The fifty thousand objects in the Museum's comprehensive and historically important collection of European sculpture and decorative arts reflect the development of a number of art forms in Western European countries from the early fifteenth through the early twentieth century. The holdings include sculpture in many sizes and media, woodwork and furniture, ceramics and glass, metalwork and jewelry, horological and mathematical instruments, and tapestries and textiles. Ceramics made in Asia for export to European markets and sculpture and decorative arts produced in Latin America during this period are also included among these works.
Posted: Friday, October 30, 2015
If you stop by the Met this Halloween, you might happen to see one of our many representations of the character Harlequin (or the female version, Harlequina), a comedic actor in a diamond-patterned costume who derives from the sixteenth-century Italian commedia dell'arte. But if your Halloween plans involve welcoming trick-or-treaters, you're more likely to see Harley Quinn, a modern version of the classic character and a Batman villain in the DC Comics universe—who also happens to be this year's most popular Halloween costume.
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
One of the most striking aspects of the silk and metal-thread embroideries on view through November 1, 2015, in Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World is how labor-intensive they are. One might wonder who devoted so much time and eyestrain to creating these pieces, and at whose behest? Although they form a minority within the body of surviving liturgical embroideries, pieces inscribed with the names of the donor or the embroiderer help scholars to answer these questions.
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2015
Munich, June 21, 1868: The premiere of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg—an opera portraying the well-known and respected guild of the Meistersingers, who entertained German audiences with poetry and song from the fourteenth through the sixteenth century. While it wouldn't be a proper opera without some romance and intrigue thrown in for good measure, it was the complex Renaissance guild system that provided such rich fodder for one of Wagner's only original plotlines. The story highlights an essential tension within the guilds, between artistic spontaneity and strict regulation, and illustrates how this tension was transcended to create incredible art.
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015
The exhibition Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World, now on view through November 1, 2015, presents a selection of notable liturgical vestments that communicate the continuing prestige of the Orthodox Church and its clergy in the centuries following the fifteenth-century fall of Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. From a strictly theological viewpoint, vestments are hardly a necessity for Christian worship. Liturgical scholars are largely in agreement that for the first several centuries of Christianity's existence, its clergy officiated at services wearing the normal "street dress" of the Roman world. Only gradually did these items of clothing take on special significance as liturgical vestments, to be worn only during worship.
Posted: Wednesday, June 3, 2015
In the eighteenth century, promenading among the shops along the rue St. Honoré became a fashionable leisure activity for men and women alike. This street was home to Paris's marchands merciers (known as "mercers" in English), a class of merchants who dealt in all manner of luxury goods, including textiles for furnishing and clothing. The mercers' exclusive right to finishing work—arranging for the addition of embroidery, buttons, braids, and sequins through a network of specialized workers—allowed their customers to choose the exact colors and patterns they wanted at the point of sale. The range of embroidery samples currently displayed in the exhibition Elaborate Embroidery: Fabrics for Menswear before 1815, on view through July 19, offers a small window into the level of decoration and customization possible for fashionable men of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.
Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015
It is not difficult to appreciate the allure of the silver objects now on display in the exhibition Hungarian Treasure: Silver from the Nicolas M. Salgo Collection, on view through October 25. The patrons who originally commissioned them between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries surely appreciated the way that they glittered in the light and how they demanded to be admired in all of their sumptuous glory, but there may have been another glint in the eye of their beholders: that of their wealth reflected back to them by these utilitarian objects. Their aesthetic value was only paralleled by their monetary value; after all, these objects are literally made of money, fashioned by talented goldsmiths from silver ore.
Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2015
In April 1925, the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes introduced French Art Deco to the public at large. Ninety years later, French Art Deco, one of the only books in English focused on this subject, provides a detailed account of this important movement, encapsulating the complex modern sensibilities of the early twentieth century through a selection of objects from the Met's impressive collection. I spoke with Jared Goss, author of the catalogue, about French Art Deco and the effects of the Industrial Revolution on artistic attitudes and production in twentieth-century France.
Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015
During several visits to the recent exhibition Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, I marveled at how the artist's inventive compositions guided my eyes through the dramatic, active scenes these artworks portray. The many fantastic details which augment each narrative rewarded repeated viewing and inspired a sense of awe for the unity of effort required to plan and create such massive, intricate images. At times I felt a bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the tapestries—all but one of them loaned from European museums and private collections—and wondered about the tremendous physical labor it must have taken to bring them to New York and install them here at the Metropolitan Museum.
Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014
What happens when gaming students are let loose on the Met's collection? We found our answer to this question this past spring when staff from the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation collaborated with a group of intrepid and creative students at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The students were supervised by their professor, Elizabeth Goins, in a course titled "Interactive Design for Museums," part of RIT's Museum Games & Technology Initiative. The students were tasked with communicating the inside information conservators gather from studying the materials and techniques of works of art through a fun and engaging game aimed at general audiences.
Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A tapestry designer, painter, draftsman, and publisher of architectural treatises, Pieter Coecke van Aelst was quite literally a Renaissance man. Though he was a master of many media while active from the 1520s until his death in 1550, his contributions have been largely forgotten today. Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, the catalogue accompanying the exhibition currently on view through January 11, 2015, covers much more than just the artist's tapestries and aims to fill the nearly fifty-year gap in the literature on this great artist. I spoke with the catalogue's author, Associate Curator Elizabeth A. H. Cleland, about the book, her interest in Coecke, and why she thinks this Northern Renaissance master has been neglected in recent scholarship.
Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Understanding an art object requires close observation and an interdisciplinary course of investigation that integrates the work of curators and conservators, the arts and the sciences. This work, however, is often done behind a curtain (so to speak), and visitors rarely have the opportunity to gain insight into the process. On August 4, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil the secret world of curators and conservators with its latest installation in Gallery 599, Examining Opulence: A Set of Renaissance Tapestry Cushions. This one-room exhibition will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fascinating and indispensable questions Museum curators and conservators pose as they investigate six luxurious, late Renaissance tapestry-woven cushion covers depicting scenes from the lives of biblical figureheads Abraham and Isaac.
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Many #tapestrytuesday readers have asked why some tapestries in the Met's collection have such diverse color palettes. As it turns out, the question you should be asking isn't "Why?" but "Dye?" Understanding the preservation or degradation of a tapestry's color is a complex sort of query whose answer is largely influenced by the dyes used to color its threads. To help unravel the mystery of tapestry colors, I recently sat down for a fascinating lesson in dyeing with two of the Museum's tapestry experts: Cristina Carr, conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation; and Nobuko Shibayama, associate research scientist in the Department of Scientific Research.
Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
In the world of tapestry, it's hip to be square—or rectangular, for that matter. Why, you ask? The answer is quite simple: borders.
You might have noticed that a decorative, tapestry-woven strip traces the edges of many tapestries, which is referred to as the border. While the border is very much a part of the physical tapestry itself, it often has a personality all its own. And, while some border designs were reused on multiple sets of unrelated tapestries, these ornamental edges can still be thought of as something like a thumbprint, a distinguishing characteristic that is apparent only upon close inspection.
Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014
The mid-nineteenth century was a period of incredible stagnation for French music, especially for those composers working in the vocal arts. Only five new French operas were commissioned by the Opéra Comique in Paris between 1852 and 1870, and France had yet to forge their own style of art song, despite the widespread interest German composers had developed in the musical form earlier in the century. However, the passage of multiple revolutions and failed empires in the mid-nineteenth century gave French artists across all disciplines a spectrum of intense emotions to convey, and the wealth of art song in the country quickly began to accumulate.
Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Before the advent of Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, television, or the daily paper, looking at tapestries was one way to learn about the news of the day, observe fashionable trends in clothing and interior design, and perhaps even make a political statement. Since it is #tapestrytuesday, let's examine how the social medium that is a tapestry just might have been an early form of social media.
Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014
You are walking through a museum, your mind lost in thought (your feet perhaps aching ever so slightly), when suddenly you look up and see a fascinating object. You immediately begin trying to identify the specimen set before you: it's a fabric . . . no, it's an embroidery . . . wait . . . it's . . . the wall label says it's a tapestry! A tapestry?
Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2014
A riddle, if you will: What type of artwork did Henry VIII love so much that he owned at least 2,500 examples, and Louis XIV and the Medici family value so immensely that they each established their own production workshops?
Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Chief Photographer Joe Coscia has worked at the Museum for more than twenty years. One of his recent assignments was to photograph the works of art for Masterpieces of European Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1400–1900, written by Ian Wardropper and published last fall. I asked him about the unique work of a museum photographer, as well as the collaborations and complex choices involved in shooting the masterpieces illustrated in this book.
Posted: Friday, July 9, 2010
Each year, the Met holds four meetings at which curators present works of art to a special committee of Trustees for possible purchase by the Museum. It is a thoughtful and rigorous process, and it is always a thrill to see the acquired objects when they finally arrive in our galleries. This past year's purchases included four exquisite works of sculpture spanning from the ancient world to the mid-eighteenth century.