Grand and Grandeur: Part I
The new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are grand. What a treasure trove. What an encyclopedic collection. What can I possibly say that might do them justice? Seriously.
As I walked around like a kid in a candy shop at the press preview yesterday (yes, the Met graciously invited me, the blogger, to the press preview [and I thank them]), I was initially overwhelmed. My eyes darting left and right, up and down. Argghhh! Where to begin? How do I most efficiently spend the precious few hours I have to absorb what they've accomplished in this renovation? There was too much on display.
Actually, that was my first reaction: there was too much on display. All the promotional materials I'd seen up to this point featured single pieces, one peeking out from a row of columns, suggesting a much more sparse installation than viewers will find. I couldn't focus. So I did what I always do when I'm overwhelmed: I sought an anchor. If I can only find the Estruscan chariot, I thought, I can calm down and take it more slowly. But it wasn't easy to locate. Eventually, after visting every gallery on the first floor, I realized it must be on the new mezzanine and made my way up there.
Finally, I found it, the 6th Century BC, newly restored, bronze and ivory stunner. In a word, the chariot is spectacular. My lousy snapshot doesn't do it justice, but that's OK, you really have to see it for yourself. It took my breath away and did the trick. I calmed down.
Making my way forward, though, I encountered the Greek and Roman Study Collection, which I have to confess having flown through. It's an impressive collection of over 3,400 objects (covering prehistoric Greece through late Roman), but so abundant they opted not to label each piece. Rather there are interactive wall monitors whereby you can find your object's label. I'm not so sure the back-and-forth of that wouldn't get tiring after a while, but the software is impressive:
Still, I wasn't ready to surrender my new-found focus and decided to press on. Down stairs again, in the Hellenistic Treasury (or was it upstairs in the Special Exhibitions gallery? I can't remember now) were these examples of spectacular arm bling:
Image from Met's press kit: Pair of armbands with triton and tritoness holding Erotes. Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C. Gold, triton: h. 5-3/4 in. (14.6 cm), tritoness: 6-1/4 in. (15.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1956 (56.11.5, .6) cat. # 229. Click image to see larger.
They set me back on track and the rest of the time I was in the groove, moving from jaw-dropper to jaw-dropper, loving every moment of it. The center of this new renovation is the truly, er, august Leon Levy and Shelby White Court. From its gorgeous marble floors to the two-story atrium, to the natural light that floods the court, it's pitch perfect. Again, there's lots to see there, but if you don't try to take it all in at once, as I first did, you'll find plenty of space to be awed. Here's a shot of the court from the mezzanine:
That's all the time we have for today, I'm afraid. We'll pick up where we left off tomorrow.
UPDATE: Oh no...I almost forgot The Quiz. Personally, I'm only now getting over being utterly hopeless at distinguishing between Greek sculpture and the Roman ones and/or copies (and let's face it, it's not always possible for mere mortals), but there is a perfect installation for testing your own perceptions in the new galleries. I apologize for doing with with such a lousy photo (but given that there's no cash prize for winning [just a toast in the gallery if you stop in], I won't sweat it), but can you identify the origin (Greek or Roman) of the following:
OK, so it's impossible from this photo, but at least, when visiting yourself, take advantage of this row of heads to test your own theories on the differences.