Saturday, November 14, 2009

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City USA

metropolitam museum of art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

And a museum was born

After the end of the American Civil War there all around prosperity leading to increased interest in works of art. John Taylor Johnson an enthusiast in collection of artworks –by profession he was a rail road executive- along with some of his like-minded friends convened a meeting to form a common forum for safe custody and display of artworks that were kept in their private galleries and homes. They formed an establishment with Taylor Johnson as president and named it ‘Metropolitan Museum of Art’. The establishment was first opened in temporary quarters in a humble set up. Even the organizers did not realize that they were giving birth to an organization of such a great magnitude.

The ‘Met’ now

metropolitan museum of art facade

The facade of the Metropolitan Museum is one of the main features of New York City’s “Museum Mile”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art –affectionately called as ‘Met’ is world’s one of the biggest art galleries and entertains more than 25 million visitors annually. It has more than two million exhibits on display; pertaining to all categories and ages like Classical Antiquity, Ancient Egyptian, European Masters’, American, Asian, Oceanic (the continent that includes Australia), Byzantine (pertaining to the eastern part of the Roman Empire), Islamic as well as Modern Art. 19 Curatorial Departments function for the preservation and upkeep of the rare and invaluable artifacts.

The Met also has a sister museum at Cloisters; though much smaller (compound measures four acres) it has more than 5000 Medieval Works of Arts belonging to period between 12th and 15th centuries.

Growth by acquisition

The Museum; established by Taylor Johnson in February 20, 1872 was originally located at 681 Fifth Avenue; NYC. At present it has been relocated to the eastern edge of The Central Park (an 843 acre urban park; the most visited place in the city of New York) in the Museum Mile New York City. (Museum Mile is a road that leads to the Central Park; this road is a unique one that has nine museums within one mile and hence the name!). In 1873 second year of its formation by an acquisition of the Cesnola Collection the Museum was covering one more mile-stone in its growth story.

The Cesnola Collection

Luigi Palma di Cesnola an Italian American soldier (winner of the Medal of Honor for his exploits in the American Civil War) had some interest in archaeology also; during his stay in Cyprus he conducted extensive excavations in the ancient Kourian Sites and recovered very valuable artifacts pertaining to the Middle Ages. He is the author of the book ‘Cyprus its ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples’. The artifacts he received were compiled and kept in a private museum; these collections are known as Cesnola


Kourian Site

The Kourian Site (also mentioned as Curias) is located near the modern town of Episkopi at the western side of the River Lycas in Cyprus. It had been venue for many historical upheavals involving Greeks, Romans and ancient Christians. Its history extends from antiquity to the Medieval Ages. All of them had some foot marks telling many tales about their presence although for a limited term.

Most diverse

metropolitan museum of art great hall

The Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum New york

The Met is not stuck to any particular theme; it has every thing of interest arranged based on the theme it belongs. It would be interesting to note that the artifacts are not paintings or sculptors only; but they are of varying types like Encyclopedic Collection of Musical Instruments, costumes and ornaments and accessories, weapons and armors, interiors from 1st century Roman to the recent American products.

Curative Department for Ancient Near Eastern Arts

Sculptures and reliefs made of ivory, stone and even objects made of precious metals collected from a wide area like the Indus Valley to Burma and time ranging from ancient to middle ages.

American decorations

It is a separate section with contemporary style furnishings along with glass and ceramic wares art works in silver ranging from 17th to 20th centuries.

American Painting and Sculpture

washington crossing the delaware

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze

Portraits, Landscapes, Paintings on Historical Incidences, Sculptures from the colonial times etc. Altogether there are 1000 paintings, 600 sculptures and 2600 drawings.

Antonie Ratti Textile Center

Tapestries, velvets, embroideries, quilts, woven and printed fabrics, exquisite and invaluable carpets all at display under one roof ranging from 3000 BC.

The arts of Africa, Oceania, and Americas

Objects used as ornaments, masks, and other personal adornment, utensils, monuments, ritual objects, that reflect the culture and life style that existed in the dark continent for ages and different areas.

Arms and armor

metropolitan museum middle age main hall

Arms and armor, Middle Ages main hall – Metropolitan Museum New york

This department is extremely rich and no other museum in the world has such wide collection of armaments for soldiers, horses and even for children. Various weapons, and those intended to perform cultural and ornamental rituals; all received from Asia, Europe, Middle East and Americas.

Department for Asian Arts

This section is really exclusive and include objects from China, Korea, Japan and even South and East Asia; objects like printed textiles, ceramics, sculptures, images and utensils made of bronze, jades, lacquer, screens, paintings, calligraphy and such wide variety of objects that reflect the different life styles. These objects are of antiquity as well as modern.

The Costume Institute

The course of fashion during the last eight centuries with men, women and children pertaining to the five continents, dress, ornaments, accessories all. Even the current fashion trends are also well expressed with its exhibits! Due to the fragile nature of the items no permanent installation, two shows held every year, Channel (founded by Coco Channel, Persian fashion house in France) and Gianni Versace (founded by Gianni Versace the most talented fashion designer of the 20th Century) are also big hits of the show.

Drawings and print

When Cornelius Vanderbilt donated 670 drawings to the museum that worked as a seed and this department since kept on growing; at present 11,000 drawings, 1,5 million prints, 12,000 illustrated books all them keep in increasing, Classic works from Rembrandt, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo are included in the long list of the artists who worked these wonders.

Egyptian Arts

The Egyptian Art Department is housed in the Dendur Temple that was reassembled here in 1978 after transporting it to New York after dismantling. This was done to avoid its submergence in the Nasser Lake formed due to the construction of the Aswan Dam. There are more than 36,000 items in its department at present; the initial collections were from private galleries, but the museum organized its own team of archaeologists which made significant discoveries and added much to the credit. 24 wooden models recovered from temple of Dier el Bahri Egypt that depict the day today lives of Middle Age Egypt are the most creditable artifacts belonging to this section.

European Paintings

Contain many of the world’s most celebrated works by the old masters, Self Portrait with a straw hat by Van Gogh, Fortune Teller by George de la Tour, Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David and Harvesters by Peter Bruegel the Elder are all here. There are 37 works from Monet, 21 from Cezanne, 18 from Rembrandt and 5 from Vermeer (this is the richest Vermeer collection in the world). There are altogether 2,200 pieces on works but this department is the most sought after section in the whole of the Museum.

Greek and Roman Arts

There are about 35,000 items in this section; the Roman sarcophagus; the first exhibit of the museum belongs to this section; it still remains as main object. Collections from Greek, Roman, Cyprus etc belonging to 4th century onwards, vases, wall paintings, terracotta, sculpture, jewellery, gems.

Islamic Arts

The Museum has both religious and secular articles from Central Asia, Africa, Spain, and Mughal India numbering 12,000. Ceramics, textiles, decorations of mosques, manuscripts of Holy Qur’an, Calligraphy both religious and otherwise all make this section extremely rich. A reconstructed house from Damascus belonging to Nur Al-Din of the 18th century adds beauty and originality to this wing.

Musical Instruments

It is a unique feature of Met as 5000 examples of musical instruments from all over the world under one roof. It began from a donation from Lucy W Drexel (w/o Joseph W Drexel; President of the NY Philharmonic Society and Trustee of the Met) and later enriched by the contributions from Mary Elizabeth Adams. The collection from six continents begins from 300 BC in an encyclopedic manner.

Modern Art

pol jean and herman de limbourg

The Limbourg brothers’ Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duke of Berry

Met has no bias against what is modern; this section –a 60,000 sq ft floor- is also well represented by masters in this field, Picasso the ‘father of modern art’ also is represented here with his prominent works including ‘Gertrude Stein’, Joseph John with his ‘White Flag’; Paul Klee’s 40 creations represent the output of his entire career!

Robert Lehman Collection

In 1969 Robert Lehman (son of Philip Lehman head of ‘Lehman Brothers’ Bank) donated his collection of archives numbering 3000 to the Met; these collection undoubtedly the most extraordinary in the US is arranged not as per the regular pattern of the Museum but in the way Robert Lehman preferred them to be arranged in his private gallery. Lehman Collection is so precious that 200 of its works were solo exhibits at the Tuileries Garden of the Louvre Museum in 1957.

What is interesting; is relevant

new roman gallery metropolitan meseum new york

Roman gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York

The Met has every thing of some relevance; whether the artifacts belong to stone-age or space-age; costume or ceramic; Russian, African or American also is no issue; the only thing is whether it has any relevance or whether visitors are interested to see it. Millions flock to see these artifacts sans frontiers vindicate the Met stand that these articles kept here are relevant and hence interesting.


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