A dreary Friday afternoon was brightened by two special exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC — Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, and Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789.
Our first stop after arriving at the museum was Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence, well suited to its setting in the beautiful Robert Lehman wing. I enjoyed seeing old favorites like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Le Parc Monceau, as well as works by Monet, Corot, Caillebotte, and many more within the context of the evolution in garden spaces and in awareness of the green spaces around us.
Video depicting Monet painting in his famous garden in Giverny, and L’Arroseur arrosé, an early comedy on the trials and tribulations of the garden and its gardener by Louis Lumière, were a wonderful addition to the exhibit.
We then visited Visitors to Versailles: 1682-1789, which highlighted the opulence and grandeur of the Palace of Versailles as it welcomed visitors from Europe, America, and beyond — including Founding Father Benjamin Franklin.
Magnificent though Versailles may have been, the story of its expansion from simple country chateau to world showplace during the reign of Louis XIV, followed by its decline in the years leading up to the French revolution in just over a hundred years, clearly demonstrates the transitory nature of power and influence. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Both exhibits exceeded expectations, bringing back memories of my own visits to Versailles and of time spent in the Jardin des Tuileries and other beautiful green spaces in Paris.
The rest of the afternoon European painting, European sculpture and decorative art, the American Wing, and the Temple of Dendur.
An early, yet memorable, dinner in The Dining Room at the Met, overlooking the obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle, in Central Park, concluded our visit.
We then attended an interesting event at Albertine, located in the nearby Payne Whitney mansion, a conversation on bilingualism and the brain.
The importance of France in world culture and history, and in our own American story, was the recurring theme of the entire day.
Languages do matter!