Monday, October 26, 2015


House Model, Nayarit, Mexico 100 B.C.--A.D. 200 Ceramic and Pigment
If you were leaving for eternity what would you place in your burial chamber? The Aztecs, the Incas and their predessors, in a rarely seen before exhibit, shed light on the subject in a rare exhibition with never seen before artifacts. 
    From the first millenium B.C. until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, artists from the ancient Americas created small-scale models to be placed in the tombs of important individuals.
    These works in stone, ceramic, wood, and metal range from highly abstracted representations of temples and houses to elaborate architectural complex populated with figures. 
   The exhibit, Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first of its kind in the United States, sheds light on the role of these objects and their relationship between the living, the dead and the divine.
     Arranged chronologically, the exhibition features groups of works from ancient Mesoamerican and Andean cultures. Featured is an exceptional ceramic work, perhaps the finest example of a house model known from the Nayarit culture of West Mexico was made between 100 B.C. -- A.D. 200 and measuring 12 inches in height, and includes twenty-six figures engaged in a grand feast.
Ball-Court Model, Ceramic with Slip and other pigments
The artifacts give us a birds eye view into how these people lived, played and entertained. Also included from West Mexico, is a ceramic model of a ball court with five players engaged in ritual play, with about twenty spectators, and an Andean artifact---long believed to be an architectural model---that is now thought to be a game board.

     Some thirty remarkable loans from museums in the United States and Peru join the works from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum. While scant written documentation concerning how the artifacts used has survived. Maya hiero-glyphs call them "god houses: or sleeping places for the gods." Indeed, many of the artifacts combine a buildings shape and that of a vessel, and some of these double as musical arrangements.   The centerpiece of the exhibition is a spectacular wooden model that depicts part of a pre-Inca palace at Chan Chan, the capital of
Pre-Inca Palace at Chan Chan, Chimu Empire
of the Chimu Empire. (the Chimu people were defeated by the Inca in the 15th century)l Figures that represent musicians, beer servers, and others are sewn to the cloth base, thee larger figures, which are not secured to the model, represent mummies, one male and two female. The scene may be an early representation of funerary practices that later became common among the Inca, who did not bury their royal dead.

   The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog, Yale University Press, at the Museum's bookshops ($25.00, paperback).  The exhibition is also featured on the Museum's website at, as well as on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter via the following hashtage:#DesignforEternity.
    Ta Ta darlings!!! Take time to visit this ancient world of wonder works that shed light on these ancient people and their relationships between the living, the dead, and eternal life.  Fan mail always is welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and in the left-hand column click on the link to the Blog that resonates with your interest.             

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fashion and Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520-1620: Review By Polly Guerin

Illustrating the Ancient Technique
The printed resources related to the design of textile patterns, starting as far back to the 1520s are rare specimens of women's ingenuity and ability to transfer patterns into works of textile art and beauty.
     These small booklets of textile patterns, published regularly, in pocket-size with easy to-use patterns, were not made for library use, but became an instant success, essentially forming the first fashion publications.  
    These small reference books were the active use of their 16th-century owners across all levels of society. who were interested and invested in textile decoration as a means of self-expression and transformation of their household linens and ornamental design on dresses and ceremonial attire.
   Unfortunately, in most cases, the instructions were made easier when users of the books tore out the pages and pasted or nailed them to workroom walls for inspiration. As a consequence many of these precious records of creativity were lost.
But not forever: the Metropolitan Museum of Arts exhibition FASHION and VIRTUE; TEXTILE PATTERNS and the PRINT REVOLUTION, 1520-1620 is a rare opportunity to view some of the amazing patterns that passed through the hands of homemakers and professionals who embellished textiles with the intricacy of design at a time when only human interpretation could realize the result. In an age when the computer governs design one can appreciate this art form with even more sensitivity for the vast volume of creativity that the exhibition displays.  The collection drawn largely from the Metropolitan's own collection, combines printed pattern books, drawings, textile samples, costumes, paintings, and various other works of art to evoke the colorful world in which the Renaissance textile pattern books first emerged and functioned.
Leonardo da Vinci's Fifth Knot, Copy by Durer

     During the first quarter of the 16th century, the market for publications of textile patterns quickly expanded and the exchange of designs and ideas was established between Italy and the countries north of the Alps. The books became highly influential sources that both instructed and inspired many in the arts of making embroideries, weavings, and lace, as can be seen in surviving costumes and textiles of the period.
    Throughout fashion history the urge to decorate, embellish and superimpose gave textiles beauty and were a testament to the instuitive talent of the women (and men) who interpreted designs into beautiful works of art.
  The wide reach of these early publications meant that they were easily adapted for educational purposes, instructing women and young textile makers in the art while, like today's fashion magazines, they dispensed advice on proper conduct and a virtuous lifestyle.
Georgio Sanr'Angelo ensemble 1970
On November 6, designer Todd Oldham will join Associate Curator, Femke Speelberg, for a conversation about the exhibition. The exhibition opens October 20 and runs through January 10, 2016, Robert Lehman Wing, Galleries 964-965, Lower Level.

     A runway of showcased garments highlights the incredible diversity of this textile art as interpreted in ancient garments that made highly diversified fashion statements through the intricacies of textile art. The exhibition also  brings this art form full circle showing how designers interpreted this art form and made it their own fashion statement in red carpet collections. 
   Ta ta darlings!!! This exhibition is a tribute to the women (and men) who interpreted the intricacies of design. Fan mail welcome at Viisit and in the right hand column select the link to the Blog that resonates with your interest.



Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ancient Egypt Transformed: The MIDDLE KINGDOM: Review by Polly Guerin

Relief with Senwosret, Dynasty 12, Senwosret I
The ancient sands of time unearths Egypt's historical legacy in remarkable carvings and statues in the exhibition, Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, which opened recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
      Why does the Middle Kingdom matter to us? It sheds light on the great cultural flowering that lasted nearly 400 years. During the Middle kingdom (mid-Dynasty 11-Dynasty 13, around 2030-1650 B.C, artistic, cultural, religious, and political traditions first conceived and instituted during the Old Kingdom were revived and re- imagined.
    This transformational era is represent through 230 powerful and compelling masterpieces (individual objects and groups of objects) and ranging in size from monumental stone sculptures to delicate examples of jewelry.  The works of art are drawn from the preeminent collection of the of the Metropolitan, which is rich in Middle Kingdom material--and 37 museums and collection in North America and Europe. 
    This is the first comprehensive presentation of Middle Kingdom art and culture and features many objects that have never been shown in the United States.
Detail : Nemtihotep's statue
"The astonishing continuity of ancient Egyptian culture, with certain basic principles lasting for thousands of years, gives the impression of changelessness," said Adela Oppenheim, Curator of Egyptian Art. "But the works of art in the exhibition will show that ancient Egypt constantly evolved, and was remarkably flexible with a consistent framework. New ideas did not simply replace earlier notions; they were added to what had come before, creating a fascinating society of ever-increasing complexity."

     During the 12th Dynasty, the construction of pyramid complexes resumed, after a lapse of more than a century. Profound changes in the concept of kinship are also demonstrated through a series of royal statues that span several hundred years.
   Royal women were always closely connected to the pharaoh, as evidenced by the placement of their burials near those of the king. Although less is known about Middle Kingdom queens and princesses, some of the finest ancient Egyptian jewelry was produced for elite women of the time. Inscriptions and symbolic motifs endowed the jewelry with spiritual power and related to the roles these women played in supporting the kings as guarantors of divine order on earth. Calling all jewelry designers and art enthusiasts, it is interesting to note that a studio workshop on jewelry design will take place October 17 and 24. Register at 
During the Middle Kingdom, the god Osiris gained importance as a funerary deity and, from then on, the deal at all levels of society became manifestation of the God. Because Osiris functioned as the ruler of the underworld certain symbols and regalia that had been the sole prerogative of the reigning king were appropriated for non-royal use: mummies sometimes had a uraeus on the brow (a stylized cobra usually seen on a pharaoh's crown), and a flail (a standard attribute to the pharaoh)( could be placed inside the coffin.

   the Middle Kingdom---the achievements of its artists, its religious beliefs, burial customs, and relationships with other lands in a large part stems from the Metropolitan Museum sponsorship of numerous excavations at Middle Kingdom sites. 
   Related events include a Sunday at the Met on October 25 and a one-day symposium on Friday, January 22, 2016.
   Ta Ta darlings!  I'm checking out the jewelry and the elite women of the Middle Kingdom. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the links in the left-hand column.


Monday, October 5, 2015

ERNEST HEMINGWAY Between Two Wars: Review by Polly Guerin

Author: Ernest Hemingway   
Why does Ernest Hemingway matter? Well, the Morgan Library and Museum's recent exhibit, Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars clearly reminds us that this is the first museum exhibit devoted to one of the most celebrated writers of the twentieth century.
     In 1917 he took a job, a short stint, as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star, where he learned the essentials of good writing from the newspaper's style sheet: "Use short sentences, use short first paragraphs, and eliminate every superfluous word:," and the precepts he learned there shaped his literary style that endured forever.
       His direct, spare style of writing influenced successive generations of author's around the world and tens of millions would read his books and never forget the stories and characters in such masterpieces as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which are among the best known and acclaimed books of the modern era. They focused on recurring war themes that he derived from his first-hand participation and later as a war correspondent.
     In 1925, for example, in 1925 he told F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The reason you are so missed the war, because war is the best subject of all. It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get."
      The exhibition provides a rare insight into Hemingway's creative process, from 1918 to the aftermath of World War II--and the finality of death--with grace and courage.His experiences as a war casualty shaped numerous short stories and novels.
     This a a rare opportunity to view almost one hundred rarely exhibited manuscripts and letters, photographs, drafts and typescripts of stories, first editions and artifacts from the author's life. In the beginning, wherever he was, he often used cheap notepads or scraps of papers, even letterheads to write with pencil in hand.
Ernest Hemingway recovering in Milan
      Upon entering the gallery  there is a big blowup of a handsome eighteen year old Hemingway as a solder in 1918 when he was serving as a volunteer with the Red Cross on the Italian Front During World War I. He was recovering from shrapnel wounds at a Red Cross hospital in Milan, Italy. War would engage his writing interest and this is the first time the author tried to turn his wartime experiences into fiction. Later he wrote on Red Cross stationery, "When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose the illusion and you know it can happen."
     In the early 1920s Hemingway was determined to make his living as a writer and moved to Paris with his wife Hadley Richardson. This move that would bring him into a constellation of friends including F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso among others at Sylvia Beach's legendary bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which served as a gathering place. In Paris Hemingway transformed himself from a journalist into a writer of fiction and would launch a career that saw the completion of five novels, short stories and poetry.. Image right: Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
First Page: A Farewell to Arms 
 Hemingway resided in Paris until the end of 1929. and for the next ten years he lived mostly in Key West, Florida with his second wife Pauline. In the spring of 1939, Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife, rented a farmhouse, the Finca Vigia near Havana. No wonder, The exhibits walls are painted tropical blue to suggest his years in Key West and in Cuba. And, oh yes, Hemingway's literary fame grew steadily in the 1930's on the heels of the highly successful 1929 publication of Farewell to Arms, which he completed in Key West. Image left: First page of autograph manuscript of A Farewell to Arms, Charles Scribner's Sons,1929. Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.(c) 1929..
     His own first-hand knowledge of war, and it fatal dangers, did not keep Hemingway at home in 1944, upon returning to Europe to report the war for Collier's magazine, he explained his presence at the war front by saying, "I got war fever like the measles."
    Ta Ta Darlings!!! Sadly depression and deteriorating health took their toll on his creativity. However in 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, "for his mastery of the art of narrative...and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style."  Fan mail welcome at
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