Thursday, January 11, 2018

Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We went to New York Monday and Tuesday, in part to be able to see the exhibition Michelangelo:Divine Draftsman & Designer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It did not disappoint.

With 133 drawings, three sculptures, a painting, and a wooden model of a vault by Michelangelo, plus related works by other artists, it is overwhelming. Perhaps the expert eye could make one pass and sift the work: I cannot. Were I in or close to New York, I'd aim to see the exhibition several times: once for a notion of the whole, however confused, subsequently to reinforce my impressions of the high points. There has been some sharp commentary about the amount of work on view. Yet I suspect that the artist and the critic could find something worth seeing on the nth view of the smallest drawing.

One sees that paper was scarcer then. Many pieces of paper have several drawings, some include bits of poetry or other jottings.

The ceiling of one of the rooms has a quarter-scale photographic reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Around the room are stands with Michelangelo's sketches of this or that figure. Also on each stand is a picture of the figure as painted, and a schematic showing where to find it. In that room or another is a page with his sonnet humorously describing the effects of the work on him.

Though the exhibition has been open for two months, it was crowded. Eventually I lost self-consciousness about leaning over or around other visitors, or nudging others with the coat under my arm. In the Sistine Chapel room, what looked to be a third grade class came in, not tall enough to have a good look at the sketches, but able to look up to the ceiling with the rest of us.

The exhibition is open through February 12. If you can't make it to the museum, and if your coffee table and the floor under it are up to the weight, you can get the exhibition catalogue.

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