Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh, Man Is A Giddy Thing

The class I'm scheduled to have on Tuesdays was cancelled for this week, so I found myself with nothing I had to do today. Based on my experiences in Fall, these kinds of responsibility-free days really only exist in the first part of the semester. They are precious and not to be squandered. So I set my alarm for 8:30 and got up bright and early for a museum day.

It was snowing pretty enthusiastically when I left the apartment, but I was not to be discouraged. I was determined to see The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum on the far north end of Manhattan. The Cloisters are in Fort Tryon park, and house more than 6,000 artifacts from Medieval Europe. I didn't think much of it's being in a park ahead of time, but I probably should have. The paths to the museum were ankle deep in snow, and in many places the snow covered long-standing patches of ice. The Cloisters are on top of a hill pretty far into the park, and it was a steep, slippery journey up. I was determined to make it, and even ended up using hands, feet, and one knee to climb the two sets of stairs pictured here (and got a purse full of snow, which I fortunately remedied quickly enough to avoid any damage).

By the time I got to the top of the hill I had actually exerted myself so much with snow-trudging that I had taken off my gloves, hood, and scarf. Fortunately, it was worth it. The Cloisters were gorgeous, and full of breathtaking rooms. The whole building has been designed to look like the original homes of the artifacts they house (and often things like doorways and windows are from the period). I tend not to take many pictures in museums, since they always fail to properly capture whatever I'm witnessing (and, to paraphrase my professor from last night's class, I'm trying to savor the experience rather than simply consume it). But I feel like this one is worth sharing, at least to give a vague impression of what the museum is like. I'd like to go back in the Spring, because the museum also has gardens that are supposed to be amazing. Of course, today the whole place was covered in snow, which gave the whole thing a borderline supernatural quality (for me at least).

Luckily, by the time I left the museum the snow had stopped, and I found a clearer path down. It was still icy in places, and required presence of mind while walking. But then, pretty much everywhere in New York requires that now. I think my time in high school working in Ye Olde Fashioned helped prepare me for this. At Ye Olde the floors behind the counter were covered in grease, making them randomly slick and borderline dangerous. We even used salt to absorb the grease, the same substance used to clear streets and sidewalks of ice here. So at least I have some practice in maintaining my balance when one foot suddenly slides forward from under me.

In any case, a ticket into The Cloisters is also a ticket into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I went there next. At this point all I'd had to eat for the day was a tall nonfat chai from Starbucks on my way to the subway in the morning, so with all the snow climbing and art viewing I was famished. I devoured a salad and pasta in the Met cafeteria, and then decided my best use of time would be to take advantage of some of the free guided tours. The Met has the largest footprint of any building in New York, and at 2 million square feet and 2 million artifacts the whole thing can be pretty overwhelming. I started out with a one-hour highlights tour (which included the actual ancient Egyptian temple - moved when the Aswan Dam was built - pictured here), and then went on a one-hour ancient Greek and Roman art tour. I truly love the Met, and hope to go back a good bit more while I'm here. After all, I barely scratched the surface of all there is to see. After the tours, I spent an hour in my favorite sections - European Paintings and 19th- and Early 20th- Century European Paintings and Sculpture. For your consideration, below are my three favorite paintings I've encountered in the Met (two, by the same artist, are related).

"Diana and Cupid" by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni
"Springtime" and "The Storm" by Pierre Auguste Cot

No comments:

Post a Comment