My Met Birthday

My birthday always closely coincides with Halloween, and since I didn’t want to spend it in the Witch City this year, I fled to New York City along with husband and parents.  My brother and brother-in-law live in Brooklyn Heights, it’s NYC, and I had a long shopping list.  We had a lovely Friday evening in Brooklyn, with a firework display in New York Harbor (no, not for me but for the Statue of Liberty; apparently it was HER birthday weekend as well), which we watched from my brother’s apartment window with cocktails in hand.  The next day, however, we all awoke to a slushy and snowy New York (as everyone in the Northeast knows).  Of course, it was all about me and I was quite dismayed to have a birthday like this but I tried to control my bitchiness as we made a collective decision to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art–along with 25,000 other people that day.

The museum was indeed crowded and the lines were long for everything–tickets, coat check, lunch–but a good system was in place and everyone was patient and in good spirits.  In retrospect, it was a great place to spend a birthday.  I hadn’t been to the Met since my teens and I had forgotten the sheer extent and diversity of their collections; I spent time amongst the medieval armor and in a Renaissance studiolo, roaming around the galleries of European decorative arts and looking at cabinets of all sorts in a special exhibition of  the best examples from the permanent collection.  I never even made it to the exhibition that was on my preliminary New York “to do/see” list, Infinite Jest, preferring to spend a good chunk of times in the period rooms of the American Wing.  Lots of Salem furniture, of course, in the midst of all this splendor.  The galleries adjacent to Central Park were full of people looking as much at the snow outside as at the items inside.

Here are a few photographs but they’re not that great; the Met lets you take photos of everything, but (quite reasonably) asks you to turn off your flash.  First, the entrance to the American Wing followed by some of my favorite items inside:  a Nathaniel Gould Salem desk and bookcase, chairs and the perfect chair from the second quarter of the nineteenth century, an empire scene, including an amazing Duncan Phyfe settee, an early medieval statue of a decapitated bishop/saint, armor, and some images from the cabinet exhibition.

The most magical moment of the afternoon happened when I got separated from my pack and turned a corner to come face to face (really) in a small, still, empty room with my absolute favorite painting:  A Goldsmith in his Shop, possibly St. Eligius by Petrus Christus (1449).  I had completely forgotten it was in the Met and thrilled to see it in person for the first time.  Here are two images from the museum’s great website, including a detail of the convex mirror in the corner which reflects the street outside the shop.

After the intimate experience with The Goldsmith (or St. Eligius), it was time to leave the comfort of the museum for the snowy landscape which we had been viewing from the park-side galleries all through the afternoon.  Scenes of these galleries are below, as well as one of a townhouse across from the Museum, elaborately decorated for Halloween and all covered with icy snow. (Yay!  Halloween is over!!!)

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