This weekend Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is having a free weekend to celebrate “Boston I Love” and accept donations for the One Fund. Their generous gesture prompted me to consider my favorite works at the Museum.
I’ve loved the MFA since my mother drove us the hour and a half to see a Monet exhibit when I was 11. I’m leaving Water Lilies off the list because it feels a little plebian (that was a joke – sort of), but the Monets will always be near to my heart for that reason. So let’s explore my seven other favorites.
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Walking between the massive columns into the museum, seeing the elegant staircase leading up to a grand rotunda, I feel as if I am in another era, or maybe even in someone else’s life. That person is an independently wealthy art connoisseur who definitely didn’t have to stick her hands under the back seat to dig out quarters for the parking meter.
The Baby Heads
If you enter the museum on the other side you will pass one of the two massive baby heads that flank the Fenway entrance. I do not know what the story is with these, and I’m not sure I want to. All I know is they give me the giggles.
The Catalonian Chapel
One small gallery has as its centerpiece an enormous 12th-century fresco from the Pyrenees. Jesus looks at you with enormous eyes, the evangelists look like cartoons, and the colors are bright. It’s one of my happy places.
St Francis by Francisco de Zurbarán
This is not at all the type of art that usually catches my eye, with a simple, drab palette and painfully still subject. Still, this painting has fascinated me ever since I took a trip to the museum for a class and had to find two pieces of art to draw and then have an imaginary conversation with (the professor was definitely trying to stretch our creative muscles).
When I finished conservatory there was a reception for graduates in the Koch Gallery, the magnificent hall that contains this and many other European paintings. It was too crowded and not very pleasant that day, but when I pointed out to my mom my favorite of the paintings she took out her disposable camera and snapped a shot of me smiling beneath him. He has since moved to a different spot on the wall (after a short vacation during which I was distraught at his absence). I try to visit when I can.
This is another piece whose acquaintaince I first made on the visit for grad school when we had to talk to the art. (Are musicians weird, or do we have weirdness thrust upon us?) I had never heard of a tromba marina (or trumpet marine) before.
The tromba marina is played by harmonics. If you’ve never played a stringed instrument, this involves very lightly touching the string to produce a softer, different sound than you would get from plucking it forcefully. I think the attraction of this instrument is both it’s simplicity and that it needs to be played with a soft touch.
The tromba marina is in a gallery devoted entirely to historical instruments. I was lucky enough to hear a curator play one of the 17th century harpsichords in the collection just over a month ago. The room is packed with instruments of all kinds.
The Gift Shop
I do a lot of shopping at the MFA shop. They have smart, classy gifts and they put everything in boxes that say “MFA” on the top and then everyone’s all “ooooh you got this at the MFA!?!?!” And once in a while I find something a little less classy that makes my day.
Have you been to the MFA? What would you add to this list? And if you’re not a Boston-ite, what other museums would you recommend?
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