Marble Relief with a Dancing Maenad, Detail, Roman ca, 27 B.c-A.D. 14, copy of a Greek relief.
When walking through the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my attention is often caught by an aspect of a larger work that encourages me to explore it as a theme. On my recent visit it was the expressive qualities of fabric, something not usually thought of as animated, that in two and three dimensions heightens the emotional charge of the subject. The figure in this relief is lovely and graceful, but it is in the swirling, lifting dress that we feel the dance, the movement and joy.
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Detail, North French, ca. 1210-20; oak with traces of paint.
The sharp edged, precise folds of the Virgin's robe have reserve and dignity...
Enthroned Virgin and Child, Detail, German, ca. 1280; oak with paint.
Claus de Werve, Virgin and Child, Detail, French, ca. 1415-17; limestone with paint and gilding.
...while in these two works, the Virgin's robes have a weighty voluptuousness, adding an earthy sensuousness to the tenderness of the figures. Especially in the case of the de Werve, the voluminous robes imply the Virgin of Mercy, who shelters humankind under her cloak.
The Annunciation, Detail, Austrian, ca. 1390; limestone with traces of paint.
These folds are almost lyrical in their gracefulness, the cloak falling in overlapping rivulets down the dress, a beauty commensurate with the moment of the Annunciation.
Mourning Virgin from a Crucifixion Group, Detail, French, ca. 1450-75; walnut with traces of paint.
The severity and clarity and monumentality of these folds speak of a reserve of strength in grief.
Benedikt Dreyer, Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate, Detail, German, ca. 1515-20; oak with paint and gilding. See the entire sculpture here.
In this work, I love seeing the different character, male and female, of the drapery: Saint Joachim's cloak flies outward with billowing freedom, while that of Saint Anne hangs quietly from her hand.
Copy after Robert Campin, Virgin and Child in an Apse, Detail, ca. 1480; oil on canvas, transferred from wood. See the entire painting here.
Hans Memling, Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara, Detail, 1479; oil on wood. See the entire painting here.
Gerard David, The Annunciation, Detail, 1506; oil on wood.
See the entire painting here.
*To see some other posts from the Met, click here.