Gallery 684 in The André Mertens Galleries for Musical Instruments
«I'll admit it. There are some pieces in the Met's collection that I am very tempted to touch—the smooth, cold sculptures, for instance, and paint globs that dry seemingly inches off the canvas. It's due in part to this inclination that I enjoy visiting the Musical Instruments galleries so much.» There, I am surrounded by art that was designed to be touched, to rest on laps, and to give way to the gentle pressing of a foot. I'm sure some of the instruments were created only for decorative display, but many of them created music that was just as beautiful as their appearance. It's difficult to pick favorites, but I'll mention just a few.
Left: Ceramic horn, late 18th or early 19th century. France. Glazed pottery; L. perpendicular to bell 17 in. (43.3 cm), Diam. of bell 10 5/8 in. (27.1 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.1115). Center: Zanze, late 19th century. Democratic Republic of the Congo. Wood; 1 ft. 3 in. x 7 1/2 in., Diam. 3 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.2084). Right: Lyre, 19th century. Gourd, antelope horns, wood, skin; L. 32 11/16 in. (83 cm), W. 5 15/16 in. (15.1 cm), D. 4 7/16 in. (11 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.541)
This blue and white French horn, this lamellaphone resembling a man, and this lyre made from antelope horns are aesthetically interesting, but I love imagining the music they once produced. These pieces are unique in the Museum in that they require not only careful looking but attentive listening.
These instruments also get me thinking about other objects in the Museum and different ways to approach them. I try to remind myself that I can think creatively about objects throughout the building. When I see a decorative box, I wonder what it used to hold. When looking at a chair, I think about what it would feel like to sit on it—comfortable or hard? Or a tea set; would drinking from something that fancy make the tea automatically taste better?
So next time you come to the Met, stop in on the Musical Instruments galleries to be reminded of the multiple ways art can be appreciated and the different senses it invites you to use! The galleries are right next to the American Wing and overlook Arms and Armor.