Borders

Medieval art curator Helen Evans on the cross-pollination that occurs when borders are crossed.

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I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee which is on one side of the Mississippi. Johnny Cash was on the other side of the Mississippi.

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  • Helen Evans
    1280852
  • Procession of People from Five Countries: Holland, Russia, France, England and America  |  Edo period, 1861  |  Gountei Sadahide (Japanese)  |  Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper  |  Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1959 (JP3265)
    1280651
  • Egyptian Revival Triptych  |  1885 (?)  |  Samuel Colman (American)  |  Oil on canvas, ebony stained pine, gold leaf, velvet  |  Gift of Noah L. Butkin, 1978 (1978.502)
    1280987
  • [Mexican Migrant Family with Tire Trouble, California]  |  February 1936  |  Dorothea Lange (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000 (2000.351.10)
    10491024
  • Tennessee  |  1866  |  Alexander H. Wyant (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Mrs. George E. Schanck, in memory of her brother, Arthur Hoppock Hearn (13.53)
    15931024
  • [Apartment Building with Twelve Women Sitting on the Fire Escape During Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana]  |  ca. 1939  |  Peter Sekaer (American, born Denmark)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Gift of John C. Waddell, 2006 (2006.584.15)
    1280997
  • [Greek Revival Doorway on Balcony, New Orleans, Louisiana]  |  March 1935  |  Walker Evans (American)  |  Film negative  |  Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.258.250)
    8291024
  • Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637)  |  mid- to late 1630s  |  Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)  |  Oil on wood  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
    7951024
  • Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637)  |  mid- to late 1630s  |  Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)  |  Oil on wood  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
    7901024
  • Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637)  |  mid- to late 1630s  |  Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)  |  Oil on wood  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
    10171024
  • Seated Portuguese Figure  |  18th century  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin  |  Brass  |  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.31)
    6681024
  • Elijah Boardman  |  1789  |  Ralph Earl (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)
    6511024
  • Hatshepsut  |  New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 b.c.  |  Egyptian; From Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes  |  Indurated limestone  |  Rogers Fund, 1929 (29.3.2)
    4711024
  • Bronze portrait of a man, identified as M. Agrippa  |  early 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian  |  Roman  |  Bronze  |  Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.2)
    8421024
  • Head of an Oba  |  16th century (ca. 1550)  |  Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin  |  Brass  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    8771024
  • Bashi-Bazouk  |  1868–69  |  Jean-Léon Gérôme (French)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2008 (2008.547.1)
    8291024
  • The Empress Eugénie (Eugénie de Montijo, 1826–1920, Condesa de Teba)  |  1854  |  Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): Fr[?] Winterhalter Paris 1854  |  Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978 (1978.403)
    8171024
  • The Temple of Dendur  |  Roman period, ca. 15 b.c.  |  Egyptian; Dendur, Nubia  |  Sandstone  |  Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978 (68.154)
    12801009
  • The Temple of Dendur  |  Roman period, ca. 15 b.c.  |  Egyptian; Dendur, Nubia  |  Sandstone  |  Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978 (68.154)
    7671024
  • Bird in Space  |  1923  |  Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania)  |  Marble  |  Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.7ab)  |  © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    7241024
  • The Attarouthi Treasure—Silver Dove  |  500–650  |  Byzantine; From Attarouthi, Syria  |  Silver and silver with gilding  |  Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986 (1986.3.15)
    1280910
  • The Attarouthi Treasure—Silver Dove  |  500–650  |  Byzantine; From Attarouthi, Syria  |  Silver and silver with gilding  |  Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986 (1986.3.15)
    1280910
  • Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion  |  Icon carved about 1000, in Constantinople; setting made before 1085  |  Spanish; From the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós, Jaca  |  Gilded silver on a wood backing, inset with ivory icon, sapphire, glass, and crystal  |  Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.134)
    8641024
  • Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion  |  Icon carved about 1000, in Constantinople; setting made before 1085  |  Spanish; From the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós, Jaca  |  Gilded silver on a wood backing, inset with ivory icon, sapphire, glass, and crystal  |  Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.134)
    7681024
  • Helen Evans
    1280852
  • I'm Helen Evans, I'm a curator in the department of Medieval art at the Metropolitan Museum, and I'm talking about "Borders." Borders

  • are a great variety of things, a border is the border between England and France

  • between time and place. What gives you authority in one culture and does or does not in another.

  • And how all these borders come together. It's the friction that makes art very exciting and interesting.

  • Perhaps I'm interested in borders because I grew up in a border city. I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee which is on one side of the Mississippi. Johnny Cash was on the other side of the Mississippi.

  • New Orleans, where I went to college, it was French, it was Spanish, it was English, it was Indian. It's had almost everybody roll through it

  • and leave a real mark. Some of the connections are very easy to see and

  • some of them are more complicated. Ruben's great self-portrait with his young wife and child, I'm always drawn to the bird

  • at the upper right. It's a statement of where all of his wealth came from, where all the lace

  • that his wife is wearing gets its source. It's the wealth of the New World.

  • Portugal found its way to the New World by going around Africa. There's a charming little body of a Portuguese merchant as seen by an African. Art

  • is filled with images of power. If you have the money to have an image of yourself made you're projecting yourself in your most powerful position.

  • Images of pharaohs are meant to show how in command of the world they are, that they provide their country with a balance and a stability. It's less you than the role you're playing.

  • Roman portraiture is closely aligned with a real portrait of the individual. The head of Agrippa, his eyes are deeply penetrating, and he looks like he is getting ready to judge you, and he is a great general, he's a great leader. Ultimately, a great loser.

  • An African head of a king: a very similar use of elements brings the attention directly to the eyes. You have a sense of power emanating from the figure. The

  • Jerome portrait, it's an incredibly gorgeous work, if for no other reason, the self-confidence in the face is wonderful. The body turning, caught in a moment, and given the date of it, the artist is actually in Egypt, quite possibly in and around the time of the Suez Canal. And Empress Eugenie

  • comes to see the opening of the Suez Canal and stays in a palace built for her that is now the Marriott Hotel, where I stay when I'm in Cairo. The Temple of

  • Dendur, you think of it as great Egyptian art, but of course it wasn't built by the Egyptians, it was built for the Roman conquest of Egypt. And centuries

  • after it is built it will be transformed into a Christian church.

  • My favorite work is Brancusi's bird in flight. The artist, a Romanian, brings, quite consciously, his roots in the east Christian world. That twisting, that effort to fly, to soar, goes

  • with the sense of the Holy Spirit as something that emanates and is an

  • extended ray of light in which the little bird travels in most art. I'm excited by where

  • traditions touch, of time, of place, of style, of skill and

  • how can one sort out those threads. When you reach that border how do you reach across it and what do you do with it? I don't think

  • anything is ever without contact beyond its border.

  • JP3265
    Procession of People from Five Countries: Holland, Russia, France, England and America, Edo period, 1861, Gountei Sadahide (Japanese), Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1959 (JP3265)
  • 1978.502
    Egyptian Revival Triptych, 1885 (?), Samuel Colman (American), Oil on canvas, ebony stained pine, gold leaf, velvet Gift of Noah L. Butkin, 1978 (1978.502)
  • 2000.351.10
    [Mexican Migrant Family with Tire Trouble, California], February 1936, Dorothea Lange (American), Gelatin silver print Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000 (2000.351.10)
  • 13.53
    Tennessee, 1866, Alexander H. Wyant (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Mrs. George E. Schanck, in memory of her brother, Arthur Hoppock Hearn (13.53)
  • 2006.584.15
    [Apartment Building with Twelve Women Sitting on the Fire Escape During Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana], ca. 1939, Peter Sekaer (American, born Denmark), Gelatin silver print Gift of John C. Waddell, 2006 (2006.584.15)
  • 1994.258.250
    [Greek Revival Doorway on Balcony, New Orleans, Louisiana], March 1935, Walker Evans (American), Film negative Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.258.250)
  • 1981.238
    Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637), mid- to late 1630s, Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish), Oil on wood Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
  • 1991.17.31
    Seated Portuguese Figure, 18th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.31)
  • 1979.395
    Elijah Boardman, 1789, Ralph Earl (American), Oil on canvas Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)
  • 29.3.2
    Hatshepsut, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 b.c., Egyptian; From Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes, Indurated limestone Rogers Fund, 1929 (29.3.2)
  • 14.130.2
    Bronze portrait of a man, identified as M. Agrippa, early 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian, Roman, Bronze Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.2)
  • 1979.206.86
    Head of an Oba, 16th century (ca. 1550), Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
  • 2008.547.1
    Bashi-Bazouk, 1868–69, Jean-Léon Gérôme (French), Oil on canvas Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2008 (2008.547.1)
  • 1978.403
    The Empress Eugénie (Eugénie de Montijo, 1826–1920, Condesa de Teba), 1854, Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German), Oil on canvas, Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): Fr[?] Winterhalter Paris 1854 Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978 (1978.403)
  • 68.154_av1
    The Temple of Dendur, Roman period, ca. 15 b.c., Egyptian; Dendur, Nubia, Sandstone Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978 (68.154)
  • 1996.403.7ab
    Bird in Space, 1923, Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania), Marble Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.7ab) © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
  • 1986.3.15
    The Attarouthi Treasure—Silver Dove, 500–650, Byzantine; From Attarouthi, Syria, Silver and silver with gilding Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986 (1986.3.15)
  • 17.190.134
    Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion, Icon carved about 1000, in Constantinople; setting made before 1085, Spanish; From the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós, Jaca, Gilded silver on a wood backing, inset with ivory icon, sapphire, glass, and crystal Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.134)
  • Procession of People from Five Countries: Holland, Russia, France, England and America, Edo period, 1861, Gountei Sadahide (Japanese), Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1959 (JP3265)
    Egyptian Revival Triptych, 1885 (?), Samuel Colman (American), Oil on canvas, ebony stained pine, gold leaf, velvet Gift of Noah L. Butkin, 1978 (1978.502)
    [Mexican Migrant Family with Tire Trouble, California], February 1936, Dorothea Lange (American), Gelatin silver print Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000 (2000.351.10)
    Tennessee, 1866, Alexander H. Wyant (American), Oil on canvas Gift of Mrs. George E. Schanck, in memory of her brother, Arthur Hoppock Hearn (13.53)
    [Apartment Building with Twelve Women Sitting on the Fire Escape During Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana], ca. 1939, Peter Sekaer (American, born Denmark), Gelatin silver print Gift of John C. Waddell, 2006 (2006.584.15)
    [Greek Revival Doorway on Balcony, New Orleans, Louisiana], March 1935, Walker Evans (American), Film negative Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.258.250)
    Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637), mid- to late 1630s, Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish), Oil on wood Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
    Seated Portuguese Figure, 18th century, Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.31)
    Elijah Boardman, 1789, Ralph Earl (American), Oil on canvas Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)
    Hatshepsut, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 b.c., Egyptian; From Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes, Indurated limestone Rogers Fund, 1929 (29.3.2)
    Bronze portrait of a man, identified as M. Agrippa, early 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian, Roman, Bronze Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.2)
    Head of an Oba, 16th century (ca. 1550), Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin, Brass The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    Bashi-Bazouk, 1868–69, Jean-Léon Gérôme (French), Oil on canvas Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2008 (2008.547.1)
    The Empress Eugénie (Eugénie de Montijo, 1826–1920, Condesa de Teba), 1854, Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German), Oil on canvas, Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): Fr[?] Winterhalter Paris 1854 Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978 (1978.403)
    The Temple of Dendur, Roman period, ca. 15 b.c., Egyptian; Dendur, Nubia, Sandstone Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978 (68.154)
    Bird in Space, 1923, Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania), Marble Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.7ab) © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    The Attarouthi Treasure—Silver Dove, 500–650, Byzantine; From Attarouthi, Syria, Silver and silver with gilding Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986 (1986.3.15)
    Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion, Icon carved about 1000, in Constantinople; setting made before 1085, Spanish; From the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós, Jaca, Gilded silver on a wood backing, inset with ivory icon, sapphire, glass, and crystal Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.134)
    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.

    Procession of People from Five Countries: Holland, Russia, France, England and America
    Edo period, 1861
    Gountei Sadahide (Japanese)
    Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
    Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1959 (JP3265)
    Not on view
    Asian ArtSecond Floor
    Egyptian Revival Triptych
    1885 (?)
    Samuel Colman (American)
    Oil on canvas, ebony stained pine, gold leaf, velvet
    Gift of Noah L. Butkin, 1978 (1978.502)
    Not on view
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    [Mexican Migrant Family with Tire Trouble, California]
    February 1936
    Dorothea Lange (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2000 (2000.351.10)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Tennessee
    1866
    Alexander H. Wyant (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Mrs. George E. Schanck, in memory of her brother, Arthur Hoppock Hearn (13.53)
    On view: Gallery 761
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    [Apartment Building with Twelve Women Sitting on the Fire Escape During Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana]
    ca. 1939
    Peter Sekaer (American, born Denmark)
    Gelatin silver print
    Gift of John C. Waddell, 2006 (2006.584.15)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    [Greek Revival Doorway on Balcony, New Orleans, Louisiana]
    March 1935
    Walker Evans (American)
    Film negative
    Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.258.250)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Rubens, His Wife Helena Fourment (1614–1673), and Their Son Peter Paul (born 1637)
    mid- to late 1630s
    Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)
    Oil on wood
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, in honor of Sir John Pope-Hennessy, 1981 (1981.238)
    On view: Gallery 628
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Seated Portuguese Figure
    18th century
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
    Brass
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1991 (1991.17.31)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Elijah Boardman
    1789
    Ralph Earl (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)
    On view: Gallery 755
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Hatshepsut
    New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Hatshepsut, ca. 1473–1458 b.c.
    Egyptian; From Deir el-Bahri, western Thebes
    Indurated limestone
    Rogers Fund, 1929 (29.3.2)
    On view: Gallery 115
    Egyptian ArtFirst Floor
    Bronze portrait of a man, identified as M. Agrippa
    early 1st century a.d.; Early Imperial, Julio-Claudian
    Roman
    Bronze
    Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.2)
    Not on view
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Head of an Oba
    16th century (ca. 1550)
    Nigeria; Edo peoples, court of Benin
    Brass
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979 (1979.206.86)
    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Bashi-Bazouk
    1868–69
    Jean-Léon Gérôme (French)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2008 (2008.547.1)
    On view: Gallery 804
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    The Empress Eugénie (Eugénie de Montijo, 1826–1920, Condesa de Teba)
    1854
    Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German)
    Oil on canvas
    Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): Fr[?] Winterhalter Paris 1854
    Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978 (1978.403)
    Not on view
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    The Temple of Dendur
    Roman period, ca. 15 b.c.
    Egyptian; Dendur, Nubia
    Sandstone
    Given to the United States by Egypt in 1965, awarded to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and installed in The Sackler Wing in 1978 (68.154)
    On view: Gallery 131
    Egyptian ArtFirst Floor
    Bird in Space
    1923
    Constantin Brancusi (French, born Romania)
    Marble
    Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.7ab)
    © 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
    On view: Gallery 903
    Modern and Contemporary ArtSecond Floor
    The Attarouthi Treasure—Silver Dove
    500–650
    Byzantine; From Attarouthi, Syria
    Silver and silver with gilding
    Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Henry J. and Drue E. Heinz Foundation, Norbert Schimmel and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1986 (1986.3.15)
    On view: Gallery 300
    Medieval Art and The CloistersFirst Floor
    Book Cover with Byzantine Icon of the Crucifixion
    Icon carved about 1000, in Constantinople; setting made before 1085
    Spanish; From the Convent of Santa Cruz de la Serós, Jaca
    Gilded silver on a wood backing, inset with ivory icon, sapphire, glass, and crystal
    Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.134)
    On view: Gallery 304
    Medieval Art and The CloistersFirst Floor

    © 2011 The Metropolitan Museum of Art