June 12, 2014 | One of my earliest memories is from half a century ago and relates to something that I saw, and that astonished me, in the darkened halls of the American Museum of Natural History. I was four and my nanny was taking me-not for the first time, as I clearly recall-to the museum, a few blocks from where I grew up. On one of the upper floors, where you now see the dinosaurs, the museum displayed its gemstone and mineral collection, which was moved, about a decade later, to the ground floor. It must have been a weekday, because there was no one else in the cavernous hall. Suddenly I saw a man in a motorized wheel-chair glide by, "swifter than thought," along the terrazzo floors and disappear out a distant exit as quickly as he had come. Back then, unlike today, motorized wheelchairs were so rare that I would almost imagine they didn't exist, except that I saw one with my own eyes and have replayed the memory in my mind many times since.
Above: Mammal Hall, 1900. AMNH Digital Specia…» More
May 22, 2014 | Go to the Metropolitan and meet the Altamiras, one of the richest and most illustrious families of 18th Century Spain. Four of Goya's portraits of the family are assembled in one place for the first time in a century and a half. So illustrious was the family that the father, Vicente Joaquín Osorio Moscoso y Guzmán, 12th Conde de Altamira, was said to have more titles to his name than any Spaniard of his time. And though the family would ultimately lose most of its wealth in the catastrophic upheaval that followed Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808, at the time when Goya painted these four sitters, between 1786 and 1788, they seemed positively pink with prosperity.
Frequent visitors to the Met will already be familiar with two of these works, the Lehman Collection's pearline portrait of Maria Ignacia Álvarez de Toledo, Condesa de Altamira, holding an infant girl in her arms, and the portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuñiga, Maria's younger son. The latter, a boy in a br…» More
May 21, 2014 | Although the earliest surviving illustrated botanical manuscript dates from AD 512-the Vienna Dioscurides, a copy of the important medical treatise by the first-century Greek physician and herbalist Pedanius Dioscurides-botanical illustration as a distinctive artistic genre developed in the fifteenth century with the rise of illustrated herbals, manuscripts explaining the medicinal and culinary uses of plants and flowers. After all, in an age living close to the ground, it was crucial to distinguish between a plant that could induce sleep and one that would induce it forever. The introduction of exotic new plants from Asia and the Americas during the sixteenth century prompted continuous publication of accurate pictures to help botanists study, name, and classify the new discoveries. Continued refinements to reproductive engraving and lithographic techniques furthered these publications during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Most techniques produced black-and-white…» More
May 20, 2014 | It was big news in the museum world when the New York Times reported that a rare exhibition of Donatello, considered by some to be the finest sculptor of the Renaissance, was coming to New York City. But the venue for Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedral (on view from February 20 through June 14, 2015), will not be the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the National Gallery in Washington, but rather the tiny Museum of Biblical Art (MOBiA), on Broadway and 61st Street. The exhibition will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the museum's founding, and the palpable incongruity between the show and its surroundings will be like having the Rolling Stones show up for some sweet sixteen party.
The Museo del Duomo in Florence is currently undergoing renovations and the major museums that were approached with the exhibition felt that they would not have enough time to mount it properly. And so it comes to MOBiA, one of the worthiest if leas…» More
May 9, 2014 | Visitors approaching the grand front entrance of Norfolk, Virginia's Chrysler Museum of Art on its reopening on May 10 could be forgiven for not realizing that a major transformation has taken place. So seamlessly have the flanking wings been enlarged and the gardens in front of them so surreptitiously moved forward that it is only when inside that the impact of the seventeen-month renovation and expansion becomes evident. In its new spaces and reconfigured galleries the museum presents a fresh look at its collections, with its longstanding strengths in glass and European and American painting and sculpture as well as newer areas, such as contemporary art.
Within a broadly chronological progression of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts the curators have created several provocative "interventions": in a gallery devoted to seventeenth-century Italian art, a 1954 Robert Richenburg Pieta so abstract that it takes some looking to discern the image of the dead Chri…» More
by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton» View All