Welcome your duck god overlords.
These towering slit gongs of Vanuatu are among the largest freestanding musical instruments in the world. When struck with wooden clubs, they resonate with the voices of the ancestors… according to the information provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we saw these yesterday.
The museum does a wonderful job, especially in large galleries like this, of not having too much on display at once to overwhelm (unlike Times Square). Then you can enter an airy gallery, observe things handmade, man-made, and be struck (like a gong) by the fantastic, the beautiful, the strange, the divine.
His hair was perfect.
Life-size bronze bust of a young Roman boy, A.D. 50-68 (early imperial/ Julio-Claudia period). It is a portrait of a real boy, but they’re not sure who. His name is lost but his likeness lives on in Gallery 166.
I adopt him as a museum favorite; I take him home with my camera.
Originally conceived as a depiction of a pensive woman overlooking an oriental metropolis, the picture assumed a mysterious air when Degas added the two red ibises around 1860–62.
Like a finished and saleable picture by a skilled artist and then someone (a mischievous doppelganger of Degas) came along after, looked, and said, “I know just what this needs,” and slapped on a couple of scarlet ibises. Voila! Genius.
Leda and the Swan, carved from limestone by Michel Anguier in 1654
A human encounter with the divine. She appears to have the upper hand in this version of the story. (That swan seems oddly furry.)
My first encounter with this mythological motif was through a poem by W.B. Yeats. I was so young it was hard for me to read between the lines and know exactly what had happened, but the words and images were strong and lyrical and I had an intimation (as I do with a lot of good art still) that one day I would understand more, better.
During visits to several Native American tribes in 1895, he heard of a rite of passage that captured his imagination: before a boy on the threshold of manhood could be accepted as a warrior of his tribe, he must shoot an arrow directly into the sun. If the chieftain judging the boy’s prowess was so blinded by the sun’s rays that he could not follow the flight of the arrow, then the youth, here identified as a Sioux, had passed the test.
Be (a) brave and look into the sun.
Mad holy Joan in her moment of divine revelation in her parents’ garden.
Jules Bastien-Lepage painted St. Joan of Arc in 1879, just after the Franco-Prussian war perhaps to cheer up the French (who had lost Alsace-Lorraine to the Germans) with their national heroine.
His depiction of the saints whose voices she heard elicited a mixed reaction from Salon critics, many of whom found the presence of the saints at odds with the naturalism of the artist’s style.
But isn’t that part of what makes this painting worth looking at? Her godstruck eyes are wide open, pale and staring; she is at a still point between normal, natural human life and her burned-at-the-stake, sainted, eternal, iconic future.
Ready for take off.
I can’t find this on the museum site to provide a more thorough description (perhaps it is on loan from somewhere else), but I’d say this is Artemis (Diana), goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wild places, the moon, childbirth and virginity. We like it.
She is inside four walls in a grand, teeming city. But she seems a wild, free thing anyway.