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Now at the Met

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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About this Blog

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.