Exhibition of the week: Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

While the Victoria and Albert is being renovated, The Metropolitan Museum has become the temporary home of 35 exquisitely beautiful objects created between 300 and 1600.

Some of the most “fabulous things” from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum have temporarily relocated to New York, said Dan Bischoff in the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. While the V&A renovates its galleries, the Metropolitan Museum is mounting a fascinating exhibition that’s like looking into “Europe’s attic.” These 35 objects, created between the years 300 and 1600, are exquisitely beautiful. “Gold, silver, ivory, pearls, garnets, emeralds, and rock crystals” abound. But two modest sculptures are “perhaps the artistic highlights.” A 13th-century ivory fragment by Giovanni Pisano shows a tortured, twisting Christ, now armless and legless as well. Viet Stoss’ 16th-century Virgin and Child figurine, “still perfectly preserved,” seems to turn stone into flesh and drapery.

The entire exhibit celebrates the virtues of smallness, said Ken Johnson in The New York Times. Most works are “small enough to fit in a bread box,” and the selection is so exclusive that it all fits into a single room. But diminutiveness often belies a profusion of detail. In one small English ivory, the hooked top of a staff “has tiny humans and animals swarming all over it.” In another delightful figure, of St. Nicholas and his father, “the carving is so fine that you risk eyestrain trying to discern” every facet. These intricate religious objects encouraged the faithful to raise their own states of awareness. “But of course such devoted attention can be secular, too.” Keen-eyed viewers will be amused by the anomalous crab pinching a consul’s nose in a sixth-century depiction of Roman games, or by the “delightful hodgepodge of architectural and mythic imagery” in a tower-shaped 16th-century candlestick. A miniature notebook full of drawings by none other than Leonardo da Vinci will surely be the exhibition’s biggest attraction.

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