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New York - Day 5

My last full day in NYC, and it certainly didn't wind down towards the end - I still had my 4th and last meeting of the week to go! My final meeting of the week was with Vault 49, but it wasn't scheduled until 5:30pm, meaning I had all day to roam. While in the past few days in the city I had seen a lot, I desperately wanted to spend some time checking out The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially "the Met") was founded in 1870 for the purposes of opening a museum bringing art, and art education to the American people. Opening on the 20th of February 1872, The Met was originally located at 681 Fifth Avenue. The Met, is now the largest art museum in the US - with over 7 million visitors in 2016, it was the third most visited art museum in the world, and the fifth most visited museum of any kind! The permanent collection is comprised of works of art from ancient Egyptian antiquity, paintings, and sculptures from the European masters, and a collection of American and modern art, as well as African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine, and Islamic art.

Faiyum Mummy Portraits

Arriving at The Met, I was immediately intimidated by the size of the place - I knew it was going to be impossible to see everything, unfortunately. There were a few key things that I wanted to make time to see though - starting with the Egyptian artefacts and paintings.

This piece from the Roman Period, given the title "Portrait of a young woman in red" was created around A.D. 90–120, in Egypt. The work uses a process called "encaustic painting". This way of working involves using heating beeswax and adding coloured pigments. This portrait, as well as others in the collection were painted with a classical Roman aesthetic, but a uniquely Egyptian function. Often called "Faiyum Portraits", portraits such as this were created to be placed onto a mummy of the deceased. Upon their death, it would be cut and fixed to the top of the mummy - this explains why portraits like this all share the same narrow shape. The bottom section would have been covered by the wrapping of cloth, and held in place.

I loved the these works so much, that I have written a whole blog post focusing them! You can read that post HERE, to find out more about the process, and history of the pieces.

Ugolino and his sons

From the Egyptian artefacts and artwork, I went to check out the The Carroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court. The court features large-scale sculptures, showing how light and shadow play across the surface. Sculptures in this long and narrow space are arranged chronologically, highlighting key moments in the medium's usage. One piece in particular captured my attention: "Ugolino and His Sons", by French artist, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.

The Saint-Béat marble work, created in Paris from 1865–67 is known for its expressive detail and launching Carpeaux's career. The sculpture depicts a scene from Dante's "Inferno" in which the Count Ugolino is sentenced to die with his children, and grandchildren in a tower - the sculpture shows the moment that Ugolino contemplates cannibalism. Looking off into the distance, Ugolino ignores his family as they cling to his body. It is speculated that the child at his feet has already died. Grieving the deaths of his children, it is unclear if cannibalistic acts ensue (just as it is unclear in the text).

Carpeaux's working, and appreciation for anatomical realism pays homage to the work of Michaelangelo - specifically "The Last Judgement" (1536-41), in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican.

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)

While there was a lot more to see at The Met, I wanted to make sure I saw some of the more well known works. Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Giacometti, Georgia O'Keefe, Francis Bacon and Salvador Dalí were all on my list of artists to see, and I found them all... like Pokémon?

Many surrealist artists, such as Salvador Dalí, disregarded the idea of others perceiving their work as avant-garde (experimental, radical, or unorthodox), and despite the connotations with the traditional, used the human figure as a basis of their artwork.

In his 1954 oil on canvas, "Crucifixion", Dalí uses his theory of "nuclear mysticism," (a fusion of religion, maths, and science) to reinvent Christ’s crucifixion. The union of these sectors is said to reflect Dalí's opinion that science and religion are able to coexist.

Noticeably "classical" features in the painting are the drapery of the clothing, and the Caravaggesque lighting (resembling the dramatic use of light and shadow by Caravaggio) that surrounds Christ.

Levitating in front of a multidimensional "hypercube" the body of Christ is healthy, and doesn't show any signs of torture - notably the crown of thorns, and nails are missing. Dalí's wife, Gala, poses as a devoted worshiper, watching Christ’s spiritual triumph over physical harm. Dalí described his work as "metaphysical, transcendent cubism".