NEW YORK – an afternoon at The Met
OK – everyone should be refreshed and rearing to go so continuing from where I left off at Central Park – we walk a small distance up 5th Avenue and come face to face with one of the world’s best known Museums – The Metropolitan Museum of Art – otherwise affectionately known as ‘The Met’. I get excited just by thinking of it. All that history – so many famous artefacts – let’s go!!!
A word of warning – this could turn into a post and a half as I indulge my love of history, and for that I apologise. It is very hard to go through the hundreds of photos and select just a few that may interest you but as the song says – let’s start at the very beginning. Through the doors we proceed to the counter with money in hand to buy our tickets but are surprisingly told ‘the fee is just a recommendation and that you do not have to pay the full amount it if you don’t want to – just what you think’. We look stunned. The lady continues ‘But we would appreciate any payment you would care to make’. I don’t believe it – all this fabulous history and all for free if you are that stingy. Doesn’t take long for me to decide and tell her that I will pay the full adult fare thanks – how can you not! We get our tickets and a wrist band and a jacket sticker and we are away.
HISTORY LESSON: The Metropolitan Museum of Art was founded in 1870 by businessmen and financiers, as well as leading artists and thinkers of the day who wanted to open a museum to bring art and art education to the American people. The permanent collection is cared for and exhibited by seventeen separate curatorial departments, each with a specialized staff of curators and scholars, as well as four dedicated conservation departments and a department of scientific research.
Represented in the permanent collection are works of art from classical antiquity including Ancient Egypt (my all-time favourite), paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. A number of notable interiors, ranging from 1st century Rome through modern American design, are permanently installed in the Met’s galleries.
That will do for now – our journey begins walking through a wonderful display of Classical urns (below left – we will return to this display later), then into the main entrance area where there are enquiry desks and of course the souvenir shops (on a grand scale), magnificent flower arrangements everywhere and then we turn into the Ancient Egypt collection.
On the far right is a statue of Amenemhat II – on loan from the Berlin Museum which is still under reconstruction, (see previous post from 2011 on our memorable visit) he will not return until 2021. The giant 4,000-year-old Egyptian Pharaoh is an extraordinary specimen, carved from a single block of dark gray granodiorite, he sits in a form-fitting kilt on a cubic throne covered by hieroglyphs. He has the broad shoulders, narrow waist and muscular legs of a well-developed athlete and is sporting a headdress of folded striped fabric – he gazes out over all the visitors with self-assurance (it’s good to be king!) and open eyes set in a round, youthful face. Yep certainly a heart starter.
OK – time for Egypt in depth or as much depth as The Met will allow and you will have to be patient while I bombard you with photos and facts.
The mastaba Tomb of Perneb. Dating from around 2323BC this tomb is not just a house for the dead, it is a sacred place dedicated to the belief in life after death. This aspect was emphasized by two small obelisks (now missing) at the Western corners of the courtyard. They evoked the presence of the sun god Re who, especially in Perneb’s time, was venerated as the ultimate source of life in grandiose solar temples built around huge obelisks.
Most importantly, the interior rooms of the mastaba were places for the performance of life-renewing rituals. Eternalized in the wall decorations, these rituals and the offerings that accompanied them provided the deceased with everlasting sustenance. The statues in the serdab (a sealed chamber with a small slit or hole to allow the soul of the deceased to move about freely. These holes also let in the smells of the offerings presented to the statue) represented the tomb owner as a living person who could receive the potent life forces activated through the chants and incense burning that took place in the south offering chamber. Ancient visitors would have felt very much at home in this intimate space; many of its architectural elements were familiar as their homes. Entry into their houses was through the same small doorway, and in the privacy of the courtyard women would attend to the laundry or cook a meal. The recessed central doorway overlooking the courtyard indicated the entry into the interior of the house, where the master awaited his guests.
There are many, many statues, vases, implements, tools etc that it is going to be impossible to put them all in here and still leave room for the other displays so I’ll just give you a couple more and then move on – –
Here are three wonderful exhibits – you can gain more information on the links – left is a piece from the Old Kingdom. Not too sure what it’s purpose was but it is impressive nonetheless. In the centre stands King Mentuhotep II and on the right is King Sahure with a Nome God.
The amount of ancient Egyptian artefacts in museums and private collections around the world amazes me. Soon there will be nothing in Egypt – but let’s move on.
Our next port of call is the display of mummies and items that were associated with death and burial – now there’s a happy thought!
Left is the outer coffin of Hapiankhtifi. Incredible work in all of these objects that are thousands of years old.
Next up a display of statues and objects of my favourite Queen – Hatshepsut. Most of these are from her funerary temple at Deir-el-Bahri which is such an amazing place – went there in 1998 see blog Mystery of History – and they are amazing.
The front of Hatshepsut’s uppermost portico consisted of twenty-four square pillars, each with a colossal mummiform (Osiride) statue of the female pharaoh attached to it. Carved together with the pillars, the statues formed an integral part of the architecture, and their huge size made them easily visible from a distance. The statues south of the entrance into the western court were adorned with the white crown of Upper Egypt; the ones on the north side wore the double crown. This head from the northern series wore the double crown. You just cannot get an indication of size in the photo – you have to go!
And yes, you are right – this post is turning out to be bigger than Ben Hur! I will give you a rest from statues as we head to the Temple of Dendur. Pictured above and situated in its own alcove, this serene temple is beautiful. You can read about it on the link so just enjoy the pictures.
Time for lunch so we head to the Petrie Court Cafe come cafeteria/diner and it is packed. Where did all these people come from? The trip must be getting to Tyler as he has a Samuel Adams beer with lunch and the food must have been really forgettable as I cannot for the life of me remember what I ate – only remember I had lemonade – very unusual to say the least.
The cafe overlooks a lovely courtyard containing plants and statues – the Charles Engelhard Court. It looks as if it would be a sea of peace in a rather noisy quarter of the Museum – unfortunately it is not. Rested – well as much as we can be – it is time for us all to press on.
Past a statue of Perseus, a re-assembled Byzantine Church Sanctuary and yes, a statue of King Phillip of Spain (remember the Amarda); we arrive at Classical Greece and Imperial Rome. Grecian urns, the Gods of Olympus and famous Greeks together with the rich and famous of Imperial Rome. Click on the following links to learn more about each piece – left – centre – right is Socrates – sorry, The Met has no link to this. Socrates was named the wisest of all men. You can read about him here.
Whilst we are still in this part of the museum, I come across this wonderful sarcophagus.
Isn’t the craftsmanship exquisite? It is a contest between the Muses and the Sirens. You can read all about it here.
Next up we visit some more old friends – the Three Graces. This is not the one we saw in The Louvre, Paris. This is a Roman copy of the Greek original. I can never get enough of classical Greece artwork. It demonstrates the subtle flow of both limbs and garments. Maybe no garments in this one – but you get the drift!
There is a Faberge collection on display and Kylie is very interested in seeing the famous eggs! Famous for their design on Imperial Eggs for the Russian Tsars, the incredible intricate workmanship has to be seen to be believed.
Here is a selection of the display – brilliantly breathtaking!
The minute details of petals, painting and carving is astounding and it is no wonder why these pieces were commissioned by the Imperial Royal families of Russia and then later sought out by collectors. What better way to finish of this blog then with Faberge’s Lilies of the Valley and the Danish Palaces Egg.
Our day here has come to an end but we still have to visit the Souvenir shop which takes up nearly as much room as the Egyptian exhibits!
Leaving with our Met bags full of goodies, we have neither the strength or inclination to foot it back to the train or bus or perish the thought walk back to the hotel. We opt for a cab – and collapsing down in the seats we wonder if we will be able to ever get out.
Time for everyone to rest – Ice Hockey tonight with the New York Rangers. Don’t worry – Madison Square Garden is just a short stroll around the corner from our hotel.
Highlight of The Met – you are kidding? Right? EVERYTHING!!!