We ended our vacation by spending one long, glorious day and most of an enchanted evening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
We’re big fans of the Met. In fact, until I reacquainted myself with London a few years ago, I thought that the Met was pretty much the greatest place in the world.
Sorry, the Met. London is just a little bit more magical.
But still — the Met comes in at a close second. Which isn’t too shabby, when you think about it.
There was a small — but excellent — exhibit of caricature in the paper & drawings section on the second floor. Since the Regency era was kind of a heyday for brutal caricature, it will come as no surprise that I ran into more than a few old friends there.
The entryway alone made me feel that I was among My People. Check out the life size mural that greeted you as you walked into the special exhibit gallery:
And, also no big surprise, there was a tremendous amount of Napoleonic imagery. Which reminds me — I need to tell you at some point about the fist fight I nearly got into with a docent at Washington Irving’s house about the Napoleonic Wars, and about whether or not Washington Irving would have been affected by them in his travels in Europe.
In early 1815.
Anyway, like I was saying: The Corsican Spider!
We hefty Hanoverians are not frightened of you, you silly little emperor!
I actually like this next one because it doesn’t make Napoleon look physically grotesque in any way (which is the reason why I usually don’t care for caricature, especially of this era — it all usually boils down to gags about various people being fat).
In fact, Boney looks rather dapper here, if a bit, ah, overextended:
Complicated metaphors are complicated:
Uncomplicated ones are less so:
Even people of the time thought those high collars and face-swallowing bonnets were silly. This one is called Les Invisibles.
Oh, those dandies on Rotten Row. Funny how it was clear that men wearing corsets would have a hard time riding horses. But women in ridiculous costume? Pft. Whatever. That’s just ladies bein’ ladies.
Later, in the American Wing, I was a little startled to stumble across Prinny himself, looking more than a little corseted, too.
And then my visit rapidly devolved into me fangirling over various dead guys in cravats. Welcome to life on the road with me.
My main squeeze, Grant.
And oh my god this guy. THIS. GUY.
I actually had to sit down on a bench in front of that guy and his horse for a while before I could move on. I mean, I’ve seen him around the neighborhood before. Even featured him once or twice over on omgcravats.com. But it’s another thing entirely to go waltzing innocently around a corner and suddenly be confronted with a 20-foot-tall version of the man himself.
Am I exaggerating? Maybe. Maybe not. You weren’t there. Don’t you judge me.
Of course, when I finally gathered my thoughts, rose shakily from my bench, avoided the curious stares of museum guards and German tourists, I turned around and saw this old friend, too.
And down I go onto my bench once more. WHOMP.
And how many of us have had impure thoughts about this next guy over the centuries?
Honestly now. You can tell us. We are your friends.
Yeah. I know.
At the end of the night, we splurged. We’re members, and apparently members have access to the extremely poncy restaurant on the top floor, overlooking Central Park in all its glory. So we booked ourselves a table for the last seating of the night, and took that velvet-roped elevator on up to the penthouse suite.
The restaurant was just what you’d expect — really pricey, really good, really well served and plated. We were without question the least affluent people in the room, but fortunately we were both raised by middle class strivers who taught us which fork to use and how to behave like fit and proper people.
So dinner was lovely, and a very nice way to spend our last evening in New York before the long drive home the next day.
But the real treat was yet to come.
We booked ourselves at the last seating in the Members’ Dining Room, remember? And the Met is open late on Friday nights, but not as late as the restaurant is. So we walked out of there, all alone, at ten o’clock at night. Through a silent, cavernous museum that we had all to ourselves, except for one or two security guards.
The guards kept us moving, of course, in their gracious, solemn way. But we managed a very civil, very leisurely stroll nonetheless, through an entire wing of the Met with only our own footsteps ringing off the thick marble walls for company.
It. Was. Awesome.
For somebody raised on From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, it was pretty much a dream come true.
The only thing missing was a little midnight bathing in the fountain.
Next time, maybe.