kottke.org posts about Met Museum

Met puts huge digital image trove onlineMay 19 2014

NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has made a whopping 400,000 high-resolution digital images of its collection available for free download. You can browse the collection here.

In making the announcement, Mr. Campbell said: "Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection."

The Metropolitan Museum's initiative-called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC)-provides access to images of art in its collection that the Museum believes to be in the public domain and free of other known restrictions; these images are now available for scholarly use in any media.

For instance, here's a 12-megapixel image of Rembrandt's 1660 self-portrait...you can see quite a bit of detail:

Rembrandt detail

(thx, fiona)

Update: Wendy Macnaughton on why the high-resolution images released by the Met are such a big deal for art students and art history fans.

For someone who went to art school being able to do this is a revelation. I used to go to the museum with my sketchpad and copy the old masters. I'd get as close as I could to understand the brush strokes, colors, lines. The guards knew who to watch out for and would bark suddenly when we stuck our faces over the imaginary line.

As class assignments we were required to copy hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of the masters drawings and paintings. for those we mostly worked from images in books -- a picture the size of a wallet photo.

Which is one of the many reasons this new met resource is fucking phenomenal.

You can get so, so close -- far closer than one could in real life.

Museum HackJul 30 2013

Museum Hack is offering non-traditional tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Join this "Museum Hack" tour to turn one of New York's most spectacular cultural institutions into a totally unique experience. We will show you the very best and most intriguing that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display.

This is not a boring art history lecture. What we offer is a fun, group-oriented VIP tour experience. You will be entertained... and learn a bit along the way. We strive to offer a brand new view of the Met, one that you wouldn't get by simply visiting the museum on your own.

Great idea. Museum Hack grew out of a smaller effort to Hack the Met.

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before PhotoshopNov 30 2012

He lost his head

NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art has an exhibit running until January 27, 2013 featuring over 200 photos employing old timey trickery.

For early art photographers, the ultimate creativity lay not in the act of taking a photograph but in the subsequent transformation of the camera image into a hand-crafted picture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's nipplesMar 26 2012

Nipples at the Met is a photographic collection of all the nipples on display in the permanent collection at the Met Museum in NYC.

Met Nipple

(via @claytoncubitt)

400-year-old king signs autographs at the MetMar 08 2011

For their latest mission, Improv Everywhere got someone who looked very much like King Philip IV of Spain to sign autographs in front of a Velázquez painting of the monarch.

Unknown Michelangelo found at the Met?Apr 14 2010

Everett Fahy, the former head of the European painting department at the Met, believes that one of the museum's paintings by Francesco Granacci is actually by Michelangelo.

I believe Michelangelo painted it in 1506, two years before he started on the Sistine ceiling. It was already in my brain in 1971, the year after it was bought. When the Metropolitan showed it in 1971, I wrote for an exhibition called 'Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries' that the second panel recalled the figures in the Sistine Chapel. As years went by, it firmed up. I had long believed it to be by Michelangelo, but exactly when I don't know. There wasn't a moment when I suddenly said, 'This is absolutely by Michelangelo.' It was a gradual recognition.

One the clues Fahy used to make his determination involves the rocks in the painting; they resemble the quarry at which Michelangelo spent several months in 1497. The painting can be viewed larger on the Met's website.

Diane Arbus' archives were recently gifted toDec 19 2007

Diane Arbus' archives were recently gifted to the Met in NYC.

Unlike the belongings of artists who fade gradually from view, which are sometimes scattered, pilfered or lost, Arbus's effects were in some ways frozen in time when she committed suicide at 48. Quickly her life began to acquire a cult status paralleling that of her photography.

(via sippey)

Just Van Gogh!Dec 20 2005

A quick note about the Van Gogh show at the Met that's closing at the end of the month: if you're in NYC, go see it. Admittedly, I'm a fan of Van Gogh, but I thought this was one of the best museum exhibitions I've ever seen. The exhibition features drawings (as well as a few paintings) from his short 10-year career as an artist, and you can really see how much he progressed during that time and how much his drawings and paintings were related. I can't wait to go back over to the MoMA and look at Starry Night and The Postman and view them not as paintings, but more as drawings done with paint.

Opening tomorrow at the Met Museum inOct 17 2005

Opening tomorrow at the Met Museum in NYC, an exhibition of drawings by Vincent van Gogh. October 18, 2005 through December 31, 2005.

Pi, God, and apartment supercomputersJul 18 2005

The New Yorker recently ran a feature on how a couple of mathematicians helped The Met photograph a part of The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. That same week, they ran from their extensive archives a 1992 profile of the same mathematicians, brothers David and Gregory Chudnovsky. The Chudnovskys were then engaged in calculating as many digits of pi as they could using a homemade supercomputer housed in their Manhattan apartment. There's some speculation that director Darren Aronfsky based his 1998 film, Pi, on the Chudnovskys and after reading the above article, there's little doubt that's exactly what he did:

They wonder whether the digits contain a hidden rule, an as yet unseen architecture, close to the mind of God. A subtle and fantastic order may appear in the digits of pi way out there somewhere; no one knows. No one has ever proved, for example, that pi does not turn into nothing but nines and zeros, spattered to infinity in some peculiar arrangement. If we were to explore the digits of pi far enough, they might resolve into a breathtaking numerical pattern, as knotty as "The Book of Kells," and it might mean something. It might be a small but interesting message from God, hidden in the crypt of the circle, awaiting notice by a mathematician.

The Chudnovsky article also reminds me of Contact by Carl Sagan in which pi is prominently featured as well.

According to Wolfram Research's Mathworld, the current world record for the calculation of digits in pi is 1241100000000 digits, held by Japanese computer scientists Kanada, Ushio and Kuroda. Kanada is named in the article as the Chudnovskys main competitor at the time.

(Oh, and as for patterns hidden in pi, we've already found one. It's called the circle. Just because humans discovered circles first and pi later shouldn't mean that the latter is derived from the former.)

Duccio's Madonna and ChildJul 15 2005

Madonna and Child by DuccioThe Metropolitan Museum of Art recently purchased a painting called Madonna and Child by Duccio di Buoninsegna. The Met paid $50 million for the early Renaissance piece, more than they've paid for any single acquisition to date. The New Yorker has the story of how they came to own the last Duccio in private hands. In the article, Calvin Tomkins explains the reason for the painting's importance:

Small as it is, the painting has a powerful presence. It captures the eye from a distance, and commands, up close, something like complete attention. Holding the Christ child in her left arm, the Virgin looks beyond him with melancholy tenderness, while the child reaches out a tiny hand to brush aside her veil. Centuries of Byzantine rigidity and impersonal, hieratic forms are also brushed aside in this intimate gesture. We are at the beginning of what we think of as Western art; elements of the Byzantine style still linger--in the gold background, the Virgin's boneless and elongated fingers, and the child's unchildlike features--but the colors of their clothing are so miraculously preserved, and the sense of human interaction is so convincing, that the two figures seem to exist in a real space, and in real time. Candle burn marks on the frame, which is original, testify to the picture's use as a private devotional image. It is dated circa 1300.

I had the good fortune to stumble across the Duccio at the Met a few weeks ago (I was there for the Diane Arbus exhibition and passed it by accident on the way to another part of the musuem). What struck me at the time was a certain oddity of the piece...almost like it wasn't what they'd said it was but magical all the same. I know Jack about art[1], but after reading more about Madonna and Child, it probably seemed odd to me because it's a transitional piece, not quite Renaissance but not quite Byzantine either. The piece is a thin slice of a phase transition that had barely begun, a moment frozen from when the artists of the day were collectively working out how a Renaissance painting would eventually differ from earlier European styles and represent the wider cultural changes then occurring. Marco Grassi writes in The New Criteron:

More importantly, the artist places the Virgin at a slight angle to the viewer, behind a fictive parapet. She gazes away from the Child into the distance while He playfully grasps at Her veil. One must realize that every aspect of this composition represents a departure from pre-existing convention. With these subtle changes, Duccio consciously developed an image of sublime tenderness and poignant humanity, almost a visual echo of the spiritual renewal that St. Francis of Assisi had wrought only a few decades earlier.

More more on Duccio, check out his biography on Wikipedia and some collections of his work (1, 2, 3), including other Duccio representations of the Virgin and Child),

[1] I wish I'd taken an art history class in college, but my 18-yo self wasn't that interested.

Tags related to Met Museum:
museums NYC art Vincent van Gogh photography

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