Do not miss these 5 exhibits at the Met

Three hours. That’s all we got to soak in the most of Goya, Rembrandt and Paul Rubens. That’s just a tiny portion of the exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Short of time, we whizzed past some of the Egyptian mummies, and Indian gods. I clicked the photos of some, and some, I tried to save in memory (fail idea). Two days later, I tried to recall the museum walk, and made a list of the only ones that stayed in my mind from the thousands that I rushed through.

  1. The boy in red (That’s not the actual title, but let’s call him that)


Some obvious questions…

Who is the kid?

It’s a long name. He was called Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga. He passed away when he was just eight, and it is believed by some that the painting was done by the well-known Spanish painted Goya after the child’s death.

But who is he?

He was an important kid, the son of the Count and Countess of Altamira in Spain. Google Altamira caves, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is best known for the paleolithic art on its walls.

What’s with the bird on a leash?

It’s a magpie, and it symbolizes innocence. If you look closely, the magpie is carrying a card.  Goya’s calling card. There is also a cage full of colorful tiny finches. There are three, yes three (you can hardly see them in this picture), cats staring at the birds. They look almost ready to attack the harmless birds. Art historians say the cats are metaphorical to the evil that would eat up the innocence of childhood in due time.

How old is the painting?

It’s 230 years old! It was first exhibited in the Met in 1928. Phew.

2. Lot and his daughters

IMG_20180804_161521 (1)

Yes, it is what you think it is.

Who is Lot?

According to Torah (traditional Jewish learning), Lot was an honorable family man living in the city of Sodom, with his wife and daughters. Until one night, when two angels visited him. They were disguised as travelers. Lot offered them a place to stay. But soon, an angry mob surrounded the house and asked him to surrender the angels to their lust. But Lot, driven by idealistic principles to protect his guests, instead offered them his own daughters. (whaaaa!).

And then?

The angels were impressed, they stopped the mob, protected his daughters, and also warned him that the city will soon be destroyed and he and his family should run to some place else and save themselves. Remember: whatever it is, don’t look back — they told Lot’s family. And so they fled. But at some point, his wife turned back to check if Lot was following, and got turned into a pillar of salt (angel’s curse!). So it’s just Lot and his two daughters now.

You see where this is going.

Anyway, they found shelter in a cave. Most of the city was destroyed. His daughters realized that there was no surviving man in the city to give them any kids, so they did the unthinkable. They got their dad drunk and seduced him into impregnating them. Yes, cringe-worthy.

But why did Peter Paul Rubens decide to paint this story?

Apparently, he found a connection. His dad was involved in a sex scandal, back in 1577. He had an affair with his employer, the Princess of Orange (south of modern-day France), and was imprisoned. Art historians believe that this past might have prompted him to paint that scene.

Not many have seen this piece.

This is the first time it is being exhibited for the public. Till 2016, it was privately owned. And then was sold at a whopping 44 million pounds in Christie’s auction.

3. Two children teasing a cat 


Poor cat. Evil kids.

Who are they anyway?

Not sure. Art historians say that Annibale Caracci would have probably drawn a rough sketch of the kids in haste and then worked on it from memory. Apparently, while cleaning the painting in 2010, the MET discovered that the cat was painted in a different position initially, and later, with skillful strokes, Annibale corrected it to the position it is seen today. TMI?

Never mind. On to more important questions. Why torture the cat?

It’s a renaissance art thing, really. To elaborate, back in the 1500s there was an artist called Sofonisba Anguissola. One day, she sought advice from Michelangelo on one of her paintings of a child laughing. Mike said that it would have been even better if the child was crying. Sadist much. But he had a better reason. Apparently, back then, the work that required more hard work automatically got more praise. And since it is tougher to paint a child crying than laughing, Mike’s was an earnest suggestion. So Sofonisba went back, and did a painting of her sister offering a basket of crayfish to her younger brother. In it, the little boy is seen crying as the pincer of the crayfish is fastened on the boy’s finger. The sister stands there laughing at him.

That’s just mean.

Annibale, in this painting, has consciously placed the little girl’s hand close to the cat. At some point, the cat is going to be annoyed enough by that crayfish that the boy is dangling at it, and scratch the girl’s hand. The smile on her face is going to vanish, and she is going to cry out. Annibale wanted to bring out this looming sorrow, which cannot be seen, but is just round the corner.

That’s sad. Also, too much thinking.

Here are some dancers to cheer you up.

4. Rustic Dancers


Adorable, aren’t they?

Btw, they are really old. Centuries old! They were made between 25 to 220 AD, and belonged to the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. The idea of fun hasn’t changed much over the years, has it?

Okay, the last one.

But before that, when did you last get your hair done?

5.  Portrait of a young man

IMG_20180804_154939 (1)

Let’s get straight to the point – what’s with his hair?

It has a name. Like quiff. Or Ducktail. This gentleman’s hairstyle was called a zazzera. A very sought after hairdo in Venice, in the 1480s and 90s.

Who’s the guy?

Nobody knows. But it is said that Jacometto was commissioned to paint a portrait of him. And since Jaco was a popular artiste back then, to have him paint your portrait, you had to be of a certain stature. So guess, he was just a rich guy with soft gold locks.

I intend to go back and do a second tour soon. In the meanwhile, if you have been to the Met, is there any exhibit that caught your attention?

P.s. The Met has an excellent directory of information about the exhibits. The facts for this post have been sourced from the Met Website.

As promised…

My obsession with sketching has taken a new high. I have signed up for a course on graphic illustration. It is being taught by this wonderful instructor called Junichi Tsuneoka (look him up!). He is a serious guy who dissects what seems like a complicated subject into small chunks and places it in small platters for us to consume. Each video is just five to six minutes long, and packed with a ton of info. But most important of all, the course inspires me to think out of the box, and expand from just sketching realistic images to more wacky ones. But also the kind that conveys a story. Anyway, I have only just begun it. There is a long way to go. A journey that I will be sharing with you all (translates to: expect a lot more sketch posts).

Meanwhile, as promised, here are some more sketches that I worked on in the past week.

#1 A beautiful apartment in Jersey City. Pull up those blinds and what you see is the Hudson river cradling the New York skyline. I have been here so many times, but still haven’t been able to make up my mind if the scene is best at dawn or dusk.


#2 On the path train. Four of us were travelling in the train, tired after the day’s adventure. And all of a sudden, the lady right opposite to us zips open her back pack, and a pair of eyes stares back at us. An adorable homeward bound Shih Tzu.


#3 My sister sent me a picture of my niece. She had made a welcome gift for her dad who was visiting them over the weekend. There was a heart and fish shaped paper card that melted my heart like a slice of butter on a hot pan.


#4 An afternoon walk to the library. This is just outside our apartment. I was waiting for a car to pass, and cross the road. I stopped and soaked in the simple beautiful picture in front of me. A line of apartments, a field of green, a few trees shimmering in the afternoon sunlight, and a very strawberry colored STOP sign.


#5 Me. Listening to Tom Odell’s Another Love.


The end.

Fresh batch of sketches

Over the last one week, I have been sketching quite relentlessly. Trying to reduce the time I take to finish a single sketch. So much so that, I have ended up with a terrible neck ache. But it’s an addiction that I am not willing to let go. Capturing the world in simple black ad white lines helps me makes sense of it.

Hope you like them. Also, if you have any suggestions, would love to read them in the comments section.

#1 The Strand

I heard about The Strand bookstore in one of the news articles. Apparently it is one of the best bookstores in the whole world. Located in the corner of East 12th Street, in the neighborhood of Manhattan, it welcomes you with a tome of books on either side of the door. All kept under the burning sun for passersby to peruse. At discounted rates, a thick travel book about Ireland is definitely a good buy. We enter, and there are just shelves and shelves of books. Enough for one to play a good game of hide and seek. And if its not books, then it is The Strand merchandise. Bags, T-shirts, sketchbooks, etc. We spent a good 30 minutes just walking in the aisles, surrounded by books, just too confused to pick just one.


#2 Newport Center selfie corner

Right when you enter the Newport Center mall, on the left side is a colorful selfie spot. The backdrop is a nice scenery, with the ropes of the swing ending right on top of a tall stool. You can sit on the stool, and act like you are holding the rope. It is fun and creative. In this sketch, while everything else is as is, I took the liberty of getting rid of the stool legs.


#3 Times Square

This was just a few minutes before we entered Radio City Hall for Ludovico Einaudi’s concert. It was a Saturday evening, and Times Square was buzzing with activity. A sea of people floated in front of us. Tons of people rested on the steps, below the flashy billboards, taking snaps of what is probably the busiest part of America. After standing,  a little dazed, for a few seconds, we mixed in with the crowd, like thin brooks joining a river. And flowed we did, to our respective seas.


#4 Quill and ink

I had bought a set of quill and ink from Quincy Market, Boston, almost five months ago. It came with a nicely yellowed, almost archaic-looking, crushed, parchment. I had forgotten about this buy, until recently when I had an urge to write my journal with an ink pen. So I mixed the ink powder with hot water, and let it rest for a while, before filling my ink pen with it. There is something so primal about seeing fresh ink dry up on a white page.


And here is what I did with the parchment. Borrowed a quote from the coolest man, Ron Swanson (Parks and Rec, anyone?)


#5 Strawberries

It’s summer. Period.


#6 The Halal Guys

Just done with the Ludovico Einaudi concert, we were starving, and my heels, still not broken in, were biting my feet. However, we walked the extra mile, to the ever-crowded road-side eatery The Halal Guys. While it is best known for its gyro and chicken, we, a bunch of vegetarians, wanted rice with falafel. We waited for almost 20 minutes in a long queue. Only to be told that the vegetarian meal is over. Such is the demand of this dimly-lit mobile food joint.


Until the next five.

Happy weekend all!