The Ideal Man

Prints curator Nadine Orenstein looks for the ideal man in art, from ancient Rome to Hollywood.

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He could be a movie star. He could be a statesman. He could be your father.

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  • Nadine Orenstein
    1280852
  • Statuette of the Diadoumenos (youth tying a fillet around his head)  |  1st century b.c.  |  Greek; copy of a Greek bronze statue by Polykleitos  |  Terracotta  |  Fletcher Fund, 1932 (32.11.2)
    8021024
  • Portrait of Rembrandt Leaning on a Stone Sill  |  1639  |  Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch)  |  Etching, drypoint and burin; second state of two  |  H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.107.25)
    8091024
  • Plaque: Warrior and Attendants  |  16th–17th century  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, Court of Benin  |  Brass  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1990 (1990.332)
    8591024
  • Adam and Eve  |  1504  |  Albrecht Dürer (German)  |  Engraving  |  Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.1)
    8101024
  • Front of a cuirass  |  4th century b.c.  |  Greek, Apulian  |  Bronze  |  Gift of Estée Lauder, 1992 (1992.180.3a)
    10121024
  • Laceing [sic] a Dandy  |  1819  |  Anonymous, British, 19th century  |  Hand-colored etching  |  Rogers Fund, 1969 The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.524.35)
    6831024
  • Laceing [sic] a Dandy  |  1819  |  Anonymous, British, 19th century  |  Hand-colored etching  |  Rogers Fund, 1969 The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.524.35)
    1021799
  • Naked Man, Back View  |  1991–92  |  Lucian Freud (British, born Germany)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.71)
    7651024
  • Self-Portrait  |  1660  |  Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.618)
    8561024
  • George Washington  |  ca. 1795–96  |  Gilbert Stuart (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.160)
    8571024
  • Young Husband: First Marketing  |  1854  |  Lilly Martin Spencer (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Private collection, Promised Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    8521024
  • Young Husband: First Marketing  |  1854  |  Lilly Martin Spencer (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Private collection, Promised Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    8451024
  • Self-Portrait  |  possibly 1620–21  |  Anthony van Dyck (Flemish)  |  Oil on canvas  |  The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.25)
    7341024
  • Gary Cooper  |  1934  |  George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.293)  |  © Richard J. Horst
    8241024
  • Young Girl with Portrait of George Washington  |  ca. 1850  |  Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth [American] and Josiah Johnson Hawes [American]), Boston  |  Daguerreotype  |  Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937 (37.14.53)
    7821024
  • Portrait of a Gentleman and His Daughter  |  ca. 1810  |  François M. Guyol de Guiran (French, act. America)  |  Watercolor on ivory and painted paper  |  Purchase, Gift of The Chester Dale Collection, by exchange, 2001 (2001.95)
    1280993
  • Nadine Orenstein
    1280852
  • My name is Nadine Orenstein and I'm a curator in the Drawings and Prints department.

  • When you start studying art history there's a lot of talk about artists looking for an ideal figure type.

  • So that got me thinking about what is the ideal man in art and how

  • works of art can show you different aspects of what the ideal man might be in different times.

  • Albrecht Dürer, he was really trying to find a formula of the ideal proportions of men and women. Even he realized that that was not practical at all and later on when he did his proportion book he actually ended up with ideal figure types for different body shapes.

  • This great cuirass of an ideal chest, you wonder if the person wearing it actually looked like that, then that brings up the whole idea of people

  • changing themselves to become the ideal man. A wonderful caricature of a dandy and he's got two people who are pulling at his girdle trying to get him into the ideal figure type

  • and meanwhile, he looks like he's squeezing out the top of his collar.

  • To Lucien Freud, Leigh Bowery was his ideal man, and he'd made many paintings of this figure who to some people looks large and you can see like all the layers of flesh and fat.

  • Rembrandt van Rijn made many self-portraits from early in his career to very late in his career and he also put himself in a lot of paintings, so in a certain way he was his ideal man.

  • George Washington kind of embodies the ideal politician and this Gilbert Stewart painting became the model for the dollar bill and many other images of George Washington.

  • It used to be that the ideal man was the strong silent type who would take care of everything outside the home, and then the woman would be the one inside the home taking care of the shopping and all of these things, and now of course the image of the ideal man has changed and there's this great

  • painting that at the time was meant to make fun of him but in fact now, for many women, this would be the ideal man: the guy who goes shopping and he's there with his big basket of vegetables kind of bumbling around.

  • When I was in high school here in New York City and I came to the Met, I think this portrait of Anthony van Dyke showed my ideal man. He's like such a dream boat with his cute little eyes and his wonderful haircut and looking soulfully out at us.

  • I think the ideal man can be anything to anybody, and certainly changes so much over time.

  • Everybody has their own ideas that they read into these images. He could be a movie star, he could be a statesman

  • he could be your father. I'm always thinking about who it could be and so it's fascinating to see what other people, other cultures

  • think about this idea of the ideal man.

  • 32.11.2
    Statuette of the Diadoumenos (youth tying a fillet around his head), 1st century b.c., Greek; copy of a Greek bronze statue by Polykleitos, Terracotta Fletcher Fund, 1932 (32.11.2)
  • 29.107.25
    Portrait of Rembrandt Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639, Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch), Etching, drypoint and burin; second state of two H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.107.25)
  • 1990.332
    Plaque: Warrior and Attendants, 16th–17th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, Court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1990 (1990.332)
  • 19.73.1
    Adam and Eve, 1504, Albrecht Dürer (German), Engraving Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.1)
  • 1992.180.3a
    Front of a cuirass, 4th century b.c., Greek, Apulian, Bronze Gift of Estée Lauder, 1992 (1992.180.3a)
  • 69.524.35
    Laceing [sic] a Dandy, 1819, Anonymous, British, 19th century, Hand-colored etching Rogers Fund, 1969 The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.524.35)
  • 1993.71
    Naked Man, Back View, 1991–92, Lucian Freud (British, born Germany), Oil on canvas Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.71)
  • 14.40.618
    Self-Portrait, 1660, Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch), Oil on canvas Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.618)
  • 07.160
    George Washington, ca. 1795–96, Gilbert Stuart (American), Oil on canvas Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.160)
  • L.2011.45.3
    Young Husband: First Marketing, 1854, Lilly Martin Spencer (American), Oil on canvas Private collection, Promised Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • 49.7.25
    Self-Portrait, possibly 1620–21, Anthony van Dyck (Flemish), Oil on canvas The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.25)
  • 1987.1100.293
    Gary Cooper, 1934, George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.293) © Richard J. Horst
  • 37.14.53
    Young Girl with Portrait of George Washington, ca. 1850, Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth [American] and Josiah Johnson Hawes [American]), Boston, Daguerreotype Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937 (37.14.53)
  • 2001.95
    Portrait of a Gentleman and His Daughter, ca. 1810, François M. Guyol de Guiran (French, act. America), Watercolor on ivory and painted paper Purchase, Gift of The Chester Dale Collection, by exchange, 2001 (2001.95)
  • Statuette of the Diadoumenos (youth tying a fillet around his head), 1st century b.c., Greek; copy of a Greek bronze statue by Polykleitos, Terracotta Fletcher Fund, 1932 (32.11.2)
    Portrait of Rembrandt Leaning on a Stone Sill, 1639, Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch), Etching, drypoint and burin; second state of two H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.107.25)
    Plaque: Warrior and Attendants, 16th–17th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, Court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1990 (1990.332)
    Adam and Eve, 1504, Albrecht Dürer (German), Engraving Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.1)
    Front of a cuirass, 4th century b.c., Greek, Apulian, Bronze Gift of Estée Lauder, 1992 (1992.180.3a)
    Laceing [sic] a Dandy, 1819, Anonymous, British, 19th century, Hand-colored etching Rogers Fund, 1969 The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.524.35)
    Naked Man, Back View, 1991–92, Lucian Freud (British, born Germany), Oil on canvas Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.71)
    Self-Portrait, 1660, Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch), Oil on canvas Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.618)
    George Washington, ca. 1795–96, Gilbert Stuart (American), Oil on canvas Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.160)
    Young Husband: First Marketing, 1854, Lilly Martin Spencer (American), Oil on canvas Private collection, Promised Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Self-Portrait, possibly 1620–21, Anthony van Dyck (Flemish), Oil on canvas The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.25)
    Gary Cooper, 1934, George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.293) © Richard J. Horst
    Young Girl with Portrait of George Washington, ca. 1850, Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth [American] and Josiah Johnson Hawes [American]), Boston, Daguerreotype Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937 (37.14.53)
    Portrait of a Gentleman and His Daughter, ca. 1810, François M. Guyol de Guiran (French, act. America), Watercolor on ivory and painted paper Purchase, Gift of The Chester Dale Collection, by exchange, 2001 (2001.95)
    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.

    Statuette of the Diadoumenos (youth tying a fillet around his head)
    1st century b.c.
    Greek; copy of a Greek bronze statue by Polykleitos
    Terracotta
    Fletcher Fund, 1932 (32.11.2)
    On view: Gallery 164
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Portrait of Rembrandt Leaning on a Stone Sill
    1639
    Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch)
    Etching, drypoint and burin; second state of two
    H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.107.25)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Plaque: Warrior and Attendants
    16th–17th century
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, Court of Benin
    Brass
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1990 (1990.332)
    On view: Gallery 352
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Adam and Eve
    1504
    Albrecht Dürer (German)
    Engraving
    Fletcher Fund, 1919 (19.73.1)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Front of a cuirass
    4th century b.c.
    Greek, Apulian
    Bronze
    Gift of Estée Lauder, 1992 (1992.180.3a)
    On view: Gallery 155
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Laceing [sic] a Dandy
    1819
    Anonymous, British, 19th century
    Hand-colored etching
    Rogers Fund, 1969 The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969 (69.524.35)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Naked Man, Back View
    1991–92
    Lucian Freud (British, born Germany)
    Oil on canvas
    Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.71)
    Not on view
    Modern and Contemporary ArtSecond Floor
    Self-Portrait
    1660
    Rembrandt (Rembrandt van Rijn) (Dutch)
    Oil on canvas
    Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913 (14.40.618)
    On view: Gallery 634
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    George Washington
    ca. 1795–96
    Gilbert Stuart (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.160)
    On view: Gallery 753
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Young Husband: First Marketing
    1854
    Lilly Martin Spencer (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Private collection, Promised Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Self-Portrait
    possibly 1620–21
    Anthony van Dyck (Flemish)
    Oil on canvas
    The Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.25)
    On view: Gallery 628
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Gary Cooper
    1934
    George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia)
    Gelatin silver print
    Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.293)
    © Richard J. Horst
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Young Girl with Portrait of George Washington
    ca. 1850
    Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth [American] and Josiah Johnson Hawes [American]), Boston
    Daguerreotype
    Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937 (37.14.53)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Portrait of a Gentleman and His Daughter
    ca. 1810
    François M. Guyol de Guiran (French, act. America)
    Watercolor on ivory and painted paper
    Purchase, Gift of The Chester Dale Collection, by exchange, 2001 (2001.95)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors

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