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Now at the Met

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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Reinventing an American Brand: A Poster Competition at LIFE Magazine

Freyda Spira, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Given to the Museum in 1965 by LIFE magazine's creative director of general promotion, Jay W. Cheek, these posters—on view in the current installation in gallery 690 through December 8—were made as part of a campaign for the Pacific Northwest called "Signs of Adolescence."

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Interview with Dita Amory, Curator and Co-author of Madame Cézanne

Rachel High, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Department

Posted: Monday, December 1, 2014

Paul Cézanne is central to the study of modern art, yet one of his most frequently painted subjects, his wife, Hortense Fiquet, is often neglected in the scholarship on the artist. If she is mentioned at all, Hortense is described as ill-humored and as a negative influence on Cézanne's painting. Madame Cézanne, the catalogue accompanying the eponymous exhibition currently on view through March 15, 2015, aims to reevaluate these perceptions of Hortense. I sat down with Dita Amory, curator of the exhibition and co-author of the catalogue, to discuss the book and the complicated, enigmatic relationship between Cézanne and his wife.

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A Ninth-Century Miss Manners: Dining Etiquette in Abbasid Iraq

Julia Cohen, Research Assistant, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2014

With the weather getting colder and Thanksgiving now upon us, my mind has turned to food. Hearty soups, roasted vegetables, and freshly baked bread warm my spirits during the winter months, and there is little I enjoy more than inviting friends and family to join me for meals.

Food and drink are central to celebrations throughout the world, and objects in the Islamic Art collection can tell us so much about people's lives. The tradition of feasting to commemorate important events dates back to pre-Islamic times, both in the Middle East and the rest of the world. The Islamic galleries are filled with serving dishes, storage jars, and drinking vessels that provide a window into the everyday life and celebrations of the many Islamic dynasties represented here.

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A Rare Opportunity to See the Genius of Ancient Chinese Bronze Casters

Zhixin Jason Sun, Curator, Department of Asian Art

Posted: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A cast-bronze buffalo from the Shanghai Museum is now on view in the exhibition Innovation and Spectacle: Chinese Ritual Bronzes (through March 22, 2015). This fantastic animal-shaped vessel once served as a wine warmer in sacrificial rituals in the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 b.c.).

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The Jabach Portrait: A Change of Plan

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

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One thing you learn quickly in conservation is that the objects under your care make the rules! Frequently, well-thought-through plans or strategies for approaches to treatment have to be tweaked or completely rethought.

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The Arts of a Mesoamerican Metropolis, Here at the Met

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

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sergio Gomez and a team of investigators under the Feathered Serpent Pyramid at the site of Teotihuacan—one of the largest and most elaborate pyramids of the ancient world—are exploring a recently discovered man-made tunnel that passes under the east-west axis of the building, and have already uncovered rich dedicatory offerings using unmanned vehicles and controlled excavations (fig. 1). Teotihuacan is remarkable for the scale and elaboration of its architecture, the well-organized grid on which the city was planned, and an artistic tradition that included stone sculpture, mural painting, and pottery. The city's residents lived in complex apartment compounds from the late first millennium b.c. to the mid-seventh century a.d., suggesting a relatively stable social structure unlike that of other cities in the ancient New World. There were even neighborhoods of foreigners who continued their local traditions in distinct "barrios" of the city. A truly cosmopolitan place, Teotihuacan was the Manhattan of its time—a hub of activity and a destination for those from far away.

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Former Incarnations: The Secret Lives of Objects in Treasures from India

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

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Works of art at the Met are often presented in isolation to give the viewer an opportunity to examine them closely and appreciate their artistic merit, fine craftsmanship, use of materials, and other details. Because of these objects' (near) impeccable state when exhibited, I sometimes forget they have lived entire lives before arriving at the Museum and often have passed through many hands and traveled long distances. Indeed, the life of an object is so much richer, more complicated, and more convoluted than its shining presence in a display case can convey.

While researching the objects selected for the exhibition Treasures from India: Jewels from The Al-Thani Collection (on view through January 25, 2015), I was continually inspired by these histories and fascinated by the winding paths these works had taken before their arrival in our galleries.

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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.