Small Things

Associate director Carrie Rebora Barratt looks for tiny works of art in the Museum's collection.

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Diminutive, tiny things have always been much more appealing to me than large-scale things that everyone is meant to see.

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  • Carrie Rebora Barratt
    1280852
  • Abolitionist Button  |  1840s–50s  |  Unknown Artist, Unknown School  |  Daguerreotype  |  Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)  |  Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.78)
    947947
  • Netsuke: Ox with boy playing flute  |  19th century  |  Japanese  |  Wood, ivory, metal  |  H. 13/16 in. (2 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), D. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm)  |  Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.780)
    16501024
  • Double Comb: Scenes from the Story of Joseph  |  mid-16th century  |  Probably Flemish  |  Ivory  |  4 9/16 x 5 3/4 in. (11.6 x 14.6 cm)  |  Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.93.13)

    12421024
  • Double Comb: Scenes from the Story of Joseph  |  mid-16th century  |  Probably Flemish  |  Ivory  |  4 9/16 x 5 3/4 in. (11.6 x 14.6 cm)  |  Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.93.13)

    18951024
  • Frog Ornaments  |  15th–early 16th century  |  Mexico; Mixtec/Aztec  |  Gold  |  H. each 7/8 in. (2.1 cm)  |  Gift of Jan Mitchell and Sons, in memory of Ellin Mitchell, 1998 (1998.39.1–.20)
    10671024
  • Miniature secretary incorporating a watch  |  ca. 1766–72  |  Signed by James Cox (English)  |  Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; dial: white enamel  |  12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)  |  Gift of Admiral F. R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946 (46.184a–c)
    5801024
  • Miniature secretary incorporating a watch  |  ca. 1766–72  |  Signed by James Cox (English)  |  Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; dial: white enamel  |  12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)  |  Gift of Admiral F. R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946 (46.184a–c)
    10241024
  • Netsuke: Boar resting on bush clover  |  19th century  |  Japanese  |  Wood  |  H. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm), W. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)  |  Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.989)
    13791024
  • Statuette of a horse  |  8th century b.c.; Geometric  |  Greek  |  Bronze  |  H. 6 15/16 in. (17.63 cm)  |  Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.88.24)
    10181024
  • A Mother's Pearls (Portraits of the Artist's Children)  |  1841  |  Thomas Seir Cummings (American)  |  Watercolor on ivory  |  L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)  |  Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
    22391024
  • A Mother's Pearls (Portraits of the Artist's Children)  |  1841  |  Thomas Seir Cummings (American)  |  Watercolor on ivory  |  L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)  |  Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
    17391024
  • Inrô: Figures in a landscaped garden  |  18th century  |  Japanese  |  Red lacquer  |  H. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm), D. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)  |  Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.2081)
    11541024
  • Inrô: Figures in a landscaped garden  |  18th century  |  Japanese  |  Red lacquer  |  H. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm), D. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)  |  Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.2081)
    11541024
  • The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux  |  ca. 1324–1328  |  Jean Pucelle (French)  |  Made in Paris  |  Grisaille and tempera on vellum  |  3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm)  |  The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
    13181024
  • The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux  |  ca. 1324–1328  |  Jean Pucelle (French)  |  Made in Paris  |  Grisaille and tempera on vellum  |  3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm)  |  The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
    13671024
  • The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux  |  ca. 1324–1328  |  Jean Pucelle (French)  |  Made in Paris  |  Grisaille and tempera on vellum  |  3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm)  |  The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
    13391024
  • Jeremiah Lee  |  ca. 1769  |  John Singleton Copley (American)  |  Watercolor on ivory  |  1 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. (3.8 x 3.2 cm)  |  Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.174)
    9101024
  • Miniature Tunic (Uncu)  |  17th–18th century  |  Bolivia (Potosí)  |  Cotton, camelid hair, silk, metal  |  14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.8 x 27.9 cm)  |  Gift of Penny Righthand, in memory of Richard Levine, 2007 (2007.470)
    7871024
  • The Fall of Phaeton  |  third quarter of 19th century  |  Adolphe David (French)  |  Onyx  |  2 1/4 x 3 in. (56 x 76 mm)  |  The Milton Weil Collection, 1940 (40.20.12)
    13831024
  • Between Earth and Heaven  |  2006  |  El Anatsui (Ghanaian)  |  Aluminum, copper wire  |  Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
    14051024
  • Between Earth and Heaven  |  2006  |  El Anatsui (Ghanaian)  |  Aluminum, copper wire  |  Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
    14251024
  • Between Earth and Heaven  |  2006  |  El Anatsui (Ghanaian)  |  Aluminum, copper wire  |  Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
    13741024
  • Carrie Rebora Barratt
    1280852
  • I'm Carrie Rebora Barratt. I'm Associate Director for Collections and Administration. One of the great pleasures of my work is the access it has provided, and responsibility for the collections at large.

  • I've always liked small things. Diminutive, tiny things have always been

  • much more appealing to me than large-scale things which everyone is meant to see. I always find that small things really

  • require careful study, quiet and

  • an intimacy with one's self in order to truly appreciate it.

  • As a child, I collected teeny, tiny, little animals

  • and the way that collection started was my mother would often take me out of school so that we could go to the museum, and the carrot that got me there

  • was that after looking at the Seurats and the Chinese bronzes and all of the wonderful things she wanted to see, we would go into the children's shop and I would get to pick something

  • to take home. And what I always picked was some teeny tiny animal derived from a Japanese netsuke, or

  • a small horse that was derived from a larger horse in the gallery. And even though I probably should have appreciated the bigger pieces or the actual works of art, what I always wanted was the thing that I could put in my pocket.

  • Historically, nine times out of ten, a small object was a token from one person to another. One of my favorite pieces in the collection is the Thomas Seir Cummings Mother's Pearls, the necklace that he made for his wife of all of their children. The necklace to me must have been endlessly more beautiful

  • and a more intimate representation of what they shared. To have placed each and every one of these children in a locket, the largest of which is barely an inch high, oh my God, such an extraordinary array of jewels that these children become.

  • The Japanese box with its beautiful landscape narrative that revolves around the outside of the box. It's so bright

  • and so compelling, the color of, the color of blood, the color of a beating heart, that would attract you, but to an object that is, that is so, so tiny and to think there would be something even tinier inside.

  • I love to look at small things and to think about the craftsmanship of hands and extraordinary eyesight

  • the degree of not only expertise but also clarity of vision and

  • dexterity that is required to make something small is just remarkable to me.

  • A very small watercolor on ivory that is surrounded by garnets of Jeremiah Lee, for his wife and eventually his daughters, is infinitely more interesting to me than the great, huge, larger-than-life portrait of him that was painted for his home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, so that the same man again who was master of his domain was also someone who, who was loved.

  • I like miniaturized versions of larger things, always thinking that sometimes things are better small. They're more refined, they're tighter. The Bolivian tunic is just beautiful to me because it looks like a Barbie could wear it. And I'm not really sure what its purpose would have been, but it captivates me for that sense of play that's in it, a sense that maybe someone, that artists make things as maquettes, as models for things they might be able to, you know, to make bigger sometime.

  • Once one begins walking through the museum like I do engaged in every little small thing I can find it also encourages us to look not only at small things

  • but to look closer at big things, because at the end of the day, big things

  • are comprised of small details, and that the closer inspection that you bring to something the more rewarding that it will be.

  • So whether it's a Greek vase or a large American painting, or a piece of ornate furniture, as you, as we go through the museum, you find that even big things are really rewarding

  • if you look at the details.

  • 2005.100.78
    Abolitionist Button, 1840s–50s, Unknown Artist, Unknown School, Daguerreotype Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm) Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.78)
  • 10.211.780
    Netsuke: Ox with boy playing flute, 19th century, Japanese, Wood, ivory, metal H. 13/16 in. (2 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), D. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm) Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.780)
  • 11.93.13

    Double Comb: Scenes from the Story of Joseph, mid-16th century, Probably Flemish, Ivory 4 9/16 x 5 3/4 in. (11.6 x 14.6 cm) Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.93.13)

  • 1998.39.1-.20
    Frog Ornaments, 15th–early 16th century, Mexico; Mixtec/Aztec, Gold H. each 7/8 in. (2.1 cm) Gift of Jan Mitchell and Sons, in memory of Ellin Mitchell, 1998 (1998.39.1–.20)
  • 46.184a-c
    Miniature secretary incorporating a watch, ca. 1766–72, Signed by James Cox (English), Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; dial: white enamel 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm) Gift of Admiral F. R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946 (46.184a–c)
  • 91.1.989
    Netsuke: Boar resting on bush clover, 19th century, Japanese, Wood H. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm), W. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), D. 1 in. (2.5 cm) Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.989)
  • 21.88.24
    Statuette of a horse, 8th century b.c.; Geometric, Greek, Bronze H. 6 15/16 in. (17.63 cm) Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.88.24)
  • 28.148.1
    A Mother's Pearls (Portraits of the Artist's Children), 1841, Thomas Seir Cummings (American), Watercolor on ivory L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm) Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
  • 10.211.2081
    Inrô: Figures in a landscaped garden, 18th century, Japanese, Red lacquer H. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm), D. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm) Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.2081)
  • 54.1.2
    The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux, ca. 1324–1328, Jean Pucelle (French), Made in Paris, Grisaille and tempera on vellum 3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm) The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
  • 39.174
    Jeremiah Lee, ca. 1769, John Singleton Copley (American), Watercolor on ivory 1 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. (3.8 x 3.2 cm) Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.174)
  • 2007.470
    Miniature Tunic (Uncu), 17th–18th century, Bolivia (Potosí), Cotton, camelid hair, silk, metal 14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.8 x 27.9 cm) Gift of Penny Righthand, in memory of Richard Levine, 2007 (2007.470)
  • 40.20.12
    The Fall of Phaeton, third quarter of 19th century, Adolphe David (French), Onyx 2 1/4 x 3 in. (56 x 76 mm) The Milton Weil Collection, 1940 (40.20.12)
  • 2007.96
    Between Earth and Heaven, 2006, El Anatsui (Ghanaian), Aluminum, copper wire Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
  • Abolitionist Button, 1840s–50s, Unknown Artist, Unknown School, Daguerreotype Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm) Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.78)
    Netsuke: Ox with boy playing flute, 19th century, Japanese, Wood, ivory, metal H. 13/16 in. (2 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), D. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm) Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.780)

    Double Comb: Scenes from the Story of Joseph, mid-16th century, Probably Flemish, Ivory 4 9/16 x 5 3/4 in. (11.6 x 14.6 cm) Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.93.13)

    Frog Ornaments, 15th–early 16th century, Mexico; Mixtec/Aztec, Gold H. each 7/8 in. (2.1 cm) Gift of Jan Mitchell and Sons, in memory of Ellin Mitchell, 1998 (1998.39.1–.20)
    Miniature secretary incorporating a watch, ca. 1766–72, Signed by James Cox (English), Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; dial: white enamel 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm) Gift of Admiral F. R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946 (46.184a–c)
    Netsuke: Boar resting on bush clover, 19th century, Japanese, Wood H. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm), W. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), D. 1 in. (2.5 cm) Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.989)
    Statuette of a horse, 8th century b.c.; Geometric, Greek, Bronze H. 6 15/16 in. (17.63 cm) Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.88.24)
    A Mother's Pearls (Portraits of the Artist's Children), 1841, Thomas Seir Cummings (American), Watercolor on ivory L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm) Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
    Inrô: Figures in a landscaped garden, 18th century, Japanese, Red lacquer H. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm), D. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm) Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.2081)
    The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux, ca. 1324–1328, Jean Pucelle (French), Made in Paris, Grisaille and tempera on vellum 3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm) The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
    Jeremiah Lee, ca. 1769, John Singleton Copley (American), Watercolor on ivory 1 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. (3.8 x 3.2 cm) Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.174)
    Miniature Tunic (Uncu), 17th–18th century, Bolivia (Potosí), Cotton, camelid hair, silk, metal 14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.8 x 27.9 cm) Gift of Penny Righthand, in memory of Richard Levine, 2007 (2007.470)
    The Fall of Phaeton, third quarter of 19th century, Adolphe David (French), Onyx 2 1/4 x 3 in. (56 x 76 mm) The Milton Weil Collection, 1940 (40.20.12)
    Between Earth and Heaven, 2006, El Anatsui (Ghanaian), Aluminum, copper wire Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    Abolitionist Button
    1840s–50s
    Unknown Artist, Unknown School
    Daguerreotype
    Diam. 5/8 in. (1.6 cm)
    Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.78)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Netsuke: Ox with boy playing flute
    19th century
    Japanese
    Wood, ivory, metal
    H. 13/16 in. (2 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm), D. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm)
    Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.780)
    Not on view
    Asian ArtSecond Floor

    Double Comb: Scenes from the Story of Joseph
    mid-16th century
    Probably Flemish
    Ivory
    4 9/16 x 5 3/4 in. (11.6 x 14.6 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.93.13)

    Not on view
    Medieval Art and The CloistersFirst Floor
    Frog Ornaments
    15th–early 16th century
    Mexico; Mixtec/Aztec
    Gold
    H. each 7/8 in. (2.1 cm)
    Gift of Jan Mitchell and Sons, in memory of Ellin Mitchell, 1998 (1998.39.1–.20)
    On view: Gallery 357
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Miniature secretary incorporating a watch
    ca. 1766–72
    Signed by James Cox (English)
    Case: agate, with gold mounts, gilded brass, pearls, and paste jewels set in silver; dial: white enamel
    12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm)
    Gift of Admiral F. R. Harris, in memory of his wife, Dena Sperry Harris, 1946 (46.184a–c)
    On view: Gallery 510
    European Sculpture and Decorative ArtsFirst Floor
    Netsuke: Boar resting on bush clover
    19th century
    Japanese
    Wood
    H. 7/8 in. (2.3 cm), W. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), D. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
    Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.989)
    Not on view
    Asian ArtSecond Floor
    Statuette of a horse
    8th century b.c.; Geometric
    Greek
    Bronze
    H. 6 15/16 in. (17.63 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1921 (21.88.24)
    On view: Gallery 151
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    A Mother's Pearls (Portraits of the Artist's Children)
    1841
    Thomas Seir Cummings (American)
    Watercolor on ivory
    L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)
    Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Inrô: Figures in a landscaped garden
    18th century
    Japanese
    Red lacquer
    H. 1 9/16 in. (3.9 cm), W. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm), D. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)
    Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1910 (10.211.2081)
    Not on view
    Asian ArtSecond Floor
    The Hours of Jeanne d'Évreux
    ca. 1324–1328
    Jean Pucelle (French)
    Made in Paris
    Grisaille and tempera on vellum
    3 1/2 x 2 7/16 in. (8.9 x 6.2 cm)
    The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.2)
    On view at The Cloisers: Gallery 001

    Medieval Art and The Cloisters
    The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park
    Jeremiah Lee
    ca. 1769
    John Singleton Copley (American)
    Watercolor on ivory
    1 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. (3.8 x 3.2 cm)
    Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1939 (39.174)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Miniature Tunic (Uncu)
    17th–18th century
    Bolivia (Potosí)
    Cotton, camelid hair, silk, metal
    14 1/2 x 11 in. (36.8 x 27.9 cm)
    Gift of Penny Righthand, in memory of Richard Levine, 2007 (2007.470)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    The Fall of Phaeton
    third quarter of 19th century
    Adolphe David (French)
    Onyx
    2 1/4 x 3 in. (56 x 76 mm)
    The Milton Weil Collection, 1940 (40.20.12)
    On view: Gallery 556
    European Sculpture and Decorative ArtsFirst Floor
    Between Earth and Heaven
    2006
    El Anatsui (Ghanaian)
    Aluminum, copper wire
    Purchase, Fred M. and Rita Richman, Noah-Sadie K. Wachtel Foundation Inc., David and Holly Ross, Doreen and Gilbert Bassin Family Foundation and William B. Goldstein Gifts, 2007 (2007.96)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor

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