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Not An Art Fan? Why You Should Still Visit The Met

November 21, 2016

This is the first of – I’m not sure yet exactly how many parts – about The Metropolitan Museum of Art or “The Met” in New York City. I will highlight for you a small part each time and this one I’m going to focus on why you should visit even if you don’t consider yourself an art lover or art fan.  The Met has more than 1.5 million square feet, the equivalent of approximately 47 American football fields. Housed inside you will find more than 2 million pieces on display from all around the world and from throughout human history.

 Maybe you have no interest in art in terms if you consider it as being defined as paintings and sculptures and it’s easy to overlook the artistic value of items like suits of armor, weapons, furniture or musical instruments but lucky for us the good people at The Met know their business and recognize that these are all definitely pieces of art in their own right and it’s fantastic that the work of these skilled craftsmen is recognized and displayed.  So let’s say you’re a carpenter, cabinet maker, machinist, mechanic, plasterer, mason, iron worker etc. or anyone who just appreciates fine workmanship? Are you a military buff, an international or American history buff, do you like antique furniture, or weapons like swords and firearms? If you answered yes to any of these questions then this article is for you because I’m going to show you what The Met has to offer for your enjoyment.

 Now the building itself, inside and out, is a work of art designed by skilled architects and brought to life by the skillful hands of expert craftsmen. Here are a couple of photos to show you what I mean but I won’t be going into detail about the building now. I’ll save that for another article on another day.

I’m going to start out here with furniture of The American Colonial period and you’ll find that in the The American Wing, pick up a map or download The Met App when you arrive, In the American Wing you’ll see some excellent handiwork of the skilled craftsmen of the colonial and early american era.  Long before power tools, these pieces were made entirely by hand so if you appreciate craftsmen who work with wood you’ll love this wing with items ranging from individual pieces of furniture to completely reconstructed colonial era rooms set up and on display.

This room comes from King George County, Virginia circa 1756.

This Masonic Chair (left) dating somehwere around 1750 is incredibly detailed, including an eagles claw carved at the base of each leg (right)

Who would consider a doorway as art? This doorway on the left from a home in Westfield Massachusetts circa 1765 show you why you should.  Look at the detail in the columns and the header all hand carved.

Look at this high drawer chest (right) from the mid 1700’s and notice the hand carved detail of the shell. The shelves shown below are carved then painted to highlight the work.

Here’s a bust of my favorite founding father Ben Franklin. Looks like he’s thinking about his next great invention here.

While your in The American Wing look out for Georege Washhington including a painting you’ll easily recognize as it portrays his historic crossing of the Delaware river on Christmas Eve, on his way to surprise the Hessian troops encamped at Trenton the act taht would extend and preserve the revolution.

Back to talented craftsmen and their work with wood, we move on to European Sculpture and Decorative Art. Now I hear you thinking sculpture and decorative art time to go, but don’t let the name fool you. Yes they’ve got sculptures and other examples of what you might consider traditional art, but they’ve also got these two great rooms with examples of hadn cut hand carved inlaid wood work.

These first two photos are from show an Italian study circa 1430.

Notice how the shot on the right gives the illusion that the bookcase doors are open.

These next two come from French Church, on the left is a close-up of one of the panels on the wall. Below shows the room as a whole.

So you see, what’s on display there at The Met are artistic pieces that recognize and celebrate the workmanship, skill and creativity of artisans and craftsmen throughout history. Maybe you never considered a blacksmith or cabinet maker an artist before but they are without a doubt exactly that.

I’m not covering arms and armor in this article, I promise to get to that soon but on any given visit to The Met I’m always sure to stop there to see one of my favorites. It’s a Colt Dragoon pistol the reason I why I went to The Met for the very first time. I had seen it featured on an episode of The History Channel’s, “Tales of The Gun” This is one of only 6 in the entire world. It’s displayed in a glass box so any photo I’d post wouldn’t do it justice so visit this link to the Met and see if you’d like to see it for yourself.

 Right near the dragoon are some medieval armor, imposing knights on horseback, both man and beast clad in armor.  Again a topic for another day but here’s a little teaser.

Call me a nerd but I like to stand in front of them and think of being on the field of battle about to face the charge.  It’s something I do as a history buff and something that helps me when I am describing a scene or a feeling to a group on my tour.  It lets me create a mood to immerse my guests in the experience and what makes a visit come to life.

It’s easy to overlook the artistic value of these heavy suits and dismiss them as just tools of war, but remember each of these suits had to be made, individually by hand in the days before power tools and mass production techniques. How skilled the craftsman was at his art could mean the difference between life and death for the wearer. The wealthier the patron the more ornate and decorated the armor would be.

This armor of King Henry the VIII is a good example.

 I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to what’s waiting for you under the roof of the largest museum of it’s kind in the entire world, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  So even if I haven’t touched on something that interests you give The Met a look on your next trip to New York.  There are so many sections with different pieces on display that I know you will find something to keep you interested and entertained for at least a little while. Thanks again for reading and enjoy your visit to New York.

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