May 27, 2021

At Last, at the Met: Some Favorites

Visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art is always a delight for me, and a solace. Finally, after a long hiatus, I was back wandering the galleries full of marvels from around the world. In this first of several posts from the Met I thought I'd show some favorite things that I go to see almost every time I'm in the museum. I was very interested to note that I seemed to gravitate to objects, things of three dimensions rather than paintings, during that day. 

First, a charming small bowl––about 5 inches wide––held up by feet, found in the Egyptian galleries. The image is an embodiment of the hieroglyph "to bring" so it's believed that it was an offering bowl. I love its rounded little feet, its imperfect round bowl tilting forward as though saying "here I am".  When I saw that there was a small reproduction of this piece in the museum shop, I just had to have it, and it's now sitting on my desk, offering me joy. 

This small dog is another perfect ceramic piece. He's to be found in the galleries devoted to the arts of the Americas. His expression is both alert, in his raised head and pricked ears, and calm, in the folded forms of his limbs. Such a good dog!

In a gallery on the way to the American wing is a small sculpture of a hunting dog. He has a very different demeanor from the one above: he is active, which shows in the movement of limbs, head, and tail. I love how the curve of his backward arcing neck implies a circle with the upraised tail. I never miss stopping to admire the fluidity and elegance of the lines in this work.

A very different mood is evoked by this figure, which is seemingly monumental, but less than 15 inches high. The flowing garment has lyrical curves, which follow the movement of the body beneath. The enlarged hands emphasize grief, especially the one holding the tilted head, a solemn gesture of sadness. This is such a beautiful, tender piece.


The sense of mourning in this sculpture is austere and restrained. The shadowed face, the downward-set mouth, the quietly crossed hands, all point to an attitude of inner resolve. The deeply carved folds of the cloak add drama. This is a figure of a strong woman. (To see the entire sculpture, go to the link under the photo.)

Although this is a fragment, its sensitivity and presence is compelling; it's almost difficult to look away when standing in front of it. The subject of the work is unknown, but whoever she was, she was beautiful and proud. The sculptor produced a remarkable work.

Here is another powerful portrait of a queen, sculpted in ivory. The heavily lidded eyes are contemplative, the downward lines of nose and mouth are sensitively defined. I'm fascinated by the combination of naturalism and formal idealism in this work. There is also religion in the complex headdress and collar, with mudfish representing the king's dual nature of human and divine.

A Man with High Coloring, Egypt, 161-180 A.D.

Of all the encaustic portraits in the Egyptian galleries, this one is my favorite. The paint is modeled so as to enhance the form of the face and the texture of hair and beard. The gaze is intense. These qualities combine to create a face that is so full of life that he could be our contemporary.

Hans Memling, Portrait of an Old Man, ca. 1475

I love looking at this sensitively rendered portrait of an old man. He seems kind and thoughtful, reflecting on his life as he nears its end. In this painting, Memling shows himself to be a deeply humanistic painter. 

image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Now on to two works which I had hoped to see, but were not on view. The Lamentation by Petrus Christus  is my most loved painting in the museum, so I was crushed not to see it. The clarity of form, the repeating curved lines of the figures, the small mundane details, the landscape setting, the emotional reserve of the figures, all combine to create a strikingly moving scene.

Standing Man, Iran, 2nd century A.D. 

I also missed seeing the jolly face and gesture of this sculpture from ancient Iran. He sends us greetings from across space and time.


  1. Egyptian objects are incredible. So glad the Met has a stunning collection. Thanks for sharing these. Now I want a footed bowl too!

    1. I agree that their Egyptian collection is superb. I'm hoping to do a post on some of their reliefs soonish.

  2. Great to see these, as well as your eloquent and heartfelt remarks. Thanks--

    1. Thank you, Mark, so glad you liked this post. There will be several more on things seen at the Met.