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A Trip To

The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Part 1

Recently I was lucky enough to get to spend an entire day in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I was completely blown away the depth and breadth of the collection, and discovered works and types of art I have never seen before. Given not everyone is able to travel to The Met, I wanted to take you on a virtual tour with me, picking out all my highlights from the exhibitions (as you'll imagine, its quite heavily figurative!).

Where ever possible, I have transcribed the information that was presented alongside the artwork, so you can understand the origin and go on to research more around the works you find inspiring. As you can imagine, after 6 hours in The Met, my camera role was pretty full (I walked over 7 miles!). So I have had to split this down into two parts. The first part here covers the Byzantine, Egyptian and Middle Eastern galleries.

Section from a pair of curtains, Egypt, Akhmim (maybe), 6th-7th century. The decorations represent ideals of victory and joy. Like many weavings from late antique and Byzantine Egypt, these curtains survive due to Egypts dry climate and the custom of wrapping the dead in recycled textiles.
Bridal chest, Nubia (Sudan), Oustul, 4th - 6th Century. After the fall of Meroe, the royal family shifted their cemeteries to the twin sites of Ballana and Qustul. This wood chest, found at Qustul, has twenty-one inlaid ivory panels, incised and filled with red and green wax paste. The panels depict mythological motifs related to fertility and prosperity.
Box, Nubia (Sudan), Karanog, 100BC - 300CE. The box was excavated from a grave in Karanog, a Nubian town with both elite and middle-class houses and a cemetery with graves that contained numerous goods.
Icon with the virgin enthroned, Egypt, 6th Century. A wool, slit- and dovetailed-tapestry weave. This textile is among the earliest extant icons. Mary, holding the infant Christ, sits on a jeweled throne with the archangels Michael and Gabriel at her sides. "The Holy Mary" is inscribed above her in Greek. Columns with ornate capitals that resemble those in contemporary churches support a lintel. The entire cloth is surrounded by a floriate border, with busts of the evangelists and the apostles in roundels encircling the lower portion. The textile probably served as a wall hanging in a place of worship. Though likely produced in Egypt, the icon resembles sacred objects throughout the larger Byzantine world and beyond.
Details from the same tapestry
Details from the same tapestry.
"Mosaics Al Hammam-lif", from Revue Archeologique Cantiquite et Moyen Age, Ernest Renan, French, 1823-1892. Due to destructive excavation practices at Hammam-Lif, this plate remains our best source for what the synagogue's complete mosaic floor would have looked like before its panels were separated and dispersed. At right and left are representations of wildlife against a foliage pattern, including images similar to non-Jewish mosaics in the area, indicating that the mosaics were produced in regional workshops.
Details from the same book.
Vita Icon of Saint George with scenes of his passion and miracles, Egypt (possibly Sinai). Early 13th Century. Tempera and gold on wood Saint George was an eastern Christian Roman soldier said to have been martyred in Syria in the early fourth century. Images of the saint on a white horse appear around the world, from Constantinople to Ethiopia. "Vita icons" were developed to narrate the lives of saints admired by the varied multiethnic and multicultural peoples coming to pilgrimage centers such as the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine. In this vita icon, Saint George's large image is surrounded by twenty narrative scenes, including one at the lower left showing him on a white horse with a princess and a dragon.
Another page from the same.
The Saint Michael Collection and Coptic Litury Although the Christian liturgy in Egypt has features unique to the region, influences from other have throughout its 2000 year history. Several avenues enabled liturgical migrations to Egypt from Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, and Constantinople. At the same time, Egyptian traditions the liturgy in regions south of the Nile valley, namely, the Nubian and Ethiopian. The Saint Michael Collection comprises forty- seven Coptic manuscripts produced between 823 and 914 at a momentary dedicated to the archangel Michael. A complex network of scribes, patrons, and donors created this group, and their names are memorialised in the notes at the back of each book. These are two pages taken from the book.
Diptych with Saint George and the Virgin and child, Ethiopia, Late 15th- early 16th Century Paint on wood Panel paintings became widespread in Ethiopia only in the fifteenth century, likely in response to the expansion of Mary's cult championed by the emperor Zär'a Ya'aqob (1399-1468). This diptych features images popular in Ethiopian art of this period. Here, the Virgin and Child face a mounted Saint George, who, according to contemporary texts, remains at the Virgin's side when not carrying out a mission on her behalf. Independently, the image of him slaying the dragon to save the princess of Beirut spread across Ethiopia to the eastern Mediterranean and Horn of Africa, inspired by the growing circulation of texts on the saint's life.
Folio from a gospel book with a portrait of Saint John, Ethiopia, c. 1500. Ink on parchment These portraits are detached pages from the same Gospel book. On the left is Saint Luke. The caption above him reads, in Gǝ'ǝz, "Picture of Saint Luke who narrated, in the guise of an ox. May his prayer and blessing be upon us. Amen," the ox being Luke's symbol. The portrait on the right depicts Saint John with his symbol, the eagle. The caption above him reads, "Picture of Saint John the Evangelist, in the guise of the flying eagle. May his prayer be for us a wall against the power of the enemy and torment. Amen" Evangelist portraits accompanied by their symbols are rare in Ethiopian art, making these leaves distinctive.
Gundä Gunde Gospels, Ethiopia, 1400-80 Ink and pigment on parchment The illuminated manuscripts produced at Gundä Gunde share certain distinctive features, such as figures with elongated faces and textiles as interlocking geometric patterns. One can see the style in the folio shown here, of the Virgin and Child with the archangels Michael and Gabriel. It exemplifies the exceptional quality of all the paintings in the manuscript, with their vivid red, green, blue, and yellow hues showing few signs of fading.
Ärganonä Maryam (Origin of Mary). Ethiopia, Lasta. Late 17th Century. Pigment ink on parchment. This prayer book combines Christian and "magical" imagery. Christian and magical (or noncanonical) beliefs entangle in Ethiopian Orthodoxy. Typically included in scrolls or codices, talismanic images (tälsämat) are a particular kind of representation of magical belief; they depict the invisible world. This page depicts Abba Giyorgis of Sägla, the fifteenth-century author of this hymn of praise. He was notable for writing original compositions in Gəvəz, whereas most Ethiopian religious texts were translated from Greek, Coptic, or Arabic sources. Elements of the geometry of the tälsämat were incorporated into Abba Giyorgis's robe.
Tä'ammerä Maryam (Miracles of Mary), Ethiopia, Gondar. Late 17th Century. In the early modern period, Gondar had a thriving book production center. The stories in the Tä ammǝrä Maryam encouraged viewers to address their prayers to the Virgin Mary, whose strong motherly bond to Christ is the source of her special intercessory power. In this page an afflicted man offers prayers in the presence of a prominent person.
Unfortunately I haven't got information on the origin of this panel.

The following images are from the Egyptian galleries. Where available I have included the item descriptions however I couldn't find these for all the items

Painted Linen Depicting the Priest Tjanefer and his Family before the Goddess Hathor New Kingdom, Dynasty 19 (ca. 1300-1250 ВСЕ) Said to be from Thebes, Deir el-Bahri This painted linen, offered to the goddess Hathor by the priest Tjanefer, weaves together a family history with historical memory. The goddess, shown here in her guise as a cow, shelters in a shrine on the deck of a boat moving through a papyrus marsh. Tjanefer faces her, hands raised in reverence, while three generations of his family, including his wife, children, and mother-in-law, carry gifts for the goddess. Below Hathor's head is a small figure, identified by a hieroglyphic inscription as the deified Nebhepetre Mentuhotep, founder of the centuries-older Middle Kingdom (ca. 2051-2000 BCE). Like Hathor, Nebhepetre Mentuhotep was honored with his own cult at Deir el-Bahri, and Tjanefer served as a priest in both.
Details from a sarcophagus. No information was on display alongside the exhibit.
Details from a sarcophagus. No information was on display alongside the exhibit.
The Tomb of Sennedjem (the facsimile's featured are based on the paintings from here). Photographs by Harry Burton, 1936-37.
Details from the Tomb of Qenamun (Theban Tomb 93). New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep II (са. 1427-1400 BCE). Amenhotep II with Maat receiving New Year's gifts. Facsimile painted by Hugh R. Hopgood, 1915. A portrayal of the king in one's tomb chapel could be a sign of power and prestige. The facsimile here copies only the king's image, but the full scene shows Qenamun standing before him, enjoying access granted to a select few. Yet even among those tombs that describe a close relationship with the king in text, very few represent it visually.
Cat killing a serpent. Facsimile painted by Charles K. Wilkinson, 1920-21 Rogers Fund, 1930 (30.4.1). “What does it mean?" asks the spell on the wall across from the cat and the serpent. “It is Re (the sun god) in the beginning (when) he destroyed the snakelike enemies." The text beneath the scene similarly relates to the opposite wall of the passageway (not visible in the photograph). Often found together on papyri of the so-called Book of the Dead, these texts and images are set to aid the dead in their transition into the afterlife. The cat- and-serpent scene belongs to a broader decorative scheme that describes the beginning of the sun god's journey, which the deceased hopes to join. At night, the sun god vanquishes his enemies; at dawn, he is reborn and appears on the horizon (depicted on the passageway's ceiling and opposite wall).
Details from a manuscript. I did not see any information on display alongside the exhibit.
Details from a manuscript. I did not see any information on display alongside the exhibit.
Details from the sarcophagus of Gautshoshen. Second half of Dynasty 21, ca. 1000-945 В.С. The Mistress of the House, Chantress of Amen-ra Gautsoshen ("Lotus-cluster"). She was a young woman of about 21 when a blunt instrument, wielded by persons unknown, struck and fractured her forehead and the left side of her face. Her tomb furnishings are of mediocre quality, as she was not of exalted position. She has the same name as her more important contemporary, a daughter of the High Priest of Amun, Menkheperra
Details from the innermost lid of Henettawy. The lid is made of planks of imported coniferous wood, held together by a glue strengthened with thread. The hands, breasts, earrings, and face had been gilded and were hacked away by tomb robbers. The decoration of the inner side centers on Amentet, the goddess of the West. Above her are the sun disk and two ba-birds representing the deceased, who receive life (ankh-signs) from the goddess. The other figures are, from top to bottom, cobra-headed deities, two emblems of the West symbolizing Selket and Neith, and two mummiform figures of Henettawy flanking a scepter inscribed Anubis.
Egyptian Wall Paintings From The New Kingdom. The paintings shown to the end of this section are facsimiles of ancient Egyptian wall decoration. They are accurate copies of original scenes, exact in line and color and, with a few exceptions, at a scale of 1:1. The facsimiles were produced by the Graphic Section of the Museum's Expedition to Egypt between the years 1907 and 1937. The Museum's artists used tempera paints to reproduce the quality of ancient pigments.

Yong Zin Khon Shogpel, Seventh Abbot of Ngor Monastery Tibet. 16th century Distemper and gold on cloth. This painting is one of two in The Met collection from a set depicting the abbots of Ngor monastery, which follows the teachings of the Sakya school. Tibetan Buddhism assigns exceptional prestige and reverence to abbots, who were seen as empowered to transmit the pure teachings of the Buddha; on occasions the most revered were accepted as the living embodiments of enlightenment. Founded in 1429, Ngor monastery quickly became a center of excellence for painting, initially produced under the direction of Nepalese master artists. By the sixteenth century, influences from Chinese painting began appearing, as seen here in the treatment of the throne and drapery. In the upper and framing registers is the Sakya order lineage, and in the lower register are protective and auspicious deities.
I am afraid I didn't record the information for this artwork.
A Courtesan and Her Lover Estranged by a Quarrel. Folio from a Rasamanjari (Essence of the Experience of Delight) series. Painter: Devidasa of Nurpur. India, Himachal Pradesh, Basohli, dated 1694–95. The Rasamanjari is a series of late fifteenth-century poems that subtly categorizes amorous situations, moods, and physical traits of women. In this image, the half-open doorway alludes to the lover's hasty departure, seen resolutely departing the palace of his mistress. The marble gateway with darkened portal visually separates the two and forms a visual metaphor for their rift. Unlike earlier versions of this theme, in which the nayaka (lover- hero) is represented as Krishna, here that role is played by a princely figure, adding a heightened realism to the scene.
Details from the above.
Three Noblemen in Procession on an Elephant By Venkatchelam. India, Hyderabad, ca. 1790. A gaudily painted elephant carries an important nobleman and his attendant who are seated under a howdah. Around them march clone armies of Indian soldiers, wearing turbans and carrying swords, spears and standards ahead, while the rear is held up by another squad dressed in British army uniform. The identity of the nobleman is unknown as the identifying inscription on the domed canopy has flaked off. However we can attribute the painting to Venkatchelam, a leading artist based at the Hyderabad court of Nizam 'Ali Khan in the eighteenth century. A confident colorist, he relieves the formality by introducing lively villagers below who celebrate the parade.
Maharaja Sardar Singh of Bikaner. Painter: Chotu. India, Rajasthan, Bikaner, ca. 1860-70.
Maharana Sangram Singh II Hunts Hares at Naramangra. India, Rajasthan, Mewar, ca. 1720–30. The hunt as a royal activity was almost ritualized in later Rajput society, the premier expression of those most highly valued Rajput qualities, bravery and valor. Court artists were routinely required to accompany the ruler and his nobility on such occasions, and to record the event faithfully. The action in this painting is unusually unified as the hunting party closes in on the kill. Small hills and fortifications beyond create an impression of pictorial depth, and edging the picture with a stream or lake is a standard device in seventeenth-century Rajput painting to create a natural boundary for the scene.
Portrait of the Elephant 'Alam Guman. Painter: attributed to Bichitr (active ca. 1610-60). Along with seventeen other elephants from Mewar, this famous tusker was presented to the Mughal emperor Jahangir during the New Year celebrations of March 21, 1614. In his memoirs, Jahangir states: "on the second day of the New Year, knowing it propitious for a ride, I mounted ['Alam Guman] and scattered about much money." Elephants were among the prized possession of the Indian courts, and their portraiture falls into the larger Mughal practice of meticulously recording the treasures of the court.
Shah Jahan on Horseback. Folio from the Shah Jahan Album. Painter: Payag (active ca. 1591-1658).
Portrait of Khan Dauran Bahadur Nusrat Jang. Folio from the Shah Jahan Album. Painter: Payag (active ca. 1591-1658).
The Recluse and the Hound at the Door of the Infidel. Folio from the Nan va Halva (Breads and Sweets) of Muhammad Baha' al-Din al-'Amili India, Deccan, Aurangabad, Mughal period (1526-1858), The text of this book is a poem on the merits of the ascetic life. The painting illustrates the parable of a recluse who accepts bread from an infidel (depicted here as the English monarch Charles II) and is chided by the infidel's dog. The beautiful birds in the margin of the page compete for attention with the witty illustration.
The Coup against Shah Farain Guraz. Folio from the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Shah Tahmasp. Painter: attributed to Dust Muhammad Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period (1501-1722), ca. 1530-35. In the year 630, during a fifty-day reign, Shah Farain Guraz completely dissipated the entire royal treasury. Because of this greed and injustice, the army soon turned against the shah and swore to rid Iran of the usurper. One day while on a hunt, the leader of the coup, Shahran Guraz, drew his bow as if to shoot a stag but instead shot the monarch in the back. The accompanying warriors then began to battle with each other. This illustration appears to take place after the murder of the shah. Unlike many battle scenes, the artist Dust Muhammad has rendered each horse's armor with great care, resulting in a rhythmic and colorful pattern across the field of the painting.
This is taken from the same book. When Mihrab of Kabul first heard of his daughter Rudaba's secret love affair with Zal, he wanted to kill her, but his wife Sindukht persuaded him that Sam, Zal's father, had agreed to the alliance. Now, when Mihrab learned that Shah Manuchihr had ordered Sam to destroy his house, Mihrab's anger arose anew against his wife for falsely quelling his former fears. Sindukht then suggested that she visit Sam at his camp, bringing gifts from Mihrab's treasury. Desperate to save his kingdom, Mihrab allowed his wife to undertake the mission. The decorous depiction of Sindukht and Mihrab in her chamber gives little indication of the heated emotions of their exchange.
Assorted ceramics which I didn't get the details for unfortunately!

Kalamkari Hanging with Figures in an Architectural Setting. India, Deccan, Qutb Shahi period (1496-1687), ca. 1640-50. Cotton; plain weave, mordant painted and dyed, resist dyed. Kalamkari, a multistep process for dying textiles by applying each color with a stylus (kalam) or by using resists, is a specialty of the Deccan region of India. Although the region produced many types of dyed textiles for export to Europe and Southeast Asia between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, this hanging is one of a small group decorated with multiple figures, made only in the early 1600s. This particular hanging was once attached to several other similar panels, and was probably used as a backdrop for royal ceremonies. Later the hanging was cut down and borders were added from two other textiles.
Young Prince Holding a Falcon. Iran; ca. 1820. Oil on canvas. Painted in oil on canvas, this painting is typical of Qajar life-size portraits of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Its arched shape suggests that it was intended for a niche in an architectural setting where it would have been displayed as part of a larger decorative program along with other portraits of the ruler, princes and court members. Here, the prince is wearing a jewel-studded robe, a red sash with paisley designs and carries a sword with a bejeweled scabbard. He is depicted as a falconer, a princely sport whose roots can be traced to ancient Persia