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Event Highlights: September 4–7

Posted: Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Museum offers hundreds of events and programs each month—including lectures, performances, tours, family activities, and more. The following listings are just a sample of our upcoming programs.

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Unearthing Gold Masterpieces from Venado Beach, Panama

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, August 28, 2015

In 1948, the United States Navy discovered a rich Precolumbian cemetery with a bulldozer in the target shooting area of Fort Kobbe, a former military installation within the Canal Zone of Panama. In early 1951, after "a great deal of unrecorded digging by soldiers," Samuel Lothrop of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University arrived and conducted systematic excavations of over two hundred burials (fig. 2). After the Harvard project ended, "weekend" archaeologists such as Neville and Eva Harte continued work at Venado Beach and dug over 150 cist-like graves. Another such couple was Lt. Col. and Mrs. Lee E. Montgomery, who excavated in August of 1951, documenting nineteen graves, some of which contained multiple individuals.

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Existentialism and Abstraction: Etchings by Lucian Freud and Brice Marden

Jennifer Farrell, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Currently on view in the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery are works on paper by Lucian Freud and Brice Marden. Although these artists are widely acclaimed for their work in other media, prints play a critical role in their oeuvres. Both artists avidly explored possibilities for printmaking, often developing ideas and innovations that they then applied to work in other media. Their engagement with printmaking—etching in particular—was not only important for the artists, but also had a significant impact on the medium itself by offering up new possibilities.

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A Florentine Masterpiece Brought Back to Life

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015

What do you do when you have a Renaissance masterpiece in a truly cheap, junky, modern frame? You travel to Florence and have a handcrafted copy made of an original one.

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All American: Summer of Sargent and Bingham

Nora Gorman, College Group at the Met Committee Member

Posted: Monday, August 17, 2015

On Friday, July 31, the College Group at the Met (CGM) invited local college and graduate students to view The American Wing's summer exhibitions and permanent collection during the event All American: Summer of Sargent and Bingham. The evening's programs highlighted Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends and Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River, and uncovered exciting connections between the two exhibitions.

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Caillebotte's Chrysanthemums; or, Unexpected Encounters with Impressionist Interior Design

Jane R. Becker, Collections Management Assistant, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Gustave Caillebotte's Chrysanthemums in the Garden at Petit-Gennevilliers is one of the most exciting recent acquisitions in the Department of European Paintings. Now on view in gallery 824, not only is the painting the Met's first work by the artist, but it encapsulates a fresh approach to still life unseen before its time.

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Grace Under Pressure: Hungarian Goldsmiths and Their Guilds

Melissa Chumsky, Research Assistant, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015

Munich, June 21, 1868: The premiere of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg—an opera portraying the well-known and respected guild of the Meistersingers, who entertained German audiences with poetry and song from the fourteenth through the sixteenth century. While it wouldn't be a proper opera without some romance and intrigue thrown in for good measure, it was the complex Renaissance guild system that provided such rich fodder for one of Wagner's only original plotlines. The story highlights an essential tension within the guilds, between artistic spontaneity and strict regulation, and illustrates how this tension was transcended to create incredible art.

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How Was It Made? The Process of Creating Art

Adrienne Spinozzi, Research Associate, The American Wing; and Medill Higgins Harvey, Assistant Curator of American Decorative Arts, The American Wing

Posted: Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Have you ever viewed an artwork and wondered how it was made? The Met's collection is full of art that inspires us to ponder its creation, but the Museum rarely reveals the many steps that were taken to create the final work of art.

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Why Vestments? An Introduction to Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World

Warren T. Woodfin, Kallinikeion Assistant Professor of Art History, Queens College, City University of New York

Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015

The exhibition Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World, now on view through November 1, 2015, presents a selection of notable liturgical vestments that communicate the continuing prestige of the Orthodox Church and its clergy in the centuries following the fifteenth-century fall of Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. From a strictly theological viewpoint, vestments are hardly a necessity for Christian worship. Liturgical scholars are largely in agreement that for the first several centuries of Christianity's existence, its clergy officiated at services wearing the normal "street dress" of the Roman world. Only gradually did these items of clothing take on special significance as liturgical vestments, to be worn only during worship.

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Erté Is in Town! Designs for Delman's Shoes Now on View

Femke Speelberg, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Almost until the day of his death in 1990 at the advanced age of ninety-seven, Romain de Tirtoff, better known as Erté, was a frequent and much-loved guest of New York City. His visits, which were usually marked by dinners and parties in his honor, were often listed with exclamation marks in the society pages of the New York Times, and an exclusive birthday celebration was hosted by the Circle Gallery in Soho in honor of his ninety-fifth birthday.

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Art and Life in Thomas Hart Benton's America Today, with Randall Griffey

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Missouri native Thomas Hart Benton is often recognized as the leader of Regionalism, the 1930s artistic movement that celebrated rural life in the United States, but few know that New York was his home from 1912 to 1935. In 1930, he received his first major commission for a mural from the New School of Social Research. Called America Today, that mural is the subject of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's latest Bulletin, published to accompany the acquisition of the mural as a gift from AXA in November 2012 and its installation at the Met.

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What's in a Face?

Soyoung Lee, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Portraits can reveal so much about the character of the person depicted, beyond the obvious physical traits. What can you tell about the gentleman in this painting?

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Collaboration on the Museum Mile: A Met-Guggenheim Study of the Work of Alberto Burri

Federica Pozzi, Assistant Conservation Research Scientist, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Julie Arslanoglu, Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015

What began as a casual conversation between Marco Leona, David H. Koch Scientist in Charge of the Met's Department of Scientific Research, and Carol Stringari, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator of the Guggenheim Foundation, has grown over the past ten months into an unprecedented collaboration aiming to advance the role of science within curatorial and conservation-based scholarship at both institutions. The partnership—described in detail on the Guggenheim's blog—has established a framework for scientific research within the Guggenheim conservation studio by creating a position for the first scientist on staff and granting access to the Met's fully equipped chemical laboratories and advanced analytical instrumentation. Conservators and scientists from the two museums are currently sharing resources, identifying projects of mutual interest, and jointly studying objects in their respective collections.

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Elegant and Exact: George Stubbs's
The Anatomy of the Horse

Carol Santoleri, Research Assistant, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Thursday, July 16, 2015

British painter George Stubbs (1724–1806) created masterpieces of animal portraiture by combining anatomical exactitude with expressive details. One such portrait, Lustre, Held by a Groom, ca. 1762, is now on view in gallery 629 as part of the exhibition Paintings by George Stubbs from the Yale Center for British Art.

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Spectrum Spotlight—China: Through the Looking Glass

Christopher Gorman, Assistant Administrator, Marketing and External Relations; Chair, Spectrum

Posted: Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Andrew Bolton, curator in The Costume Institute, recently spoke with me about the special exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, extended through September 7.

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Grasping the Foot of Lightning in a Maya Scepter Fragment

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ancient Maya kings and queens were masters of political pageantry. Rulers and nobles engaged in ritual celebrations while wearing elaborate costumes and regalia that incorporated images of both ancestors and deities. One of the most important classes of objects shown in royal portraits and found in royal burials is that of the scepter, a handheld staff often made of stone. The Metropolitan Museum's collection contains a fragment of one such object made of greenstone (fig. 1).

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New Arrivals in the European Paintings Galleries

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When was the last time you walked through the Metropolitan's European Paintings galleries? If it was more than a year ago, you've missed some major additions and changes.

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Mastery of Imagination—Sultans of Deccan India with Navina Najat Haidar

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Deccan Plateau of south-central India was a nexus of international trade and home to a series of important, highly cultured Muslim kingdoms. With cultural connections to Iran, Turkey, eastern Africa, and Europe, Deccani art is particularly celebrated for its unmistakable, otherworldly character. This beautifully illustrated catalogue discusses two hundred of the finest Deccan works and includes extraordinary new photographs of the lush landscapes of the Deccan lands.

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A Reunion after Sixty Years: The Lin Yutang Family Collection

Shi-yee Liu, Assistant Research Curator of Chinese Art, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015

The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy, one of the finest outside China in both quality and scope, is largely built upon the acquisition of a few private collections. The nearly three hundred works that entered the Museum from the collections of C. C. Wang (1907–2003), the Edward Elliot Family, and John M. Crawford, Jr. (1913–88) in the 1970s and 1980s include several of the most important extant Song (960–1279) and Yuan (1271–1368) pieces today. Spanning the period from the eleventh to the nineteenth century, these works form the core of the department's painting and calligraphy collection from dynastic China.

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The Artist Project: Season 2

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015

Step aside, Game of Thrones; Season 2 of The Artist Project is the most anticipated follow-up of the year. With twenty new artists talking about how The Met is the place where they always find inspiration and make new discoveries, there is no better watching. Tune in and feel free to binge watch.

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Vernal Splendor: Kano Sansetsu's Old Plum

Aaron Rio, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015

In Kano Sansetsu's Old Plum—currently on view in the exhibition Discovering Japanese Art: American Collectors and the Met—a wizened plum tree stirs in the cold of early spring. At lower right, its buckled trunk rises near pillar-like rocks and a thicket of bamboo grass (sasayabu) before stretching to the left, heaving and gyrating its way across a sixteen-foot expanse of gold foil. Green lichen clings to its knotty trunk and icy white blossoms open on its fragile twigs, frozen stiff against the gold.

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The Jabach Portrait: An Extraordinary Acquisition

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2015

I often remind people that when the Met was founded in 1870, it did not own a single work of art. The collection that we know and love today is the collective achievement of many collectors and donors—private citizens determined to share their passion for art with the public. The giant names—J.P. Morgan, Louisine and H.O. Havemeyer, Benjamin Altman, Robert Lehman, Charles and Jayne Wrightsman, Walter Annenberg, and most recently Leonard Lauder—join hundreds of others who were, and are, profoundly generous in supporting the development of our collection.

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Installing Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art ; Kristine Kamiya, Associate Conservator, Department of Textile Conservation; and Matthew Cumbie, Conservation Preparator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, June 5, 2015

During the earliest stages of conceptualizing the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, on view through June 14, I went through the Metropolitan Museum's holdings and came across a stunning body of jewelry that came to the collection in 1915. As the Department of Asian Art is celebrating its centennial this year, I was excited to have the opportunity to present the very first Himalayan works to come into our collection—the first of many works acquired beginning exactly one hundred years ago.

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Now on View: A Portrait Bust of Emperor Domitian

Christopher S. Lightfoot, Curator, Department of Greek and Roman Art

Posted: Friday, June 5, 2015

In June, the Department of Greek and Roman Art's fine bronze portrait bust of an aristocratic Roman boy goes on display in The Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. The sculpture, originally affixed to a herm of wood or stone, was made by a gifted craftsman who endowed it with great presence. The boy's identity is unknown since no inscription is preserved, but the high quality of the sculpture has often led to the suggestion that he represents the emperor Nero as a child. Since Nero was already thirteen years old in a.d. 50—when he was adopted by his great uncle and stepfather, the emperor Claudius—it seems unlikely that he is, in fact, the person portrayed here. Nevertheless, the style of the bust is very much in keeping with late Julio-Claudian portraiture.

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The Decoration of Men's Fashion in Eighteenth-Century France

Kirstin Purtich, Former Intern, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

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.

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The Shapes of Things, or, How the Ding Met the Tureen

Denise Patry Leidy, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

This spring, the subject of cultural exchange between China and the West has been a hot topic thanks to the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art. Yet fashion is by no means the only arena in which Western artists have been inspired by Chinese objects. For instance, bronze ritual vessels known as ding (figs. 1 and 2), which emerged during China's Bronze Age (ca. 1600–221 B.C.), have long inspired objects ranging from Korean chaekgori screens to Viennese bowls.

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Worth Their Weight: Hungarian Silver from the Salgo Collection

Melissa Chumsky, Research Assistant, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts

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.

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"The Blood Was Pooled, the Skulls Were Piled": Maya Star Wars and a Misconstrued Doomsday

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

A fragment of the bas relief known as Tortuguero Monument 6, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, forms part of one of the most infamous and contentious hieroglyphic texts in the Classic Maya (ca. a.d. 250–900) corpus. For many years epigraphers and lay enthusiasts honed in on the final passage of the text as a "prophecy," a tale of what would have happened on the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahaw 3 K'ank'in in the Maya calendar. This corresponded to a day in December 2012, leading to spurious and sensational claims about an end of days predicted by the ancient Maya. The Met's fragment contains a pivotal portion of the text (fig. 1).

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The Ashcan School, The Eight, and the New York Art World

Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge, The American Wing

Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

There's something new to see in gallery 772: a more expansive look at the work of the early-twentieth-century urban realists known as the Ashcan School. Robert Henri, William Glackens, George Luks, Everett Shinn, and John Sloan explored many dimensions of modern life in paintings, drawings, and prints, and now—for the first time in The American Wing—you can see their work across various media in one gallery.

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Hidden Secrets of Ancient Egyptian Technology

Anna Serotta, Independent Conservator; and Federico Carò, Associate Research Scientist, Department of Scientific Research

Posted: Friday, May 22, 2015

Archaeological objects and works of art in museum collections are not only treasured for their aesthetic qualities, but are also repositories of invaluable information, often concealed at a first sight, about the civilizations that created them. Among the many beautiful pieces in the collection of the Met's Department of Egyptian Art, it is interesting to note one modest stone fragment (fig.1), the scientific investigation of which has provided a clue that could solve a long-time debate among Egyptologists and historians of technologies: the use of high-performance abrasives.

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The Jabachs Are in the House!

Stephan Wolohojian, Curator, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2015

At long last, after ten months of conservation work, Charles Le Brun's arresting portrait of Everhard Jabach and his family is now on view in the galleries.

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Me, My Selfie, and I: A Day at the Met with Telly Leung

Telly Leung, Guest Blogger

Posted: Friday, May 15, 2015

May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage month, and my dear friends at the Met have asked me to be one of the many performers taking part in their upcoming Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration on Friday, May 22.

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George Stubbs and the Art of the Thoroughbred

Carol Santoleri, Research Assistant, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The early patrons of British painter George Stubbs (1724–1806) were enthusiasts of the hunt or the racecourse who sought flattering portraits, not just pictures, of the thoroughbred horses they owned. One such portrait, Turf, with Jockey up, at Newmarket, is now on view in gallery 629 as part of the exhibition Paintings by George Stubbs from the Yale Center for British Art.

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Conserving the Saint Martin Series: Technical Analysis of Fifteenth-Century Embroideries

Giulia Chiostrini, Assistant Conservator, Department of Textile Conservation

Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

Seven embroideries, six roundels, and one arch panel depicting scenes from the life of Saint Martin are now on view in the exhibition Scenes from the Life of St. Martin: Franco-Flemish Embroidery from the Met Collection. These fifteenth-century textiles were embroidered with dyed silk, silver, and gilt–silver metal threads on a linen plain weave underlaid with two layers of linen plain weave (fig. 1).

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The Conservation of the Jabach Portrait: Almost There!

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

The second and final phase of the retouching of the Jabach portrait—which has been undergoing conservation since July 2014—is virtually finished. This step brings the losses that had previously only been underpainted up to a full match with the surrounding original. Also, areas where the paint layer has been abraded in the past can be corrected.

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Explore the World with Senses of Springtime: Celebrate India!

Mary Ann Bonet, Coordinator of Family, Teen, and Multigenerational Learning

Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015

One of the things I love most about the Met is that our diverse collection allows us to take a journey around the world without ever leaving the building. I am particularly excited about our next festival on May 17, Senses of Springtime: Celebrate India!, which will give visitors the opportunity to explore a part of the world that I have always wanted to visit—India and Southeast Asia.

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A Jewelry Designer's Tour of the Met

Debbie Kuo, Administrator, Department of Greek and Roman Art

Posted: Friday, May 8, 2015

The Met's collection is a world of inspiration for artists. As an administrator in the Department of Greek and Roman Art and a jewelry designer, I often stop in the galleries on my way to a meeting or sketch during my lunch break, and I am constantly looking to past centuries for new ideas.

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Crossing Cultures—Platon for China: Through the Looking Glass

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2015

Best known for his compelling portraits of world leaders, Platon spent several months photographing couture garments from designers such as Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Alexander McQueen, and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as traditional Chinese costume and decorative art objects. I spoke with him about the book, his work, and the importance of artists as cultural mediators.

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Restoring Bhairava's Ear

Pascale Patris, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In 2012, this imposing Bhairava's mask came to the Museum as a part of an important donation from The Zimmerman Family Collection, and it is now on display in the newly renovated gallery 252. The sixteenth-century gilt and polychrome copper mask of Bhairava from Nepal had a significant loss to its appearance—its right ear was missing, and its attribute, a large copper pendant earring for the left ear, had been used as a substitute.

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Discussing the Rise of French Art Deco with Author Jared Goss

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

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.

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Olmec Babies as Early Portraiture in the Americas

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Friday, April 17, 2015

One of the stars of gallery 358 and the recent exhibition The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of the Best in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas is a seated figure of a chubby baby in the Olmec style from Central Mexico (fig. 1). As the Rockefeller exhibit pointed out, this is among one of the most celebrated Olmec ceramic works known to scholars, and was even selected as the cover model for the Museum of Primitive Art's landmark show on Preclassic Mesoamerica in 1965.

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The "Cutting Edge" of Fashion: Designs for the Decoration of Arms and Armor on Paper

Sasha Rossman, Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Femke Speelberg, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015

In his 1583 book The Anatomie of Abuses, the English moralist Phillip Stubbes criticized the growing trend for wearing arms as a stylish accessory, condemning upstart fops who sported "swoords, daggers and rapiers guilte and reguilte, burnished, and costly engraven, with all things els that any noble of honorable, or worshipfull man doth, or may weare so as one cannot easily be discerned from the other." Stubbes's main concern lay in the fact that men of all classes gave in to the whims of fashion and started wearing decorated arms daily as pieces of jewelry, giving way to vanity and pride and simultaneously blurring the lines of social standing.

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Spectrum Spotlight: Fatal Attraction

Christopher Gorman, Assistant Administrator, Marketing and External Relations; Chair, Spectrum

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Douglas Eklund, curator in the Met's Department of Photographs, recently spoke with me about the special exhibition Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Photographs, on view through August 16.​

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Asian Art Centennial: One Hundred Years of Tibetan Art at the Met

Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In 1915, the president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert de Forest, turned his attention to Asia and acquired a large group of Nepalese and Tibetan gem-studded objects. Among them was this dazzling ornament for the forehead of a sculpture. It presents the four directional Buddhas in diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, as well as auspicious materials such as red coral and turquoise. At the center, the cosmic axis of the universe, is a vajra featuring a large diamond surrounded by lapis lazuli—a clear reference to Vajrayana Buddhism as the diamond path.

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The Jabach Portrait: Reflections on an Extraordinary Acquisition

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Michael Gallagher has been taking readers of this blog series step by step through his conservation work on the remarkable Jabach portrait. So I thought this might be the moment—in the few weeks remaining until its installation in the galleries—to reflect on how we came to acquire this extraordinary picture.

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Where the Vast Sky Meets the Flat Earth: Framing Plains Indians

Daniel Kershaw, Exhibition Design Manager, Design

Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015

When I began thinking about the installation plan for the exhibition Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky almost two years ago, I started organizing the artworks and contemplating the layout of the scheduled gallery. The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall (gallery 999) is usually divided into rooms, or a sequence of manageable spaces, but somehow this seemed inappropriate for an exhibition focused on art devoted to, and deeply reflective of, its overwhelming natural environment. Almost none of the objects, with the exception of modern and contemporary works, needed to be mounted to a wall, so that left most of the walls of the Met's second-largest special exhibition gallery available.

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A New Web Series: The Artist Project

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We have spoken a lot lately about The Met's interest in looking at contemporary art through the lens of our historical collection. We have just launched a new project that gives you a glimpse of just what we mean when we talk about that kind of connected view of contemporary art.

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Intern Spotlight: Ibrahim Mohamed Ali's Work in Photograph Conservation

Nora Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator, Department of Photograph Conservation

Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ibrahim Mohamed Ali joined the Metropolitan Museum's paid summer intern program from his position as a conservator at the Grand Egyptian Museum via the George Washington University Museum Studies Program, where he is working toward his master's degree. With a background in the conservation and preservation of metal archaeological artifacts but with an immense passion for everything photographic, Ibrahim delved into all aspects of photograph conservation during his nine weeks at the Met this past summer.

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Sacrifice, Fealty, and a Sculptor's Signature on a Maya Relief

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, March 19, 2015

One of the Maya masterworks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an eighth-century relief with enthroned ruler, likely a fragment of the carved lintel of a doorway from the site of La Pasadita in northwestern Guatemala (fig. 1). La Pasadita was visited in the 1970s by renowned explorer and monument recorder Ian Graham, but subsequently became dangerous for scholarly visits because of border conflicts during the country's decades-long civil conflict. Land mines and security problems prevented archaeological work until 1998, when Charles Golden and colleagues performed reconnaissance in the area. Even today, the site lies within a troubled zone suffering the effects of narcotrafficking and illegal settlements within the national parks in the Usumacinta River drainage.

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Celebrating Nauruz with The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp is a tenth-century epic by the Persian poet Firdausi, chronicling Iran's mythical history before the founding of Islam. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's publication is a facsimile of the most lavishly illustrated version of the text, produced for the Safavid Shah Tahmasp, who ruled Iran from 1524 to 1576.

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Now on View: Drawings by Bill Traylor, Pioneer of Outsider Art, in The American Wing

Sylvia Yount, Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge, The American Wing

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015

"[Traylor] was beautiful to see—so right with himself and at peace—as the rich imagery of his long life welled up into his drawings and paintings."

—Charles Shannon, 1985

A few weeks ago in gallery 749—where we've been featuring a range of nineteenth-century American folk art—we installed eight drawings from the late 1930s by the acclaimed pioneer of so-called outsider art, Bill Traylor (1853/54–1949). This is the first time in twenty years that these works have been seen at the Met—and the very first in The American Wing.

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Evoking the Divine: Mental Purification Using a Tibetan Tsakali Mandala

Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015

Tsakali cards were used by a practitioner, usually a monk or nun, under the guidance of a teacher to evoke a Buddhist deity. As these teachers traveled from one monastery to the next, using sets of portable tsakali cards was an efficient way of presenting the vast pantheon of Buddhist gods.

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Dana Claxton to Perform Original Piece, Fringed, at the Met

Amanda Malcolm, Intern, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Sunday, March 15, filmmaker, photographer, and performance artist Dana Claxton will present an original piece entitled Fringed, which she created specifically for the Metropolitan Museum in honor of the exhibition The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky. Claxton's art, which is also represented in the exhibition, expresses reverence for her Lakota heritage and challenges the viewer to engage with Native American identities in contemporary society.

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Painting Beauty: A Recent Acquisition

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Almost invariably," writes Stendahl in the Italian Chronicles, "foreigners coming to Rome ask to be taken, at the outset of their tour of inspection, to the Barberini gallery; they are attracted, the women especially, by the portraits of Beatrice Cenci and her stepmother." Beatrice, of course, not only had possessed beauty, but she had a story, having been publicly executed for the murder of her cruel, molesting father.

What was thought to be her portrait (above) was painted by the "Divine Guido Reni" (1575–1642). Reni was a great artist, but the picture Stendahl admired was not, in fact, by him and certainly cannot hold a candle to the portrait of an unknown beauty recently given to the Metropolitan Museum and now hanging—following its cleaning and reframing—in gallery 623.

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The Plains Indians Exhibition: A Milestone for the Met

Judith Ostrowitz, Research Associate, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Monday, March 9, 2015

Today, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, a ground-breaking exhibition of Native American art, opens to the public at the Metropolitan Museum. Although indigenous art from North America has been presented at the Museum before, both in the permanent galleries in the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing and in smaller-scale temporary exhibitions, this project represents a certain milestone in the Museum's history. It focuses on a single region and includes more than 150 works of art that range from ancient stone sculptures made before European contact through painted buffalo hides and items of prestigious regalia to more recent works on paper, paintings, photographs, and a contemporary video installation piece. The scope of this exhibition is extremely ambitious, and I am delighted to have been a part of this project as the organizer for the venue here in New York.

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L'Estampe Originale: A Rare Print Portfolio Now Online

Britany Salsbury, Former Research Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Lisa Conte, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015

During its two-year print run, the print portfolio L'Estampe Originale (1893–95) brought together the most sophisticated developments in printmaking by a range of vanguard artists. The Met's unique, complete edition of the prints was recently digitized and is now available for consultation online.

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The Conservation of the Jabach Portrait: Starting the Retouching

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Michael Gallagher uses gouache paint to retouch losses in the Jabach portrait, which has been undergoing conservation for the past eight months.

With the exception of the inevitable damage caused by the turning over of the top of the canvas to attach it to a smaller stretcher (see my September 24, 2014, post about this aspect of the painting's history), the great Jabach family portrait is in exceptional condition. Nevertheless, there are several small losses and scrapes that are typical for a painting of this age and size and which hung in domestic interiors—albeit quite grand ones—for centuries. So the next step is to retouch these areas.

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The Gilded Road: A Journey in Tweets

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Monday, March 2, 2015

I recently embarked on a research trip that revealed new insights into the cultural contexts of some of the Met's most beloved objects made of gold, silver, and copper from Central and South America. The ancient artists that lived in present-day Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru produced incredible metal masterpieces now found in national, public, and private collections around the world. Though the specific focus of my trip was to study metallurgical traditions, visits to archaeological sites and new museums held many surprises pertaining to the arts of architecture, textiles, pottery, and even woodworking. Throughout the trip, I documented our team's visits to each place on Twitter. Here is a summary of the three-week journey from Panama to Peru, illustrated with a selection of the photos I tweeted.

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Bloomberg Hosts Instameet at the Met

Christopher Gorman, Assistant Administrator, Marketing and External Relations; Chair, Spectrum

Posted: Friday, February 27, 2015

On Monday, February 2, I was thrilled to be a part of a Bloomberg Philanthropies–hosted "Instameet," an event bringing together people who use Instagram for a whirlwind session of picture-taking. I found myself among some wonderful Museum colleagues, staff from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and some of the most influential Instagramers in New York City.

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Destruction at the Mosul Museum

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2015

Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East. The Mosul Museum's collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq. This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.

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Nine "Secrets" about the History of the Met's Department of Asian Art

Mike Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015

In preparing a history of the Museum's Department of Asian Art, which this year celebrates its centennial by showcasing its unparalleled collection through a range of exhibitions, gallery talks, and other offerings, I have uncovered a number of little-known facts and many "secrets" that are not widely known to the public. Here are nine of the most fascinating.

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The Met's Joint Mission to Malqata

Catharine H. Roehrig, Curator, Department of Egyptian Art

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The remains of the festival city of Malqata are located on the west bank of the Nile, about 430 miles south of Cairo, opposite the modern city of Luxor (usually referred to by Egyptologists as Thebes). The festival city dates to the time of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned during the second half of Dynasty 18, during Egypt's New Kingdom. This pharaoh was the father of Akhenaten, and very likely the grandfather of Tutankhamun.

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The Mummy of Nesmin: A Closer Look

Isabel Stünkel, Associate Curator, Department of Egyptian Art; and Sarah Nankivell, 2014 Intern, Department of Egyptian Art and Digital Media Department

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

For several years The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been collaborating with the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Radiology, using computed tomography (CT) to scan objects in the Museum's collection for research purposes.

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Guns, Paper, and Stains: Preserving History through Interdepartmental Collaboration

Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015

Included in the Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 2003–2014 exhibition, curated by Donald J. La Rocca and currently on display in the galleries of the Department of Arms and Armor though December 6, are several printed designs associated with ornamental firearms. Upon acquisition, two of these prints—the decorative title page from the album Plvsievrs Pieces et Ornements Darquebuzerie, acquired in 2011, and a design for the stock of a musket from the Nouveavx Desseins D'Arquebvseries, acquired in 2013—appeared similarly stained and damaged, but underwent distinctly different conservation campaigns. The two prints, as well as all of the other works on paper currently on display, will be on view through March 2015, due to their preservation needs.

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Using Color to Link Cultures: An Eighteenth-Century Islamic Tile in Context

Fatima Quraishi, 2014–15 Hagop Kevorkian Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Department of Islamic Art has over three thousand ceramic objects in its collection, with perhaps the largest corpus of the collection acquired from the Museum's excavations in Nishapur, Iran, during the mid-twentieth century. While the department maintains a fine collection of Safavid and Ottoman ceramics, ceramic work from south Asia is not as well represented. Among these examples of south Asian ceramics, my favorite is an eighteenth-century tile from Multan, in present-day Pakistan (pictured above). In terms of both material and technique, the tile is typical of ceramics from this part of south Asia, as are three similar objects in the collection—an eighteenth-century dish and two late fifteenth-century tiles (2008.461 and 2008.462).

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Back in Print—High Style: Masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Monday, February 9, 2015

The perfect Valentine's Day gift for the fashion lover, High Style is now back in print as a paperback, with an updated cover that features the stunning "Clover Leaf" gown by Charles James. This lavishly illustrated volume presents some two hundred examples drawn from more than twenty-four thousand garments, accessories, hats, and shoes in the Brooklyn Museum's collection (which was transferred to the Met in 2009). A wide-ranging book covering garments from the eighteenth through the twentieth century, High Style provides a perfect introduction to the history of fashion.

In honor of Valentine's Day, read further to learn more about seven romantically hued ensembles featured in this publication.

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Andrew Bolton Wins 2015 Vilcek Prize in Fashion

Nancy Chilton, Chief Communications Officer for The Costume Institute

Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015

Andrew Bolton, curator in The Costume Institute, was chosen as the winner of the Vilcek Prize in Fashion for his curatorial work that elevates fashion as an art form. The prize is part of the 2015 Vilcek Prize and Creative Promise Prizes in the Arts, which are awarded in the field of fashion, and spotlight foreign-born artists with records of major achievement in their fields.

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Diamond in the Rust: Conserving a Damascened Tibetan Knife

Marlene April Yandrisevits, Former Graduate Intern, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015

Looking closely at historical artifacts is one of the chief privileges and joys of being an art conservator, and I am thrilled to share with you a close look at one of the extraordinary objects currently on view in the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas. While this ritual blade is immediately striking in its sinuous form and elaborate decoration, closer examination reveals an inspiring display of technical skill and master artistry.

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Walter Liedtke, Our Friend and Distinguished Colleague (1945–2015)

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015

The news that Walter Liedtke was among the victims of the Metro-North train crash on Tuesday night sent shock waves through the Museum. We had all heard about the accident, some considered for a moment who they knew who took that route, but then life continued. The revelation the next morning that among the five people in that first train car was one of our own curators suddenly made the world feel impossibly small. For 35 years, Walter had come and gone from the Met every day, and now that would never happen again.

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Surface, Depth, and Description in Le Brun's Portrait of Everhard Jabach and His Family

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015

We sometimes imagine that no one before the twentieth century thought of a painting in terms of line and color and the play between surface and depth—that before the advent of Cubism, painting was a matter of mere description. Wrong.

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Ragas in Review: An Evening of North Indian Music

Julia Rooney, Administrative Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Moroccan Court Music Series, which began in April 2014, saw its last performance of the year on November 21, with a program of Hindustani music. Planned to coincide with the recently closed exhibition Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection, the evening featured Neel Murgai on sitar and Shivalik Ghoshal on tabla, playing a program of north Indian ragas.

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An American Voyage for French Tapestries

James Moske, Managing Archivist, Museum Archives

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.

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The Kunstkammer Has Been Crowned

Sally Metzler, Guest Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015

In my December 30 post "Crown the Kunstkammer!" I challenged readers to suggest objects that would make worthy additions to the Kunstkammer, or chamber of wonders, in the exhibition Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague. Cheers to all who participated! Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, Spranger's patron and the founder of the Prague Kunstkammer, would have found these additions tantalizing. I thank you for the stimulating ideas you contributed both in the comments on the post and on Facebook, and would like to highlight a few of my favorite submissions.

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Understanding and Sustaining Cultures: The Conservation of Nepalese Jewelry

Nina Pascucci, Former College Intern, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015

I've always been drawn to the role that art and artifacts play in shaping our collective history and culture. As a college intern in the Department of Objects Conservation here at the Met, I recently had the unique opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with beautiful jewelry from Nepal while assisting with the preparation for the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas.

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Jewelry and Power: Notes from a Friday Focus Lecture

Helen D. Goldenberg, Associate for Administration, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On Friday, January 9, the Department of Islamic Art, in conjunction with the Education Department, hosted guest lecturer Michael Spink to speak at a Friday Focus event. Spink's lecture, Jewelry and Power: Gold and Gems in Mughal India, illuminated the history of jewelry in the Mughal Empire and gave background information on the breathtaking gems that were displayed in the recently closed exhibition Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection.

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The Jabach Portrait: The First Varnish

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Michael Gallagher applies the first layer of varnish to the surface of the Jabach portrait.

After the completion of cleaning and structural work on the Jabach portrait, the next step in its conservation is the application of a first layer of varnish. The varnish acts as an isolating layer between the original painting and the retouching—which will come later—but, most importantly, it begins the process of saturating the surface, which is so crucial to a painting of this period.

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Creating Contrast through Elaborate Details: Technical Analysis and Conservation of an Avalokitesvara

Mandira Chhabra, Assistant Conservator, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, India; Daniel Hausdorf, Associate Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation; and Pascale Patris, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015

This beautiful image of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara holds a lotus as his principal attribute (fig. 1). On view in the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, the gilded figure and its lotus-inspired pedestal are made of a single block of sandalwood, a wood species that holds spiritual meaning throughout Asia. The exceptional carving found here is a rare surviving example of a Nepalese tradition with a long history, one which ultimately can be traced back to India.

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The Jabach Portrait: Back on Its Feet

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015

Conservators Michael Gallagher, George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour reattach the Jabach portrait to its stretcher in preparation for the final phases of conservation.

Just before the holidays, we reached a major milestone in the conservation of the Jabach portrait: the reattachment of the canvas to its stretcher. The short video above gives a good sense of the process undertaken with George Bisacca, Alan Miller, and Jonathan Graindorge Lamour. In all, it took about a couple of hours.

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Rites of Passage in the Indian Jewelry Tradition

Courtney A. Stewart, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In this painting, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan sits with his young son Dara Shikoh, holding a red gem in his right hand and a small tray of colored gems in his left. This intergenerational portrait illustrates the important Indian tradition of transferring gems among family members. Jewels are among the most important possessions in an estate and, when inherited, they are usually remounted or set by the recipient.

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Beneath the Surface: Technical Analysis of a Vajrabhairava Figurine

Mandira Chhabra, Assistant Conservator, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, India; Daniel Hausdorf, Associate Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation; and Pascale Patris, Conservator, Department of Objects Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015

A gift to the Museum in 1949, this image of Vajrabhairava was not placed on display for many years (fig. 1). In conjunction with the work's display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, however, the Departments of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research examined this figure in order to shed light on the materials and the production technique of this unusual representation.

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Taking Stock of the Department of Islamic Art's 2014 Acquisitions

Julia Cohen, Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of my regular tasks as a research assistant is to enter information about new acquisitions into the collections management database of the Department of Islamic Art. Slower-paced than some of my other responsibilities, it gives me an opportunity to study the works that the department has obtained in the past year. And during the holidays, when our offices were a bit quieter, I had the chance to really take a look at our latest acquisitions.

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Shaffron and Sultanate: Horse Armor for Indo-Islamic Royalty

Rachel Parikh, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Department of Arms and Armor's current exhibition, Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 2003–2014 (through December 6), not only features notable European works, but also highlights superior non-Western ones. For example, there is a particular piece of armor associated with Indo-Islamic royalty. It was not made for an emperor, however, but for a horse.

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Filling In History: Conserving Fifteenth-Century Tibetan Initiation Cards, Continued

Rebecca Capua, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015

In the course of conserving a group of twenty-five Tibetan initiation cards currently on view in Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, the second phase of treatment—performed after media consolidation—concerned compensating losses. All of the cards were damaged along their top edges from a combination of mold deterioration of the multilayered support and the handling received during their past lives as functional objects. While some of the cards were only missing parts of the top red margins, others had losses that extended well into the image area.

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The Jabach Portrait: An Update on the Frame

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Jabach portrait is now back on its stretcher, and Michael Gallagher is about to move on from the complex structural work that has occupied him these past few months to the final retouching and varnishing. In other words, we are in the home stretch.

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Reimagining Modernism—Expanding the Dialogue of Modern Art

Randall Griffey, Associate Curator, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art

Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Over the course of summer 2014, the Met reinstalled and reopened the enfilade of galleries that showcases modern art from 1900 to 1950. Encompassing approximately 14,500 square feet of gallery space and roughly 250 objects, this project, Reimagining Modernism: 1900–1950, reinterprets and presents afresh the Metropolitan's holdings of modernist paintings, sculpture, design, photography, and works on paper. Organized at the direction of Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, the project integrates European and American modernist collections for the first time in the Museum's history, along with loans in collaboration with the Departments of Photographs, Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, and The American Wing, in addition to loans from private collections.

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Eastern Religion Meets Western Science: Conserving Fifteenth-Century Tibetan Initiation Cards

Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Monday, January 5, 2015

In 2000, The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a complete set of twenty-five early fifteenth-century Tibetan initiation cards (tsakalis), which are currently on display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, on view through June 14, 2015. When these cards were received, the majority of them showed noteworthy damage which was most easily visible along the top edges of the cards. Under microscopic examination, however, it became apparent that the delicate paint layer—composed primarily of natural pigments in a natural gum binder—was also markedly damaged and, in some areas, detaching from the paper support. In the magnified image shown below, the fibrous paper support can be seen under the cracked and lifting paint layer.

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Arabic at the Met: Adventures in Translation from alif to ya'

Matt Saba, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015

Recent visitors to the Met may have noticed more Arabic throughout the building. Magnificent specimens of Arabic calligraphy have always been on display in our galleries, along with examples in Persian and Ottoman Turkish, but the Museum has recently taken on the task of translating educational materials into Modern Standard Arabic (MSA, or al-Lugha al-'Arabiyya al-Fusha in Arabic), a language spoken by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

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Crown the Kunstkammer!

Sally Metzler, Guest Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Kunstkammer, or chamber of wonders, was the ancestor of today's public museum. We have royalty to thank for its inception; rulers such as Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II of Prague (1552–1612) spent a great deal of time and money collecting precious objects for enjoyment and study in their palaces, and they kept these objects in rooms designed specifically to hold them. The exhibition Bartholomeus Spranger: Splendor and Eroticism in Imperial Prague (on view through February 1, 2015) features a miniature Kunstkammer that offers the flavor and spirit of Rudolf's collection and arrangement, but you may have noticed that we left a few open spaces.

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A Legendary Eye

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

One of the great strengths of the Met is its extraordinary staff. In January, one of our legendary curators, Drue Heinz Chairman of Drawings and Prints George Goldner, is stepping down, and we made a special video to mark the impact of his twenty-two-year career here.

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Interview with Christopher S. Lightfoot, Author and Curator of Ennion: Master of Roman Glass

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ennion: Master of Roman Glass is the Met's first publication devoted exclusively to Ennion, whose glass products traveled across the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. I discussed the book, Ennion's work, and the connections between the ancient and modern world with the curator of the exhibition and author of the catalogue, Christopher S. Lightfoot.

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A Mountain's Eyebrow: The Met's Earliest Ancient American Acquisition

James Doyle, Assistant Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014

In the 1870s a young Alphonse J. Lespinasse arrived in Mérida, Campeche, Mexico, to begin his term as United States consul. In those days, the Yucatán Peninsula was a volatile place, having been the scene of a political rebellion known as the Caste War of Yucatán, which began in the late 1840s. (In fact, one of the outcomes of the conflict was that peoples of Maya descent formed the independent nation of Chan Santa Cruz in the modern state of Quintana Roo, and even established diplomatic relations with Mexico and the United Kingdom.) Lespinasse arrived in the middle of a tense situation between native Yukatek Maya speakers and landowners who were largely foreigners, or criollos, of European descent.

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The Jabach Portrait, Right Side Up

Michael Gallagher, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge, Department of Paintings Conservation

Posted: Monday, December 22, 2014

After the severe distortions at the top of the Jabach portrait were successfully reduced, the next step was to prepare the painting for re-stretching. This involved the attachment of a new strip-lining; new pieces of canvas were adhered along all four edges of the reverse of the painting using a heat-activated adhesive. (It should be noted that these can be easily removed in the future if necessary.)

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A First Look at Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas

Kurt Behrendt, Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Friday, December 19, 2014

The exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, opening tomorrow, explores Buddhist devotional practices across the vast Himalayan region from the thirteenth through the early twentieth century. These practices included ceremonial dance and musical performance, both important dimensions of Buddhist ritual that unified this vast region, which includes Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Mongolia.

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In the Stars: Gems and the Indian Tradition

Courtney A. Stewart, Senior Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In North America, we have a rather superficial relationship with gemstones. You may be aware that your birth month is connected with a gem—your "birthstone"—but what's the point of this connection? For most of us, the only gem we associate with any real symbolic value is a diamond, reserved for nuptial engagements as a symbol of commitment, but even this is a very recent affiliation stemming from a 1947 De Beers ad campaign "A Diamond is Forever."

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The Sword Awarded to Revolutionary War Hero Colonel Marinus Willett

Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, The American Wing

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The current exhibition Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 2003–2014 features a magnificent and historically important sword that was presented to the Revolutionary War hero Colonel Marinus Willett (1740–1830). In about 1791, American artist Ralph Earl (1751–1801) painted a full-length portrait of Willett (currently hanging in gallery 753 in The American Wing) that commemorates his extraordinary service during the War. Earl made a point of including a detailed rendition of the sword, which is shown hanging from Willett's waist.

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The Architectural Ornament of Abbasid Samarra: Newly Released Depictions by Ernst Herzfeld

Matt Saba, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014

The Department of Islamic Art is excited to announce the release of new records from the Ernst Herzfeld Papers, part of the department's archival collections. Herzfeld was a German archaeologist and historian considered to be one of the field's founding fathers. The department began to publish records from the Herzfeld Papers online this summer; the records in this latest upload consist of Herzfeld's watercolors and drawings depicting fragments of architectural ornament he excavated at Samarra, the ninth-century capital of the Abbasid dynasty located in today's Iraq.

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Painting on Silk with Nazanin Hedayat Munroe

Catherine Rust, Studio Programs Intern, Education

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

In October the Studio Workshop event Silk Painting: Kimono-Inspired Designs explored the rich motifs and exciting compositional choices inspired by works from the exhibition Kimono: A Modern History, currently on view through January 19. Students practiced a variety of silk application methods, including paste resist, block printing, and free-hand painting.

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What's New in Gallery 350: Dogon Metalwork

Yaëlle Biro, Associate Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas

Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A group of fifteen iron and copper alloy miniature sculptures and ornaments has recently been installed in a wall case in gallery 350 dedicated to Dogon art from Mali. Combining three ornaments from the Met's own holdings with works selected from a private collection, this is the largest group of such Dogon miniatures ever featured at the Museum.

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Reflections: Charles Le Brun's Mirrored Presence in the Jabach Portrait

Keith Christiansen, John Pope-Hennessy Chairman, Department of European Paintings

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

While Michael Gallagher has been busy dealing with the structural issues of Charles Le Brun's great family portrait, I have felt privileged to be an attentive observer. But I have also been thinking about one of the many features that makes this painting so fascinating—the fact that Le Brun included his own reflection in a black-framed mirror propped on a table.

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Looking Closely: An Unexpected Discovery in the Islamic Collection

Fatima Quraishi, 2014–15 Hagop Kevorkian Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, December 3, 2014

As a new curatorial research fellow in the Department of Islamic Art, I am becoming acquainted with many different aspects of museum life such as museum education and exhibition practices, but I spend most of my time researching our rich collection of Islamic art objects. I've recently been examining a large group of wooden panel pieces, many of which were parts of minbars (pulpits) in mosques in Egypt during the Mamluk period (1250–1517)—some of these are on display in gallery 454. In this group, I came across a rectangular panel (shown above) that is inlaid with carved ivory and bears an inscription in Arabic.

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.