Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A day at the museums

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I gained a new appreciation for New York City and decided I would do at least one touristy thing each time I visited.
That's how I ended up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Thursday.

The nerd in me was thrilled when I saw this on its calendar of events: "Gallery Talk: On the Trail of the Aeneid in the Museum."
But this nerd was on vacation and took my time getting there. I arrived 15 minutes late. I wormed my way into the group and soon inched up to the front :)
I got a wonderful tour of artifacts that highlighted the content and context of Virgil's epic poem.

The Met is one of those places you've got to keep going back to because you just can't see everything, no matter how many times you've been. It has 18 large collections plus numerous seasonal exhibits.
In addition to the art of Augustan Rome, I stopped by a more modern exhibit, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty."
He was a fashion designer (died in 2010) who pushed the envelope and the imagination.
Fascinating stuff but not exactly functional.

No trip to the Met is complete without a visit to the roof. There, you can walk around quirky art while enjoying a fabulous view of the city's skyline.

Notice the greenery? You're looking at the top of Central Park's trees. Cool, huh?

I downed a bottle of water and scurried back to the ground floor.
It was time to make my way to the Cloisters Museum and Gardens. It's a branch of the Met that houses art and architecture of medieval Europe.
I hopped on the M4 bus, took a ride to upper Manhattan and an hour later, I got to explore this:

The Cloisters' gardens are designed after courtyards found in medieval monastaries. Many of the plants and trees are period-accurate.

Most of the museum's art and structures date from about A.D. 1000 to 1500.

The Cloisters has many rare items, perhaps the most notable being the Unicorn Tapestries. The set of seven depict the hunt and capture of a unicorn. They were woven between 1495 and 1505 in Brussels. (Sorry the pics are a little dark. No flash photography was allowed.)

Turns out that these tapestries contain rather, er, naughty symbolism, particularly the one below. Tons of flowers and plants are woven into the wall hangings. Many were thought to have erotic qualities, spur fertility and help in the begetting of children. (Modern day translation: sex, sex and sex.)

A wild orchid, included in the last tapestry, was supposed to be an aphrodisiac.
The art historian at the museum called it "the viagra of the 15th century."

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