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Language of Movement

"We get a sense immediately of the strength of her hearing."—Alice Schwarz, educator

Randolph Rogers (American, 1825–1892). Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii, 1853–54; carved 1859. Marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of James, Douglas, 1899 (99.7.2). Learn more about this object.

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

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Thayer Tolles: In this sculpture there's a sense of forward movement, of hurriedness, which actually is most apparent when you look at the piece from the back and you can appreciate this lunging forward, the pushing off of the left foot at the edge of the base. She moves into the viewer's space. It's almost like you want to step back a little bit to let her keep going.

Eric Kandel: Sculptures, because they perform movements often, reaching out to us, activate parts of the brain that are involved in social interactions. And that's really quite fascinating.

Narrator: Our brains respond to the sculpture's position in a specific way, neuroscientist Eric Kandel explains. There's a part of your brain that responds to movement, any kind of movement—a car coming by, a bicycle coming by. But there's another part of the brain that involves the biological movement, so there's a response to the movement of statues particularly insofar as they move toward us. And we capture that as sort of a tension.

Alice Schwarz: I think the way that her eyes just gently closed, the long fingers of her left hand that cup her ear, we get a sense immediately of the strength of her sense of hearing. The most important aspect to the story here is something she's listening to.

Eric Kandel: The auditory system obviously gets activated, you know, listening to it very carefully even though we're looking at something that has no sound whatsoever. The empathy, you know—this poor girl, alone, isolated.

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