic attitudes and production in twentieth-century France.
Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015
During several visits to the recent exhibition Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, I marveled at how the artist's inventive compositions guided my eyes through the dramatic, active scenes these artworks portray. The many fantastic details which augment each narrative rewarded repeated viewing and inspired a sense of awe for the unity of effort required to plan and create such massive, intricate images. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the tapestries—all but one of them loaned from European museums and private collections—and wondered about the tremendous physical labor it must have taken to bring them to New York and install them here at the Metropolitan Museum.
Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014
What happens when gaming students are let loose on the Met's collection? We found our answer to this question this past spring when staff from the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation collaborated with a group of intrepid and creative students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The students were supervised by their professor, Elizabeth Goins, in a course titled "Interactive Design for Museums," part of RIT's Museum Games & Technology Initiative. The students were tasked with communicating the inside information conservators gather from studying the materials and techniques of works of art through a fun and engaging game aimed at general audiences.
Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A tapestry designer, painter, draftsman, and publisher of architectural treatises, Pieter Coecke van Aelst was quite literally a Renaissance man. Though he was a master of many media while active from the 1520s until his death in 1550, his contributions have been largely forgotten today. Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, the catalogue accompanying the exhibition currently on view through January 11, 2015, covers much more than just the artist's tapestries and aims to fill the nearly fifty-year gap in the literature on this great artist. I spoke with the catalogue's author, Associate Curator Elizabeth A. H. Cleland, about the book, her interest in Coecke, and why she thinks this Northern Renaissance master has been neglected in recent scholarship.
Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Understanding an art object requires close observation and an interdisciplinary course of investigation that integrates the work of curators and conservators, the arts and the sciences. This work, however, is often done behind a curtain (so to speak), and visitors rarely have the opportunity to gain insight into the process. On August 4, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil the secret world of curators and conservators with its latest installation in Gallery 599, Examining Opulence: A Set of Renaissance Tapestry Cushions. This one-room exhibition will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fascinating and indispensable questions Museum curators and conservators pose as they investigate six luxurious, late Renaissance tapestry-woven cushion covers depicting scenes from the lives of biblical figureheads Abraham and Isaac.
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Many #tapestrytuesday readers have asked why some tapestries in the Met's collection have such diverse color palettes. As it turns out, the question you should be asking isn't "Why?" but "Dye?" Understanding the preservation or degradation of a tapestry's color is a complex sort of query whose answer is largely influenced by the dyes used to color its threads. To help unravel the mystery of tapestry colors, I recently sat down for a fascinating lesson in dyeing with two of the Museum's tapestry experts: Cristina Carr, conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation; and Nobuko Shibayama, associate research scientist in the Department of Scientific Research.
Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
In the world of tapestry, it's hip to be square—or rectangular, for that matter. Why, you ask? The answer is quite simple: borders.
You might have noticed that a decorative, tapestry-woven strip traces the edges of many tapestries, which is referred to as the border. While the border is very much a part of the physical tapestry itself, it often has a personality all its own. And, while some border designs were reused on multiple sets of unrelated tapestries, these ornamental edges can still be thought of as something like a thumbprint, a distinguishing characteristic that is apparent only upon close inspection.