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Now at the Met

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.