Wednesday, November 28, 2012

a different museum experience

As I start to see the end of my visit here, I thought I'd do some different things with my time, or more accurately, I am trying to see all the museums and collections I haven't gotten to yet. So yesterday, Tuesday, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a special tour. I know, I know, I've been there three other times since May, but I wanted to experience the museum differently.

Before I left, I selected 5 distinct exhibitions I wanted to see, just 5. Now these weren't the usual 'special exhibits' but minor showcases of materials held by the Met. I went to the main exhibits page  and scrolled past the fancy exhibits to the smaller ones, and voila, a special tour ensued.

First I went to see "Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gillieron & Son"  This single room contained four walls of drawings and reproductions made by Ernst Gillieron, a Frenchman, and his son, the premier art reproducers of the late 19th century. They 'reconstructed' in situ the wall paintings at Knossos for Sir Arthur Evans, those contested murals that to this day we aren't certain are what is now on the walls. They also made and sold reproductions of artifacts found at the digs of Evans and Schliemann, including the Vaphio cups and the Mask of Agamemnon.  According to the captions, the Met commissioned and purchased these reproductions to fill out their collections. By the 1930s, they had acquired the original artifacts and put the reproductions away, until they displayed them in this room. It was fascinating seeing the drawings of what Gillieron found and what he created. Of course today, this type of reconstruction is frowned upon because it isn't 'accurate'. Nevertheless, we have a sense of what the walls of the palaces must have looked like. While the Met displayed murals from Knossos, they didn't show wall paintings from Santorini. I now need to find out if Gillieron also 'repainted' those walls or if the discovery was much later. The Met also has an article about the conservation work performed on the Gillieron materials before they were placed on exhibition, for the curious of course

On to the next gallery, which was of Turkmen Jewelry which was in the new Islamic / Middle East wing where all the Indian art is located. This little room was full of beautiful silver ornamental jewelry. The red and silver sparkled in the cases.
I wanted to take some home with me, but the pieces were too large. Alas the exhibition catalog weighed about 30 pounds and contained far more than the 20 or so pieces in the room.

After a water break, I went to see a curious little exhibit called "Pen & Chisel" which contained about 10 preparatory drawings for sculpture. The drawings dated from the 1450s to the late 1800s. One of the pieces was most interesting for it had tiny pin pricks all along the horse's body. I wondered what they were for and then realized that light could be projected through the holes onto a wall to create a life-size (or any size) reproduction. Alas, the caption didn't explain the prickings and my explanation could be incorrect. One other drawing was of the famous Marcus Aurelius Horse statues in Rome. What a delight.

Foot sore, wandered through the main hallway, past the huge tree and down the stairs to a very small gallery that's actually the atrium for the Antonio Ratti Textile Center and Reference Library   at the museum. This little gallery contained three cases entitled "Gems of European Lace 1620-1920"  . Oh the lace is magnificent. There were detailed explanations of how the lace was made, both needle and bobbin, and magnification of some of the pieces. If only.... 

Since I had some time to kill, I walked through the Roentgens exhibition, a big one   to see what all the fuss was about. The table were interesting, full of secret compartments and moving parts. None of his automatons were on exhibit, which was disappointing. I did enjoy seeing all the marquetry and polished  wood, but not as much as some of the other exhibits.

Unfortunately there were no small catalogs or even post cards of the little galleries, and I wasn't interested in a huge catalog of Turkmen art, so I left the gift shop empty handed. On the other hand, I spent intensive time reading captions and really looking at the artwork and drawings. Along the way, I stopped and looked at illuminated leaves of books, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin (also no specific catalogs) which I've seen before but not really looked at. Altogether, it was an enjoyable way to experience the museum. I would definitely do it again. Thanks for joining me on my adventure.

Thursday, I'm off to see the Morgan Library & Museum. There's an exhibit of Beatrix Potter's Letters and a few bibles I want to study.


Robin said...

Sounds like you are using your time wisely. Enjoy

Miriam Kahn said...

If you can believe it, I saw even more than I wrote about.