Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Mysterious Marble Slabs on the Met’s Façade

(2014-06-20 005I thought it strange that there’s slabs of stone on top of the decorative Corinthian columns on the façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve probably seen them before, but it struck me as odd that these slabs would be there. Below them is the heavily decorated stone; this stone has no carvings, just plain and drab, resembling mini-Egyptian pyramids. I thought that, since construction was going on in the front of the building, that maybe some of the stone was being stored up there, but that made no sense. (2014-06-20 006Was this done to link the present with ancient Egypt?

In the gift shop, I checked a postcard of the building and, sure enough, the stone was up there. Now I was really curious. Was this deliberate?

It turns out that the façade of the Met is unfinished; those pyramids of stone were supposed to be sculpted into statues. According to an entry on The Gothamist, architect Richard Morris Hunt had intended for 31 (2014-06-20 007statues to be carved above the columns, but he died before he specified exactly what figures he planned. His son suggested four large figures, but nothing was ever done with the stone so it is now accepted as part of the museum’s front.

It just looks odd.


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Visit to the Met

(2014-06-20 005Last Friday, I met my friend and colleague Caroline in the lobby of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We do this about once a year to either revisit what we’ve seen before or see what’s new and of interest.

The Met used to open earlier than 10, at 9 and then 9:30. The changes has allowed the Met to open on Mondays as well as staying open late on Friday and Saturday nights (until 9 pm). We always go early and leave early before it gets too crowded and you really can’t move around or see what you want.

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The only photo in Lost Kingdoms I took; it’s part of a pedestal that held the Wheel of the Law

There were two exhibitions, Lost Kingdoms, dealing with those kingdoms that sprang up in Southeast Asia between India and China, and one on Chinese calligraphy. I took a picture in Lost Kingdoms and was promptly told that there was no photography in visiting exhibitions. I didn’t even try in the calligraphy exhibit, although there were others taking photographs. Go figure.

One place that we had gone before, but I had forgotten, was the Ming Scholar’s Retreat, which consists of a garden and reception hall. It’s one of the most marvelous parts of the Met and one of the quietest. When we first got there, a few people were milling around, so it gave us ample opportunity to take photos.

I’ve always loved Chinese gardens. They are so serene and beautiful. There’s a Chinese garden complex on Staten Island which I visited a few years ago that’s wonderful. The Met’s version is much smaller but special in its own way. You can’t sit on the furniture in the reception hall, but you can sit outside it and enjoy the sun. (There’s a skylight that allows sunlight to illuminate the atrium.)

Another one of my favorite sections is the Fayum portraits. These painted images replaced the funeral masks that Egyptian mummies had placed on them at the time of burial. By Roman times, the mummies would be placed in a wooden coffin with the lid painted to look like the person. What’s so haunting about them is that these truly are portraits; they are windows back in time. When looking at these images, you can’t help wondering who these people were, what they did.

Using modern technology, many of the mummies below some of the portraits were analyzed and the faces reconstructed, which revealed some interesting finds. Some of these paintings were more youthful than the mummy, some had more pronounced Egyptian rather than Greco-Roman features depicted in the paintings, suggesting that race played a role in this society. In one case, the face looked nothing like the mummy–probably the wrong lid on the wrong coffin.

There’s a balcony running on two sides of a courtyard in the museum that had Spanish religious objects on it. The ceiling of the balcony was beautifully decorated. Across on the far wall was what I assumed were windows, with decorations all around the frames. The statue of Saint John the Baptist was way too good-looking and far too clean to be anything like the real John. There’s a small balcony against another wall that’s roped off, but it was colorfully painted.

There’s always something to see at the Met. We always stop in the gift shop before we leave to see what’s on sale. I ended up buying–what else?–a book on ancient Greece.




Filed under Museums, New York City

Val-Kill Visit

Over the Memorial Day weekend, my friend Lucye and I went to Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s last home in Hyde Park, New York.


The site is run by the National Park Service. Unfortunately, because it was a holiday weekend, the tourista were everywhere; all the tours through Val-Kill were booked for the day, so we settled for wandering around the grounds, which is what a lot of other people were doing.

The Val-Kill grounds are wonderful. It is the only national site dedicated exclusively to the spouse of a president. There’s a pond with a stream that flows between the houses and the parking lot. The bridge over the stream is how one enters the grounds. There’s actually two houses, and a separate “playhouse” which was built for Eleanor’s grandchildren. It was here that Eleanor brought her entire family together for Christmas and other holidays, and she entertained heads of state and diplomats in an attempt to bring peace to the world. She was a U.S. delegate to the United Nations.

We visited the gift shop. It’s not too big, but it has some nice things. Most of the nice things were pretty expensive. I settled for some postcards, one to send to my friend Lucretia back in Pittsburgh, and a small copy of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, written by the committee Eleanor Roosevelt chaired at the United Nations.

Eleanor is buried next to Franklin a few miles away at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, also in Hyde Park. I’ve been to FDR’s home a few times, but this was my first visit to Val-Kill.

I’d love to have a place like Val-Kill, but it’s not going to happen.

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Happy Marriage

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Hal and Tony

On May 26th, my friend Tony married his boyfriend of ten years, Hal. It was on that day, ten years before, that they had their first date in Penn Station. (It’s New York.) From there, Tony moved into Hal’s condo until they decided to buy a house together, which they did. Now they are married.

The wedding was very nice, held outside. Though it looked like rain, it held off. The reception was held inside. There was a lot of dancing, a lot of food, and a lot of booze. Everyone was well-behaved, though. The wedding cake was two layers of different kinds of cake; I sampled both. The Devil’s Food was the best. The small gift was a silver bell, inscribed with Tony and Hal’s names, the date and “I can hear the bells.”

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Hal, Tony, and the marvelous wedding cake

The rain held off until after the reception ended, and then it just poured, and made driving dangerous. Tony’s aunt was giving an after reception party at a local restaurant, but I opted to go home. I should have stayed a while longer. The rain eventually stopped. Until then it was scary driving.

Congrats Tony and Hal!

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