The Embrace

Researcher of European painting Jennifer Meagher investigates the emotional intensity of physical closeness.

Loading

Within an hour of my life as a dance student, I found myself in this intimate embrace with a room full of strangers.

Play again
Connections Home

URL
Share
Sign Up

New Connections appear every Wednesday. Sign up for a reminder.

Captions On
/
  • Jennifer Meagher
    1280852
  • Dancing a Waltz  |  1883–86  |  Eadweard Muybridge (American, born Great Britain)  |  Glass positive  |  Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1938 (38.82.22)
    9461024
  • Dancing a Waltz  |  1883–86  |  Eadweard Muybridge (American, born Great Britain)  |  Glass positive  |  Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1938 (38.82.22)
    1280830
  • [3 Couples Dancing on the Roof of the Bauhaus]  |  ca. 1929  |  T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.412)  |  © T. Lux Feininger
    8701024
  • [3 Couples Dancing on the Roof of the Bauhaus]  |  ca. 1929  |  T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.412)  |  © T. Lux Feininger
    9021024
  • Two Lovers  |  1630; Safavid  |  Riza cAbbasi  |  Isfahan, Iran  |  Tempera and gilt paint on paper  |  Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1950 (50.164)
    6751024
  • Statue of Memi and Sabu  |  Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575–2465 b.c.  |  Egyptian; Probably from Giza  |  Painted limestone  |  Rogers Fund, 1948 (48.111)
    7141024
  • El Morocco  |  1955  |  Garry Winogrand (American)  |  Gelatin silver print  |  Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1992(1992.5107)  |  © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
    1280888
  • The Embrace  |  1880–1910  |  Auguste Rodin (French)  |  Graphite and wash of watercolor and gouache on cream paper  |  Purchase, Kennedy Fund, 1910 (10.66.6)
    7891024
  • Paradise (predella panel)  |  ca. 1445  |  Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese)  |  Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood  |  Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
    8901024
  • Paradise (predella panel)  |  ca. 1445  |  Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese)  |  Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood  |  Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
    11381024
  • Paradise (predella panel)  |  ca. 1445  |  Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese)  |  Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood  |  Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
    12421024
  • Plaster model for Cupid and Psyche  |  18th century (1794)  |  Antonio Canova (Italian)  |  Rome, Italy  |  Plaster  |  Gift of Isidor Straus, 1905 (05.46)
    11111024
  • Plaster model for Cupid and Psyche  |  18th century (1794)  |  Antonio Canova (Italian)  |  Rome, Italy  |  Plaster  |  Gift of Isidor Straus, 1905 (05.46)
    10241024
  • Ancestral Couple (Ana Deo)  |  19th–early 20th century  |  Nage people, central Flores Island, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia  |  Wood  |  Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 2006 (2006.510)
    1280793
  • Seated Couple  |  16th–19th century  |  Mali; Dogon peoples  |  Wood, metal  |  Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977 (1977.394.15)
    4501024
  • [Two Young Men]  |  ca. 1850  |  Unknown Artist (American)  |  Daguerreotype  |  Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 2001 (2001.714)
    8161024
  • Hercules and Antaeus  |  ca. 1516  |  Ugo da Carpi (Italian), after Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian)  |  Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks  |  Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.67.80)
    7771024
  • Acadèmies  |  ca. 1880  |  Louis Igout (French)  |  Albumen silver print from glass negative  |  Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.270)
    6921024
  • Acadèmies  |  ca. 1880  |  Louis Igout (French)  |  Albumen silver print from glass negative  |  Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.270)
    1280963
  • Vulcan at His Forge with Mars and Venus  |  1543  |  Enea Vico (Italian), after Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma)  |  Engraving; first state, partially trimmed on sides  |  The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949 (49.97.351)
    1280917
  • Maternal Caress  |  1891  |  Mary Cassatt (American)  |  Drypoint and soft-ground etching, third state, printed in color  |  Gift of Paul J. Sachs, 1916 (16.2.5)
    7571024
  • Loving couple (mithuna)  |  Eastern Ganga dynasty, 13th century  |  Orissa, India  |  Ferruginous stone  |  Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest, 1970 (1970.44)
    5551024
  • Loving couple (mithuna)  |  Eastern Ganga dynasty, 13th century  |  Orissa, India  |  Ferruginous stone  |  Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest, 1970 (1970.44)
    8561024
  • Pietà  |  1476  |  Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian)  |  Tempera on wood, gold ground  |  John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.178)
    9371024
  • Pietà  |  1476  |  Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian)  |  Tempera on wood, gold ground  |  John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.178)
    10681024
  • Venus and Adonis  |  mid- or late 1630s  |  Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 (37.162)
    12661024
  • Venus and Adonis  |  mid- or late 1630s  |  Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 (37.162)
    1024823
  • Bottle, Skeletal Couple with Child  |  3rd–7th century  |  Peru, Moche  |  Ceramic  |  The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967 (1978.412.196)

    8911024
  • Pygmalion and Galatea  |  ca. 1890  |  Jean-Léon Gérôme (French)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of Louis C. Raegner, 1927 (27.200)
    7981024
  • Jennifer Meagher
    1280852
  • My name is Jennifer Meagher, and I'm a researcher in the Department of European Paintings. I'm talking about "The Embrace."

  • Seven years ago, I started learning a style of Argentine tango called "close embrace," in which the ribcages of both partners are pressed together

  • and the lead is communicated through the resistance created by the two bodies. I had no idea what I was walking into, but, within an hour of my life as a dance student,

  • found myself in this intimate embrace with a room full of strangers. The movement is driven by physical closeness, but the

  • music is so often about loss and loneliness. To me, the tango embrace is expressing a longing to connect.

  • Even though the embrace is something that's very familiar, we have levels of closeness.

  • Some people may find it incredibly awkward.

  • Embracing in dance allows us to break down some of the taboos we have about physical closeness. This illustrates a woman in a moment of animalistic abandon, in which it's okay.

  • I find myself looking for the story and the emotions that are living inside the embrace.

  • The predella panel of Paradise. A group of people have suffered an incredible ordeal: they've died and endured the last judgment and they've made it to paradise and are

  • being reunited with their friends and loved ones and

  • are embracing joyfully. It expresses the relief and the

  • joy that you feel when you have been redeemed,

  • when you are whole again.

  • I wanted to see if this embrace is very affectionate. But it occurred to me that this is a power couple.

  • And it got me thinking about self-conscious depictions of us embracing. We have ourselves

  • photographed with our arms around our family, our lovers, our partners. And it's a way of saying, "We're together; this person is mine."

  • An embrace can be violent, antagonistic, aggressive.

  • The relationship in the tango dance is of an aggressor and passive follower. The leader is

  • constantly moving into the follower's space, and the follower's job is to resist a little bit, but ultimately to yield.

  • An embrace can be rapturous, overtly sexual,

  • an expression of maternal, familial affection.

  • It's a moment of physical bliss, but also

  • where the human and spiritual connect. It can be absolutely

  • sorrowful, terrifying. The Madonna is clinging to her dead son and his

  • lifeless arm sort of returns the embrace.

  • The embrace can express a desire to hang onto something that

  • we have lost or are in danger of losing.

  • It's a gesture that is so potent. For me, above all,

  • it expresses a longing to hold something, to be fulfilled, to connect on a

  • very deep and intimate level.

  • 38.82.22
    Dancing a Waltz, 1883–86, Eadweard Muybridge (American, born Great Britain), Glass positive Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1938 (38.82.22)
  • 1987.1100.412
    [3 Couples Dancing on the Roof of the Bauhaus], ca. 1929, T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.412) © T. Lux Feininger
  • 50.164
    Two Lovers, 1630; Safavid, Riza cAbbasi, Isfahan, Iran, Tempera and gilt paint on paper Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1950 (50.164)
  • 48.111
    Statue of Memi and Sabu, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575–2465 b.c., Egyptian; Probably from Giza, Painted limestone Rogers Fund, 1948 (48.111)
  • 1992.5107
    El Morocco, 1955, Garry Winogrand (American), Gelatin silver print Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1992(1992.5107) © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
  • 10.66.6
    The Embrace, 1880–1910, Auguste Rodin (French), Graphite and wash of watercolor and gouache on cream paper Purchase, Kennedy Fund, 1910 (10.66.6)
  • 06.1046
    Paradise (predella panel), ca. 1445, Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese), Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
  • 05.46
    Plaster model for Cupid and Psyche, 18th century (1794), Antonio Canova (Italian), Rome, Italy, Plaster Gift of Isidor Straus, 1905 (05.46)
  • 2006.510
    Ancestral Couple (Ana Deo), 19th–early 20th century, Nage people, central Flores Island, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, Wood Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 2006 (2006.510)
  • 1977.394.15
    Seated Couple, 16th–19th century, Mali; Dogon peoples, Wood, metal Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977 (1977.394.15)
  • 2001.714
    [Two Young Men], ca. 1850, Unknown Artist (American), Daguerreotype Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 2001 (2001.714)
  • 22.67.80
    Hercules and Antaeus, ca. 1516, Ugo da Carpi (Italian), after Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian), Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.67.80)
  • 1993.270
    Acadèmies, ca. 1880, Louis Igout (French), Albumen silver print from glass negative Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.270)
  • 49.97.351
    Vulcan at His Forge with Mars and Venus, 1543, Enea Vico (Italian), after Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma), Engraving; first state, partially trimmed on sides The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949 (49.97.351)
  • 16.2.5
    Maternal Caress, 1891, Mary Cassatt (American), Drypoint and soft-ground etching, third state, printed in color Gift of Paul J. Sachs, 1916 (16.2.5)
  • 1970.44
    Loving couple (mithuna), Eastern Ganga dynasty, 13th century, Orissa, India, Ferruginous stone Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest, 1970 (1970.44)
  • 13.178
    Pietà, 1476, Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian), Tempera on wood, gold ground John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.178)
  • 37.162
    Venus and Adonis, mid- or late 1630s, Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish), Oil on canvas Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 (37.162)
  • 1978.412.196

    Bottle, Skeletal Couple with Child, 3rd–7th century, Peru, Moche, Ceramic The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967 (1978.412.196)

  • 27.200
    Pygmalion and Galatea, ca. 1890, Jean-Léon Gérôme (French), Oil on canvas Gift of Louis C. Raegner, 1927 (27.200)
  • Dancing a Waltz, 1883–86, Eadweard Muybridge (American, born Great Britain), Glass positive Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1938 (38.82.22)
    [3 Couples Dancing on the Roof of the Bauhaus], ca. 1929, T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany), Gelatin silver print Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.412) © T. Lux Feininger
    Two Lovers, 1630; Safavid, Riza cAbbasi, Isfahan, Iran, Tempera and gilt paint on paper Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1950 (50.164)
    Statue of Memi and Sabu, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575–2465 b.c., Egyptian; Probably from Giza, Painted limestone Rogers Fund, 1948 (48.111)
    El Morocco, 1955, Garry Winogrand (American), Gelatin silver print Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1992(1992.5107) © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
    The Embrace, 1880–1910, Auguste Rodin (French), Graphite and wash of watercolor and gouache on cream paper Purchase, Kennedy Fund, 1910 (10.66.6)
    Paradise (predella panel), ca. 1445, Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese), Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
    Plaster model for Cupid and Psyche, 18th century (1794), Antonio Canova (Italian), Rome, Italy, Plaster Gift of Isidor Straus, 1905 (05.46)
    Ancestral Couple (Ana Deo), 19th–early 20th century, Nage people, central Flores Island, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, Wood Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 2006 (2006.510)
    Seated Couple, 16th–19th century, Mali; Dogon peoples, Wood, metal Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977 (1977.394.15)
    [Two Young Men], ca. 1850, Unknown Artist (American), Daguerreotype Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 2001 (2001.714)
    Hercules and Antaeus, ca. 1516, Ugo da Carpi (Italian), after Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian), Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.67.80)
    Acadèmies, ca. 1880, Louis Igout (French), Albumen silver print from glass negative Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.270)
    Vulcan at His Forge with Mars and Venus, 1543, Enea Vico (Italian), after Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma), Engraving; first state, partially trimmed on sides The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949 (49.97.351)
    Maternal Caress, 1891, Mary Cassatt (American), Drypoint and soft-ground etching, third state, printed in color Gift of Paul J. Sachs, 1916 (16.2.5)
    Loving couple (mithuna), Eastern Ganga dynasty, 13th century, Orissa, India, Ferruginous stone Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest, 1970 (1970.44)
    Pietà, 1476, Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian), Tempera on wood, gold ground John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.178)
    Venus and Adonis, mid- or late 1630s, Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish), Oil on canvas Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 (37.162)

    Bottle, Skeletal Couple with Child, 3rd–7th century, Peru, Moche, Ceramic The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967 (1978.412.196)

    Pygmalion and Galatea, ca. 1890, Jean-Léon Gérôme (French), Oil on canvas Gift of Louis C. Raegner, 1927 (27.200)
    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.

    Dancing a Waltz
    1883–86
    Eadweard Muybridge (American, born Great Britain)
    Glass positive
    Gift of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1938 (38.82.22)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    [3 Couples Dancing on the Roof of the Bauhaus]
    ca. 1929
    T. Lux Feininger (American, born Germany)
    Gelatin silver print
    Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 (1987.1100.412)
    © T. Lux Feininger
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Two Lovers
    1630; Safavid
    Riza cAbbasi
    Isfahan, Iran
    Tempera and gilt paint on paper
    Purchase, Francis M. Weld Gift, 1950 (50.164)
    On view: Gallery 462
    Islamic ArtSecond Floor
    Statue of Memi and Sabu
    Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, ca. 2575–2465 b.c.
    Egyptian; Probably from Giza
    Painted limestone
    Rogers Fund, 1948 (48.111)
    On view: Gallery 103
    Egyptian ArtFirst Floor
    El Morocco
    1955
    Garry Winogrand (American)
    Gelatin silver print
    Charlotte C. and John C. Weber Collection, Gift of Charlotte C. and John C. Weber, 1992(1992.5107)
    © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    The Embrace
    1880–1910
    Auguste Rodin (French)
    Graphite and wash of watercolor and gouache on cream paper
    Purchase, Kennedy Fund, 1910 (10.66.6)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Paradise (predella panel)
    ca. 1445
    Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Sienese)
    Tempera and gold on canvas, transferred from wood
    Rogers Fund, 1906 (06.1046)
    On view: Gallery 625
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Plaster model for Cupid and Psyche
    18th century (1794)
    Antonio Canova (Italian)
    Rome, Italy
    Plaster
    Gift of Isidor Straus, 1905 (05.46)
    On view: Gallery 614
    European Sculpture and Decorative ArtsFirst Floor
    Ancestral Couple (Ana Deo)
    19th–early 20th century
    Nage people, central Flores Island, Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia
    Wood
    Gift of Fred and Rita Richman, 2006 (2006.510)
    On view: Gallery 355
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Seated Couple
    16th–19th century
    Mali; Dogon peoples
    Wood, metal
    Gift of Lester Wunderman, 1977 (1977.394.15)
    On view: Gallery 350
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    [Two Young Men]
    ca. 1850
    Unknown Artist (American)
    Daguerreotype
    Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 2001 (2001.714)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Hercules and Antaeus
    ca. 1516
    Ugo da Carpi (Italian), after Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian)
    Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks
    Rogers Fund, 1922 (22.67.80)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Acadèmies
    ca. 1880
    Louis Igout (French)
    Albumen silver print from glass negative
    Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1993 (1993.270)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Vulcan at His Forge with Mars and Venus
    1543
    Enea Vico (Italian), after Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, Parma)
    Engraving; first state, partially trimmed on sides
    The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1949 (49.97.351)
    On view: Gallery 172
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Maternal Caress
    1891
    Mary Cassatt (American)
    Drypoint and soft-ground etching, third state, printed in color
    Gift of Paul J. Sachs, 1916 (16.2.5)
    Not on view
    Drawings and PrintsSecond Floor
    Loving couple (mithuna)
    Eastern Ganga dynasty, 13th century
    Orissa, India
    Ferruginous stone
    Purchase, Florance Waterbury Bequest, 1970 (1970.44)
    On view: Gallery 241
    Asian ArtSecond Floor
    Pietà
    1476
    Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian)
    Tempera on wood, gold ground
    John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913 (13.178)
    On view: Gallery 627
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Venus and Adonis
    mid- or late 1630s
    Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Harry Payne Bingham, 1937 (37.162)
    On view: Gallery 628
    European PaintingsSecond Floor

    Bottle, Skeletal Couple with Child
    3rd–7th century
    Peru, Moche
    Ceramic
    The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Purchase, Nelson A. Rockefeller Gift, 1967 (1978.412.196)

    Not on view
    Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the AmericasFirst Floor
    Pygmalion and Galatea
    ca. 1890
    Jean-Léon Gérôme (French)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of Louis C. Raegner, 1927 (27.200)
    Not on view
    European PaintingsSecond Floor

    © 2011 The Metropolitan Museum of Art