Of all the iconic landmarks in New York City, none stokes the flames of my wanderlust quite like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The beautiful Beaux-Arts building contains some two million artifacts from around the globe, making it possible to travel from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe in the span of a single afternoon. But just like the dilemma of choosing a travel destination, the sheer size of the collection is enough to throw one into a state of indecision. Near Eastern or new American art? Medieval armaments or 19th century musical instruments? Do I return to the beloved and oft-visited French Impressionist gallery or seek out a new corner of the art world I’ve yet to explore?
Having just returned from two years in Asia, where we delved into the treasures of Korea, Thailand and China, we were eager for something a little different. We started in the wing dedicated to Roman and Greek sculptures, taking in elegant busts of Athena and towering likenesses of Hercules, elaborately carved marble sarcophagi and colorful mosaic floor panels from ancient villas. It was almost like being transported to the Eternal City, circa 50 B.C.
After admiring relics from Caesar’s time, it was only fitting that our next stop should be Cleopatra’s Egypt. Here, a whole temple carved with hieroglyphics stands next to the intricately painted mummies that were once sheltered inside. Decorative murals adorn the walls just as they did two millennia ago while stoic stone gods look on. It’s easy to get lost in the maze-like chambers filled with treasures from the royal tombs, but just as all roads lead to Rome, all of the Met’s hallways seem to lead to the French Impressionists.
I simply can’t visit the Met without appreciating the distinctive brushstrokes and layers of color used by Monet, Renoir and their contemporaries. Looking at the dreamy European landscapes, I’m amazed that the initial reaction to this revolutionary style was so unenthusiastic. But thankfully the Impressionists persevered and even inspired the next generation of artists. Did you know that Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers are the result of his attempt to copy an earlier work by Monet? As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Have you been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art?
Which pieces are your favorites?