American Tourist Snaps Finger Off Priceless Florentine Statue

sailko, Wikimedia

An American tourist who says he was “measuring” the finger of a 600-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary ended up accidently snapping off the statue’s pinky.

Staff at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, Italy are outraged. Although the statue is a cast of the original, repairs will be complex and costly. Timothy Verdun, an American expat and art historian who works with the museum, said:

“In a globalized world like ours, the fundamental rules for visiting a museum have been forgotten, that is, ‘Do not touch the works'”

Although the tourist apologized for his carelessness, he could still be fined for damaging the artwork, which is believed to have been made by Florentine Giovanni d’Ambrogio during the 14th or 15th century.

This is far from the first time someone damaging artwork has made headlines. A tourist once crashed into a work by Pablo Picasso at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, causing a six-inch gash. And then there are people who have purposely damaged paintings, like the woman who once tried to pull a painting by Paul Gauguin off the wall in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, and another woman who threw an empty mug at the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France.

Met Showcases Predynastic Art Of Egypt

Predynastic Art, Egypt, MetThe Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has one of the best collections of ancient Egyptian art in the world. Now it has opened a special exhibition focusing on the lesser-known art from the early days of Egypt before the pharaohs.

The Dawn of Egyptian Art” brings together art from the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods (ca. 4000–2650 B.C.), a time when Egypt was developing into a society with towns, specialized labor and, eventually, a centralized government. This broad swath of time included several distinct local cultures that slowly became the ancient Egypt that we are familiar with.

The main culture was the Naqada culture. Villages each had their own animal deities, many of which survived as gods and goddesses of dynastic Egypt. The dead were buried with works of art such as jewelry and figurines of these deities. As agriculture became more important in the fertile Nile valley, villages grew into towns and art flourished. Local rulers became more powerful and expanded their territories until Egypt was two kingdoms: Upper and Lower Egypt.

The 175 objects from the Met’s collection, and those of a dozen other institutions, put Predynastic Art into its historical and cultural context as well as display them as objects of beauty. For example, this female figure, shown here in a photo courtesy the Brooklyn Museum, was made about 3500-3400 B.C. and is typical of the highly abstracted figures made throughout most of the Predynastic Period. It’s unclear what this figure symbolized, although many Egyptologists think these figures are goddesses, since similar figures painted onto pots are always larger than the male “priests” shown next to them.

Some art is easier to identify, like ships and hunting scenes painted onto pottery or on tomb walls. There are also statues of gods and goddesses, many of which can be identified as the major deities of the age of the pharaohs. A masterpiece of early Egyptian art is the Narmer Palette, seen in the gallery, which commemorates the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in the 31st century B.C.

For more information, check out this excellent page on Predynastic Art and check out the gallery below.

“The Dawn of Egyptian Art” runs until August 5.

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2012 is shaping up to be a big year for Islamic art

Islamic art, LouvreThis year, several major exhibitions and new galleries are focusing on Islamic art.

The biggest news comes from Paris, where the Louvre is building a new wing dedicated to Islamic art. This is the biggest expansion to the museum since the famous glass pyramid. The new wing will have room to display more than 2500 artifacts from the Louvre’s permanent collection as well as notable loans. It will open at an as-yet undetermined date this summer.

In London, the British Museum is hosting two Islamic-related exhibits–one on the Hajj and one on Arabian horses. In Provo, Utah, the Brigham Young University Museum of Art is running Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston opened two new galleries last December that include displays of Islamic art from Asia, and the Met in New York City also opened a new gallery late last year dedicated to the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.

Islamic art is also facing some challenges this year. Looting and selling national treasures on the international art market always happens in times of political unrest. It happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and now it’s happening in Libya, where the death of Qaddafi did little to stabilize the situation. Syria is another country to watch. Sadly, unscrupulous “collectors” take advantage of civil wars and poverty to grab historic treasures for cheap.

Photo of eleventh century crystal ewer with birds in the Louvre collection courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Metropolitan Museum of Art to reopen American Wing after $100 million remodel

Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is famous for its impressive collection of American art, including iconic images such as Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. Now that collection has a larger, better designed home thanks to a $100 million renovation.

The New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts open Jan. 16 and total 30,000 square feet of exhibition space, which is 3,300 more than previously. It houses American art from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries and provides better lighting and access than the previous galleries.

Besides Leutze’s work, which has been given a new gilded frame, the collection is a who’s who of American art, including painters such a John Singleton Copley, Thomas Cole, and Frederic Remington. Cole’s painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm-The Oxbow is also on display and is shown below. There’s also a large folk art collection, historic furniture, and work by important silversmiths such as Paul Revere.

Paintings by Emanuel Leutze and Thomas Cole courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Metropolitan Musuem of Art

The Met launches its new expanded art website

The Met, Met
One of the best art museums in the world now has a world-class website.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has redesigned and expanded its website. The Met’s site now offers access to all of its more than 340,000 works of art.

There hasn’t been a major overhaul of the site since 2000, the cyber equivalent of the Late Bronze Age. Each of the almost 400 galleries at the museum and The Cloisters now has its own description and photograph on the interactive map and there are thousands of zoomable art images to explore. Students and aficionados will find the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History handy. It’s searchable by date, period, style, region, and theme. First-time visitors will want to check out the suggested itineraries to the Met.

As museums and galleries strive to attract real visitors in a virtual age, they’re hard at work developing their online presence. The Smithsonian Archives is another of many institutions to spruce up their Web profile.

[Photo courtesy morrissey]