Friday, January 18, 2013

Full Moon, Winter Crossing by Peter Fiore

It’s always a pleasure for us to cover contemporary artists here at The Jade Sphinx, and when coming across the fine work by artist Peter Fiore (born 1955), I wanted to take a closer look at one of my favorite paintings, Full Moon, Winter Crossing.

Fiore is predominantly a landscape painter; he has won a number of awards, including first place for landscape in the Art Renewal Center’s Annual Salon, along with receiving the Grand Prize in the America China Oil Painters Artist League (ACOPAL).
Fiore was born in Teaneck, NJ, and studied at Pratt Institute and later at the Art Students League in New York.  He is also a professional illustrator, collaborating on thousands of projects while also working on the faculties of Pratt, Syracuse University and the School of Visual Arts.  He lives with his wife, the sculptor Barbara Fiore, alongside the Delaware River in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Readers are encouraged to look at his Web site at:

Many of Fiore’s paintings are wintry landscapes.  As your correspondent considers this the most beautiful time of year – and thinks Pennsylvania among the most beautiful of places in the United States – I wanted to show you Full Moon, Winter Crossing, painted on linen and about 48x60 in diameter.  As Fiore writes on his Web site: I am especially drawn to the winter landscape. It is a time when the earth loses its leafy covering and reveals it's true self. Covered in snow, the world reflects light and creates a spectrum of colors that are both dramatic and beautiful.

Well… where to start on this wonderful picture?  First, I am struck by the stark beauty of the winter landscape.  The dead trees stand silent sentinel at the riverside, and bits of withered vegetation struggle to peek through the snow.  A small house is visible in the distance, but there are no lights in the window to connote a sense of hearth; there’s no fireside warmth on this night.

For Fiore, the river is a living thing.  It captures the moonlight and reflects it back, reshaped on the currents of water.  The shadows of the bridge create rich shadows which shimmy, and the water grows more darkly blue as the eye travels left, away from the moonlight.  And this is not the placid water of a summer day – this water flows.

Another striking thing about the picture is the quality of light.  Look at how Fiore plays the moonlight on the bridge top, illuminating the steel girders with yellow highlights.  More interesting, look at how he plays the light on the pier supporting the bridge or on the snow in the foreground:  shadows are not black (or brown washes), but nighttime blue in the cold evening light.  Even the moonlight that catches the rippling water has a quality of coldness that perfectly captures the season.

Despite the empty house and cool colors, there is still an element in the picture that is welcoming and beautiful.  This is not winter desolation, but, rather, winter in all of its cool, clear, crystalline beauty. 

One last thing – sometimes the power of a painter in not in the finished picture, but in the sensory associations it suggests.  Though there is nothing at all overt in the picture, what I sense looking at Full Moon, Winter Crossing is not the cold, nor the damp of the water, but a sense of quiet – the special muffled quality to the air that only a snowy winter day offers.  It is, like many interesting pictures, powerful in its suggestions as well as its representations.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rereading David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

I think that there are certain novels that must be read at multiple ages.  David Copperfield Charles Dickens’ autobiographical novel of 1850 – is a very different book to a 22-year old than it is to someone approaching his dotage.  As I am in that enviable (or unenviable) season of life, I find it to be so different from my recollections as to be a new book entirely.

It’s not that I have misremembered the incidents of the novel, but, rather, the emotional tenor.  No one has written about children for adults as well as Charles Dickens, and the further one is removed from childhood, the more resonant and moving a book like Copperfield is.

Dickens writes childhood the way that it is lived – often clouded in ignorance through inexperience, and quaking in terror or crying in pain.  David often thinks smiling villains are the kindest of people; he is robbed and taken-advantage-of by unscrupulous older boys and adults, and mystified by the actions of several people actually striving to do him good.  When I think back to my own childhood, I realize how much of it was experienced through a miasma of misinformation, misconception and miscalculation.  Dickens realized that children are a race separate from adults – and the notion that adults always behave well towards children a polite fiction.  All too often, children live in a world of giants indifferent to the pain they cause smaller people.

Another thing that strikes me is how I now chuckle at the notion that Dickens was an “optimistic” writer.  Though the book is suffused with love and good feeling, hominess and tender nostalgia, it is also a hard-headed book that lays bare man’s inhumanity to man.  David is beaten by the stepfather Mr. Murdstone, criminally ignored by his own mother, abused at school and essentially sold into drudgery.  These events ran past my eye during my initial reading more than 20 years ago as I savored the sweet parts with Mr. Dick or the comedy of Mr. Macawber; today, I can’t help but read them with a shudder of horror.  The pain of the authorial voice – the tale is told by the now-adult David, standing in for Dickens himself – is all to clear and often intolerable to bear.  In other words, I read the book when I was younger and thought the world a wonderful place with harsh moments; I now know it to be a harsh world with wonderful moments.

Dickens often said that Copperfield was the favorite of his novels and it’s easy to see why.  The novel most like it would be Nicholas Nickleby (1839).  Like Copperfield, Nickleby is filled with memorable (and sometimes grotesque) characters.  However, Nickleby himself is a nonentity; he is the excuse to parade a series of memorable character turns like Vincent Crummles and Smike.  Copperfield, however, is as fully-rounded a character as his supporting gallery; and I think the time-worn truism that Copperfield=Dickens is correct.  The novel may not be strict autobiography, but as a man’s picture of his own interior, emotional self, it consistently rings true.

Finally, the thing that strikes me is the warmth of Dickens, the man.  He is a man of uniformly good humor – he feels fully the pain of past experiences and wrongs, but his own emotional chemistry makes it impossible for him to be depressed or sad for long.  On top of that, he is a man who must have his little joke; he can’t help it.  Often, while describing the most horrific incident, Dickens-as-David tosses in a casual aside that lets us know that he see the funny part of the human comedy.  Here, for example, is the wretched David after walking cross country to find his Aunt, Betsey Trotwood:

My aunt, with every sort of expression but wonder discharged from her countenance, sat on the gravel, staring at me, until I began to cry; when she got up in a great hurry, collared me, and took me into the parlour. Her first proceeding there was to unlock a tall press, bring out several bottles, and pour some of the contents of each into my mouth. I think they must have been taken out at random, for I am sure I tasted aniseed water, anchovy sauce, and salad dressing. When she had administered these restoratives, as I was still quite hysterical, and unable to control my sobs, she put me on the sofa, with a shawl under my head, and the handkerchief from her own head under my feet, lest I should sully the cover; and then, sitting herself down behind the green fan or screen I have already mentioned, so that I could not see her face, ejaculated at intervals, 'Mercy on us!' letting those exclamations off like minute guns.

I think it is this – the emotional stability and high spirits of Dickens himself – that has been the essential part of his enduring popularity, and the main reason he is so beloved by readers.  First class minds are fairly common, but first class temperaments are nothing short of miraculous.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Hero By William Somerset Maugham

William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) has fallen out of fashion today and that’s a great shame: there are few writers of such clarity of prose and consistency of vision who are also so eminently enjoyable to read.  He also wrote of the people he knew; people who, for today’s world, are increasingly irrelevant.  His is a vanished world of the English living abroad in a developing world, or of the complacent English at home wracked by an intruding outside world. 

Maugham lived a life as exciting and varied as any of that of his heroes.  He was an inveterate traveler and addicted to romance; his stories usually have a kernel of truth, often something he heard while aboard ship, over a game of bridge, or in some distant outpost of the Empire.  Many of his short stories are little better than detailed anecdotes, but the majority of his novels have a distinct power, commanding a clear-eyed (and often cynical) view of humanity and a sense of narrative sweep.  He is a writer to be savored, read and re-read.

It was with a great deal of anticipation that I recently approached The Hero, his novel from 1901.  It is available for free at the invaluable, and comes highly recommended.

The finished book was a huge disappointment both critically and commercially for Maugham.  It did not enjoy a second printing in the UK, and did not receive US publication until decades later.  It is a stunning indictment of small time mores and morals, and the small-mindedness that seems to be second nature with habitual do-gooders.  Readers were unhappy with Maugham’s social satire and blistering criticism, and reacted accordingly.  (Oddly enough, The Hero was the first book in which Maugham used the Moorish symbol on the cover that would become associated with him for most of the 20th Century – used, ironically, for luck.  The writer would have to wait for better luck next time.)

The story is a tale of the Boer War and its aftermath.  Young Jamie Parsons received the Victoria Cross for bravery in the Transvaal for his failed attempt to save the life of Reginald Larcher.  Now a celebrated war hero, he returns home to the small town of Little Primpton, Kent.  He is met with a parade and speeches, as well as by his father and mother, the devout Colonel Richmond and Frances Parsons.  Jamie’s bravery is a particular boon to the Colonel – a deeply Christian man, the Colonel was responsible for the loss of his regiment after he showed mercy to the enemy, and was repaid with a surprise attack.

Also waiting at Little Primpton is Mary Clibborn, his fiancée.  She is an extremely tedious person – constantly doing ‘good’ with little or no regard for the recipients of her largesse, or any understanding of the real world outside of the homilies of provincial religious primers.

The worst part of it all is that Jamie has come back to Little Primpton a changed man.  After his experiences in the wider world – including war, death and a flirtation with a brother-officer’s wife – Jamie no longer fits into the way of life nor the mindset of this little backwater.  When Jamie decides to end his engagement to Mary, the town – led mostly by the parson and his wife – exact revenge.

One of the chief joys of The Hero is watching Maugham deflate the small-town sanctimony of many of the characters.  Here his ruthless in his summation of his world.  Here he is on the state of England at the time (and he could have been writing about America today):

James had been away from England for five years; and in that time a curious change, long silently proceeding, had made itself openly felt—becoming manifest, like an insidious disease, only when every limb and every organ were infected. A new spirit had been in action, eating into the foundations of the national character; it worked through the masses of the great cities, unnerved by the three poisons of drink, the Salvation Army, and popular journalism. A mighty force of hysteria and sensationalism was created, seething, ready to burst its bonds ... The canker spread through the country-side; the boundaries of class and class are now so vague that quickly the whole population was affected; the current literature of the day flourished upon it; the people of England, neurotic from the stress of the last sixty years, became unstable as water. And with the petty reverses of the beginning of the war, the last barriers of shame were broken down; their arrogance was dissipated, and suddenly the English became timorous as a conquered nation, deprecating, apologetic; like frightened women, they ran to and fro, wringing their hands. Reserve, restraint, self-possession, were swept away ... And now we are frankly emotional; reeds tottering in the wind, our boast is that we are not even reeds that think; we cry out for idols. Who is there that will set up a golden ass that we may fall down and worship? We glory in our shame, in our swelling hearts, in our eyes heavy with tears. We want sympathy at all costs; we run about showing our bleeding vitals, asking one another whether they are not indeed a horrible sight. Englishmen now are proud of being womanish, and nothing is more manly than to weep. To be a man of feeling is better than to be a gentleman—it is certainly much easier. The halt of mind, the maim, the blind of wit, have come by their own; and the poor in spirit have inherited the earth.

James had left England when this emotional state was contemptible. Found chiefly in the dregs of the populace, it was ascribed to ignorance and to the abuse of stimulants. When he returned, it had the public conscience behind it. He could not understand the change. The persons he had known sober, equal-minded, and restrained, now seemed violently hysterical. James still shuddered, remembering the curate's allusions to his engagement; and he wondered that Mary, far from thinking them impertinent, had been vastly gratified. She seemed to take pleasure in publicly advertising her connection, in giving her private affairs to the inspection of all and sundry. The whole ceremony had been revolting; he loathed the adulation and the fulsome sentiment. His own emotions seemed vulgar now that he had been forced to display them to the gaping crowd.

The Hero is highly recommended, though I fear that the people who should read it (small town America) will not.  Its sour overview of empty-headed churchmen and interfering blue-noses is as needed today as it was in 1901 … and would probably be just as popular.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Dahesh Unveils 2013 Lineup of Salon Thursdays

Since opening its richly appointed gift shop at 145 Sixth Avenue in New York last autumn, the Dahesh Museum of Art has used the new location as a home for Salon Thursdays, a stimulating series of lectures where leading arts scholars provide free programs starting at 6:30 PM.   The new site also houses the offices of the Dahesh, allowing museum administrators to better work together on travelling shows and creating a tentpole in Hudson Square to possibly reopen the museum downtown.  The new store also includes beautiful things for the home, reproduction prints and posters, and an impressive collection of scholarly books on the Classical tradition. 

The 2013 Winter/Spring Salon Thursdays program has just been announced, and it looks as if the new season is even more ambitious than the last.  Next on the calendar are:

February 7: Frick Buys a Freak: Dagnan-Bouveret and the Development of the Frick Collection, presented by Ross Finocchio, PhD, celebrated scholar of the Frick Collection.  He will explain how Henry Clay Frick’s one purchase changed American taste and the art market of his day.

Mach 7: 19th Century Commercial Photography in Egypt: Inside Pascal Sebah’s Studio, presented by Alia Nour, Assistant Curator at the Dahesh, who will discuss the life and work of Pascal Sebah, who supplied Cairo’s tourists and local elites with images of a romantic east more than 100 years ago.

April 4: The Invention of Comics, presented by Pat Mainardi, PhD, traces the origins of comics and graphic novels to late 19th Century Europe in what promises to be a fascinating show.

May 2: Inspired by Landscape: Women of the Hudson River School, presented by art historian Jennifer C. Krieger, introduces the 19th Century woman who painted the magnificent scenery of the Hudson River Valley despite prevailing prejudices.

June 6: Multiple Images: Reproducing Academic Art 1850-1900, presented by Donato Esposito, PhD, outlines how methods of art reproduction evolved and made academic painting among the most well-known of all images in the 19th Century.

Your correspondent is a great believer in the Dahesh and its mission.  It is the only institution in the United States devoted to academic art of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The genesis of the collection was assembled by Salim Moussa Achi (1909-1948), who envisioned a museum of academic European art.  Perhaps one day the dream will become a reality once again.  For the past several years the Dahesh has been a museum without walls, as significant portions of this important collection have traveled the world in various shows and exhibitions.  In conjunction with the new store location, the Dahesh has completely revamped their Web site, and readers are urged to visit it to learn about the collection and travelling shows: further details about Salon Thursdays and the gift shop, call the Dahesh at 212.759.0606. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Portrait of Alessandro Vittoria at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here is one of my favorite pictures at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art: the portrait of sculptor Alessandro Vittoria by Paolo Veronese (1528-1588).  Vittoria was one of the most celebrated sculptors of the Venetian Renaissance, and he is shown in the painting holding the model for his statue of St. Sebastian, carved in 1561-2 for the church of San Francesco dell Vigna in Venice.  Vittoria’s Sebastian was so successful that he later cast it as a bronze statuette, which can be seen at the Metropolitan.
Like many a great artist, Vittoria was not shy – he has multiple portraits of himself painted by the leading artists of the time, and five of them hung near the studio in his home where they could be seen by clients and visitors.  This portrait dates to c1580, when the sculptor was 55 years old.

The easy collaboration between sculptor and painter may be inferred not only by the sympathetic depiction, but also by the fact that Vittoria collaborated with Veronese on the decoration of Palladio’s Villa Barbaro at Maser some 20 years earlier.

Veronese ranks, alongside Titian and Tintoretto, as the greatest of Venetian Renaissance painters.  He is celebrated for his work as a colorist, and for his ability to create teeming, multi-figure canvases on a heroic scale.  His taste for ornamentation and excess got him into a bit of trouble with the Holy Inquisition, which was appalled at the excesses to be found in his representation of The Last Supper.  After questioning by the church, Veronese was ordered to fix the picture to something more decorous and within the austere teachings of the church over the next three months.  Instead of touching the picture, he simply renamed it The Feast in the House of Levi, sidestepping obsessive – and dangerous – ecclesiasticals.  (See below.)

Vitorria was born in Trent, son of a tailor.  He was heavily influenced by Michelangelo (who was, in turn, heavily influenced by antiquity and the Belvedere Torso); he was trained in the atelier of architect/sculptor Jacopo Sansovino

It must be remembered that the Renaissance was not just a reawakening of human potential and artistic and intellectual ideals, but a rediscovery of the ancient world.  The broken statue next to the sculptor represents a fragment of our Greco-Roman heritage, and serves as a bridge between the ancient world and the modern.

Why do I love this picture so?  On one hand, it is one of Veronese’s more quiet pictures.  A sense of serene and studied mastery pervades both the pose and the execution.  Vitorria’s delicately depicted hands (especially the strong and tapering fingers) are significant, of course, but not more so than the look of bland sophistication and … sprezzatura on the sculptor’s face.  One can well imagine Vitorria murmuring, “Oh this?  Yes, it’s a little something I put together.  Do you like it?”

Veronese’s love of decoration can be seen in the elaborate tablecloth and is barely hinted at in the faint traces of wall decoration over the sculptor’s right shoulder.  The expression on Vittoria’s face is much like the one the sculptor later used when depicting himself in three dimensions.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bernini: Sculpting in Clay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There are perhaps few things more frustrating than missing something that will not return in the near future, if ever.  So, it’s with a heavy heart that I report that last Sunday (January 6) was the final day for Bernini: Sculpting in Clay at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Despite some real flaws in the presentation, it was an excellent show.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was the greatest sculptor of the Baroque era.  Perhaps the finest collections of Bernini sculptures are to be found in the Villa Borghese and the Vatican; look for upcoming articles on both in The Jade Sphinx.  We looked at Bernini in a previous post when examining representations of the Biblical David; his David is more determined, more fierce, more … scrappy than the confident, gorgeous youth of Michelangelo or the fey aristocrat of Donatello.

Bernini is often considered to be the successor of Michelangelo, as he married both the heroic monumentality of his predecessor to a greater realism and dramatic motion.  He was also, like Michelangelo, a multi-faceted genius, able to write plays, paint, design metalwork and create stage sets.  In addition, he too was possessed of that peculiar religious fever that consumed Michelangelo, believing that his art was a manifestation of his love for God.  (One has only to look at the disturbingly orgasmic Ecstasy of St. Teresa to see how deeply rooted were his religious beliefs.)

Like many sculptors (and, often, some painters), Bernini created mini-sketches in terracotta of what would be larger, more demanding works in marble.  It is a terrific boon to a sculptor to think out the challenges of movement and pose on a small scale before committing to the larger, less-forgiving work.

The three-dimensional sketches in the show detailed a magnificent creative mind at work.  There were drawings along with the three dimensional sketches – including a stunning self-portrait in chalk – and there was very much the sense of being inside of an artist’s workshop.  The text accompanying the exhibition was also usually clear, concise and informative.  The figures on hand were, to your correspondent, surprisingly large – the Renaissance mind did not think small.  Nor where the figures quick or rough in any way – these were superbly executed ‘first-runs’ and were beautiful works of art in-and-of-themselves.

Sadly, once again the Metropolitan used spectacularly poor judgment in lighting and positioning.  Many of the figures were too high for patrons to see the details, or behind plastic viewing walls that seemed to do nothing but reflect ambient light, making it near impossible to see the things within.  Why a multi-million dollar operation with a world-class reputation cannot do better is one of the deeper mysteries of the New York art world.

For those who missed the show, there is a fabulously illustrated catalogue, including not only articles on view, but interesting new research on Bernini and his working methods, as well.  It is a pricey $65, but of unusual interest because of the insight it reveals into this great artist.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Extravagant Inventions; The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the highlights of my recent trip to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art was a splendid show, Extravagant Inventions; The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens.  If you are planning a trip to the Met in the next month and have only time for one thing, make it this.  The show is on view through January 27, and is located just beyond the Greco-Roman collection.  I stumbled into it by accident, and was loathe to leave it at all.

Big names always spring to mind when one thinks of “must-see” shows, so forgive me a few words while I enthuse about the Roentgens.  The workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793) and his son, David (1743-1807), was responsible for some of the most beautiful (and fantastic) furniture of the era.  Desks, automatons, grand clocks – all of these are on hand.  Aside from being exquisitely crafted works of great beauty, they are also intriguing puzzles: many of them unfold to reveal hidden compartments, secret drawers or games and mechanical devices. 

The key word to the Roentgen style is grandeur – these are pieces to savor.  The Roentgens were based in Herrnhaag, in the Wetterau region near Frankfurt.  He was soon recognized by the local nobility and he moved his shop to Neuwied-at-the-Rhine in 1750.  It was his son David, however, who was responsible for the greatest successes of the workshop.  His sophisticated designs and playful clockwork precisions resulted in his being appointed Ebéniste-Méchanicien du Roi et de la Reine at the court of Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI at Versailles in 1779.  He also created furniture for Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg, and she became his most important client/patron. 

Sadly, it was the very seeds of his success that also led to Roentgen’s downfall: with the French Revolution, his royals clients could not sustain a taste for royal appointments, and his workshop folded. 

Extravagant Inventions draws on works from the Metropolitan Museum’s own holdings, as well as pieces from Berlin’s Kunstgewerbe Museum that have never before traveled, most notably a mechanical Secretary Cabinet (1779) made for King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia that is one of the most complex and expensive pieces of royal furniture ever produced. When the exhibition ends, four objects from the Kunstgewerbe Museum—The Harlequin Table (ca. 1760-65), a pair of marquetry portraits depicting an elderly woman and an elderly man (1775-80), and the aforementioned Secretary Cabinet—will remain on loan to the Metropolitan Museum for an additional nine months and will be on view in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries.

The show is superbly lit, and the pieces are comfortably spaced.  There are several monumental clocks on view, all of which are works of remarkable craftsmanship.  One of the real highlights of the show is a clockwork harpsichord player, which is both beautiful and tuneful.  The muted colors of the walls bring out the luster of the wood, and the feeling of being in such luxury is delicious.  Here is art and form unified; the spectacularly beautiful becomes the sublimely functional.  It is a show than designers and manufacturers should see and take to heart.

The Metropolitan also provides video supplements showing the many secret drawers and hiding places to be found in the furniture, as well as a video of the elaborate musical automaton.  There is also a fully illustrated catalogue edited by Wolfram Koeppe, the first appreciation of the Roentgens in English for more than 30 years.  It is a sumptuously designed book and comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Greek and Roman Gallery at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gravestone from Ancient Greece

Though New York has often been considered an aesthete’s paradise, it boasts a great deal of dross along with the gold.  There are magnificent things in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection, as well as a few fine things in the Museum of Modern Art – and aficionados well-remember the past glories of the late, lamented Dahesh Museum.

However, New York is also home to the trashy post modernism found at the Whitney and the errant tushery store-housed in the Guggenheim, along with galleries aimed at the well-heeled sucker and crammed with all manner of pickled sharks, troughs of broken glass and other detritus peddled by a pandering and corrupt marketplace.

The great shame of all of this is that it often so hard to see the great things that are here; a thought which crossed my mind repeatedly this weekend while visiting the Greek and Roman Gallery at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Fully renovated and reopened in the Spring of 2007, the Greco-Roman wing now has some 57,000 square feet of exhibition space for classical antiquity – about as much space as all the Whitney Museum galleries combined.  And unlike the Whitney, here are treasures actually worth seeing, if one could.

The Greco-Roman wing houses some magnificent statuary, stunningly preserved bits of pottery and jewelry, and gravestones that left your correspondent deeply moved by our universal humanity and capacity for grief.  It is easy to see the deep and abiding debt the modern world owes the Greeks and the Romans: everything from the language of our art to the confines of our thought and the boundaries of our aesthetics.  We are the Greeks and Romans – no other ancient (or modern, for that matter) cultures have had so titanic an influence over us.

Considering the size of that debt – both aesthetic and intellectual – one would think that the Metropolitan would make it easier to see the work on display.  Good luck.  The grand halls housing the treasures are quite wonderful: lofty expanses with many windows, allowing a generous amount of sunlight.  However, many of the pieces are behind thick pieces of reflective glass, and I often found myself looking at my own reflection (or that of the window behind me) and not the art.

Museums in Rome have conquered this problem by leaving treasures in the open, surrounded by sensors which beep when one peers too closely.  It’s something that the Metropolitan might want to consider.

Many of the statues are placed so high that details are lost – which is a puzzlement, considering that many of them are on a human-scale and meant to be seen eye-to-eye.  It’s great for connoisseurs of thighs and the occasional ankle, but we big-picture types have nothing for but to look up.

More disturbing still is that it seems neither the curators nor the staff have bothered to proof-read the information cards near the exhibits.  When one statue is described as having a wound under the breast, when it is clearly bleeding beside the breast and near the armpit, it means that either the curators are sloppy or the staff negligent.

However, with all of that grumbling aside – New Yorkers and art historians with an interest in the ancient world will find that there is much to savor in the Greco-Roman wing of the Met.  It is a surprisingly comprehensive collection, tracing the evolution and decline of a mighty civilization.  We can only hope that millennia from now, we are treated as kindly by our successors.

Tomorrow:  Extravagant Inventions; The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens