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Detail view of a marble sculpture in which we see a hand grasping another piece of flesh

Viewpoints: Body Language

How does the sculpted body communicate? Hear from Met experts, leading authorities, and rising stars, each with a unique perspective on the language of gesture, facial expression, and pose.

Hear diverse viewpoints from curators, educators, musicians, theater actors and directors, neuroscientists, and a deaf American Sign Language user.
Watch videos of dancers and choreographers interpret the body's expression.
Share your viewpoints on social media. We'll repost selections on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Body Language features twenty works of sculpture from three departments: European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Medieval Art, and the American Wing.

Also available as a tour on the Audio Guide. See where the objects are located: download a PDF of the map.

Bloomberg Credit Line


"Adam should be off balance; he's about to take a bite from that terrible apple."

Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children

"It's done in a very elevated way, but there's a great deal of humor here."

The Burghers of Calais

"If you actually get into that shape, you feel anxiety build in your body."


"From this angle more than any other, I could imagine her flying."

The Falling Gladiator

"It's almost hard to believe that this figure will die; his physique is so strong, so muscular."

A Hypocrite and a Slanderer

"The artist hoped to ward away spirits by capturing them in these heads."


"It's difficult for me to walk past and not stop and gasp every time."

Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii

"We get a sense immediately of the strength of her hearing."

Perseus with the Head of Medusa

"It's a sculpture about motion, but it's not the motion of killing."

Pietà with Donors

"Mary’s hands crossed over her heart—this same gesture is found in American Sign Language."

Pilasters of Angels Sounding Trumpets

"You can see the concentration on their faces."

Saint Paul

"The slight tilting of his head helps to create a kind of living presence."

Saint Sebastian

"How much skill, time, and focus went into getting one simple moment of human gesture?"


"He has that childish quality of doing something in public that absorbs him utterly."

Tomb Effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck

"There's a dichotomy going on: the calm facial features compared with the agitated drapery."

Ugolino and His Sons

"The grip of all of these people, the density of this composition, communicates the crisis."

The Vine

"The idea of launching your body back, without seeing, is liberating but also terrifying."

Virgin and Child in Majesty

"The most important thing here is the relationship between the two bodies."

The Visitation

"There's almost a little pause that you see between the two hands."


"There is this combination of naturalism and abstraction that goes beyond human."

Above: Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (French, 1827–1875). Ugolino and His Sons (detail), 1865–67. Saint-Béat marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation Inc. Gift, Charles Ulrick and Josephine Bay Foundation Inc. Gift, and Fletcher Fund, 1967 (67.250).