Decorated with ceramic whelks, cockles, and moon snails, this mid-sixteenth century vessel reflects the period's fascination with exploring the natural world. "It reminds me of extraordinary vacations spent by the seashore," says curator Yassana Croizat-Glazer.
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The eyes and mouth of this mask were likely inlaid with shells, which would have given the piece a more lifelike appearance in antiquity. "Being able to recognize a face is one of those fundamental survival skills," says curator Joanne Pillsbury.
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Charles James used mathematical concepts to conceptualize the structural shape of this ball gown, which is made of four different fabrics. "The construction defies any usual dress-making norms," says curator Jan Glier Reeder.
View archival images of Charles James' evening gown.
Made for an altarpiece, this painting would have been viewed by people who were also smelling incense, listening to music, or participating in ritual ceremonies. "Medieval art is very much about a multi-media experience," says curator C. Griffith Mann.
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This cup is inscribed with a poem that reads, "Drink! For this day has a special boon, which if you had known about it, you would have hurried up with entertainment and hastened with rapture!" Says curator Martina Rugiadi, "It's actually a celebration of the exalted status of being drunk."...
Curator Rebecca Rabinow was awestruck when she discovered Matisse's illustrated book Jazz, which depicts subjects ranging from funerals to swords to knife-throwers. "There are these gorgeous, sublime images," she says, "but there's also a sense of worry."
Flip through all the pages in Jazz, which can be...
The Met was originally a self-contained structure in Central Park. The addition of the Great Hall reoriented the building to Fifth Avenue. "It serves the kind of function that railroads used to serve: masses of people efficiently being moved from place to place," says curator Morrison Heckscher.
It took three brothers ranging in age from about fourteen to twenty some four years to illuminate this exquisite work. "In the center of the book, they're struggling with their compositional arrangements," says curator Timothy B. Husband, "but as they progress, they become incredibly inventive."
Nose ornaments, which fit over the mouth, were fashionable with high-level men in the ancient Americas for hundreds of years. "It's a form of mask, a form of changed personality," says curator Julie Jones. .
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Robert Rauschenberg used discarded printing plates from The New York Times to create this work, which he began in 1962. "It's just the start of what we now know as the media and the barrage of information that infiltrates our daily life," says curator Samantha Rippner.
Shitao was a monk for some forty years; he then went on to seek fame and fortune as a painter in Beijing. "This is a guy who's asking the question, 'Who am I, and what am I supposed to do with my life?'" says curator Joseph Scheier-Dolberg.
A highly trained engraver as well as a poet and a visionary, William Blake worked out of the mainstream. "He believed he saw angels and his art was supposed to convey some of that experience," says curator Constance McPhee.
This work depicts the Buddhist deity Mahakala, which means the "great dark one" or "blackness," standing on a corpse and holding a knife and a skull. "It not only grabs my attention and pulls me into this alternate reality, but it plays very much with issues that I find threatening,"...
This statue of the god Dionysus is a Roman copy of a Greek original. The Greek work would have been a religious cult figure in a temple; the Roman object was simply a decorative piece. "One wonders what will an audience in a hundred years think of it," says curator...
This statuette was made in China during the Golden Age of the Tang Dynasty, when a woman sat on the throne. "It also tells us a lot about human nature, about this constant and eternal pursuit of beauty," says curator Jason Sun.
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This mechanical table's hidden buttons and wind-up mechanism almost magically revealed secret compartments. "This furniture allowed you to move in certain ways that might be seductive," says curator Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide.
Watch this video to see how the table unfolds.