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The Metropolitan Museum of Art October 29, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in Arts, History.
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I recently visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The museum presents the history of various societies through the lens of their art.

Here are twelve nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Many natives of Kwangtung migrated to present-day Thailand. They founded several kingdoms, including the:

They also practiced a conservative strain of Buddhism that was influenced by religious practices in Sri Lanka, as Muslim conquests of India marred its reputation as a stronghold of Buddhist orthodoxy.

2. Present-day Burma has been shaped by several kingdoms, including the:

The first king of Burma, Anawrahta, was a devout adherent of Theravada Buddhism. He also subdued the Mon people, enabling the Pagan to control Burma until it was toppled by repeated Mongol invasions.

3. The Srivijaya kingdom was a maritime and commercial power that originated in Palembang. It controlled the strategically vital Strait of Malacca. The early years of its influence overlapped with that of the Shailendra dynasty that controlled Java. The notable Buddhist monument of Borobudur was constructed during the reign of a Shailendra king.

4. The Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II rebuilt the city of Calah. His citadel was surrounded by a wall that was five miles long; it covered an area of 900 acres. It was guarded by two large statues; each statue included the features of a human, a bird and a bull. The extant reliefs from the citadel include a depiction of a sacred tree and Akkadian inscriptions; Akkadian was written in cuneiform script (“cuneiform” is derived from a Latin root that means “wedge-shaped”).

5. The Licchavi dynasty in Nepal actually originated in India. It was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty; later, the Malla dynasty would rule over the Kathmandu Valley. Eventually the Kathmandu Valley was dominated by three city-states: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Shah dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of Nepal, ruling until 2008.

6. The Chenla kingdom controlled much of present-day Cambodia. Later, Jayavarman II founded the Khmer Empire at Phnom Kulen. One of his successors, Yasovarman I, moved the Khmer capital to a location near Angkor. There, another Khmer ruler, Suryavarman II, constructed Angkor Wat. The Khmer Empire reached its greatest territorial extent under Jayavarman VII, who is often depicted with a protective naga, or snake spirit.

7. The Diadochi warred over Cyprus after the death of Alexander the Great. Eventually, Ptolemy I gained control over that island; he established his capital at Nea Paphos. The Cypriots would later devote themselves to the worship of various deities, including:

After Cyprus became a Roman province, Cicero briefly served as its governor.

8. The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and The Denial of Saint Peter were the last two paintings of Caravaggio. The former work depicts the Hun siege of Cologne; the titular saint allegedly led eleven thousand virgins in an attempt to lift the siege, yet she was slain by an arrow fired by Attila the Hun. The latter work depicts a woman pointing two accusing fingers at the titular saint; a soldier is also shown pointing a third accusing finger at him.

9. The development of Norwegian art was facilitated by Norway’s declaration of independence from Denmark in 1814. Notable artists in this movement included Johan Christian Dahl and Peder Balke. Dahl’s status as the founder of this movement, though, overshadowed the contributions of Balke for many years. Balke successfully avoided military conscription by leaving his boyhood home for Stockholm. He would later travel to Dresden and study with Dahl. Some of his best paintings were influenced by his visit to the North Cape in Finnmark.

10. Kraters were large vases that often depicted prothesis – the laying out of the body of a deceased person while surrounded by mourners and soldiers in boats and chariots. Kraters exemplify the Geometric style and were often made from terra cotta.

11. The mao, the pi and the jian featured prominently on the battlefields of ancient China. In particular, the jian was optimized for close-range striking and stabbing. The rise of iron production during the Han Dynasty impacted the design and development of these Bronze Age weapons.

12. Inlaid celadon was developed during the Koryo dynasty, where slip was poured into carved clay and fired. During the Choson dynasty, buncheong ware was eventually replaced by porcelain, as it reflected the Confucian virtue of simplicity. The demands of the nobility for porcelain were met by the bunwon kilns near Hanyang.

The museum is expansive, and one can spend an entire day browsing through its numerous exhibits. I especially enjoyed the special exhibit that included a section on warfare during the Qin and Han dynasties; I was impressed by its detailed animal figurines and plethora of ancient weapons.

My only quibble with the museum is that the staff gradually closed the exhibits as the afternoon progressed. It would have been better to allow unrestricted access to the entire museum during its operating hours.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to those who happen to be in the Big Apple.

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