A few hours before I met a woman for a date in Central Park, I went on my standard date at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When I visit the Met, even if only to attend a new exhibit, I try at least to pass by the American Wing, if only to catch a glimpse of my favorite sculpture, The Vine, an exquisite embodiment of femininity. Sculptor Harriet Whitney Frishmuth employed ballet dancer Desha Delteil as the model for her bronze nude figure that strikes a stately, graceful pose that, complimented by her well-proportioned body, projects carefree joy and ideal beauty. As the museum label described her:
Shown stretching upward and outward in imitation of a living vine, this lyrical nude balances on tiptoe in the ecstasy of performance, a grapevine suspended in her hands.
With each trip to the Met, I try to make my “date” with The Vine so that I can take photos of her (see my images here, here and here) and to re-experience my admiration of her values. On a recent Saturday, I walked once again into the wing’s Charles Engelhard Court with my Nikon D90, ready to take snapshots solely of her during this time-restricted visit, with the expectation that I can capture her in a new light or from a different angle. But another man, a fellow admirer, thwarted our date.
This artist sat on a stool a few feet from her, armed with other tools to help capture her likeness. With blue pencils of varying shades, he drew her with precision on a white sheet of paper against a wooden board, as museum-goers took turns gathering behind him to quietly observe or noisily snap smartphone photos. The court was soaked in the afternoon sun that cast shadows of the glass ceiling’s rectangular frames across the floor, sculpture and artist. Immediately, my trip to the Met became all about capturing this scene.
While Diana, the gilded archer by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, stands atop a pedestal at center court, The Vine is positioned close by, and I was simply happy to see my favorite sculpture get the heightened attention she so richly deserves. I took snapshots from behind and in front of the artists, as he kept looking up and down from his subject to his nearly completed drawing. Then I trekked upstairs to the top balcony to take some wide shots of the court and some bird’s-eye shots of the artist and his onlookers, including a young boy who stood next to The Vine and gazed up at her.
The clock, though, was ticking, and I had to depart to make it on time for my flesh-and-blood date in Central Park, carrying with me my camera bag and some art-induced inspiration.