History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

03 April 2016

A Day at the Met

My daughter Mélanie and I are in New York for me to have book-related meetings. Saturday we spent a lovely afternoon rambling through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and only seeing a fraction of its treasures). They have a special exhibit of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun's paintings which was an added treat for me, as I got to see portraits of real historical people who are characters in my books. But I think Mélanie's favorites were the period rooms, which have always been favorites of mine as well. For me, it's like stepping into history (and now into my books), and it's such a treat now to watch my daughter having the same experience (with Mummy saying things like "Sofia's family could eat at this dining table" or "that looks like it could belong to  Anna and Elsa").

We sat on the steps of the façade of an 1823 building (an American bank, but it's not hard to imagine it as a London great house).

The Federalist rooms in the American Wing for me evoke the type of room that my characters might actually live in, particularly in a smaller London house (as opposed to a London great house like Devonshire House or a country estate). Mélanie seemed intrigued too.

We had a late lunch in the American Wing café and enjoyed this sculpture of a mama jaguar and her cubs.

We drank in the atmosphere of the Robert Adam dining room from Lansdowne House that has already inspired several scenes in my books.

Mélanie is fascinated by period china and silver.

We examined a firescreen that will probably find it's way into one of my books though the colors and composition reminded Mel of Ariel on her rock in The Little Mermaid.

One of Mélanie's favorite things was throwing coins in the water by the Temple of Dendur.

What spots at the Met or other museums do you find most inspiring? Writers, do they make you feel like you're walking into a scene from one of your books?

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Blogger Maureen said...

Last May we visited the National Portrait Gallery in London. It is so full of history with all the paintings of famous (and not so famous) historical figures of Britain's past...I had my phone out searching for info on all of them, who did what, to whom, and when. Not only was there a special exhibition on Wellington with all the famous portraits of him, but there was a much larger exhibition of John Singer Sargent, one of my favorite painters (besides Sir Thomas Lawrence). Viewing the paintings of Sargent and Lawrence evokes thoughts of what the people in their paintings were like, their lives, their families. I always learn so much besides the pure enjoyment of viewing works by master artists. But my favorite museums are the great country houses of the British aristocracy...they tend to have both wonderful works of art but also rooms from Georgian and Victorian times. English Heritage and the National Trust have done a marvelous job of preserving many of these wonderful places for us to visit and learn!

8:40 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

My favourite museum is Cluny in Paris (Musee de Cluny), mainly for the wonderful Lady and Unicorn tapestries, closely followed by the Musee d'Orsay for its wonderful Impressionist paintings. But I also love the British Museum in London for its wonderful collections; for almost any period and place one can find a wealth of artefacts. I particularly like the Egyptian and Minoan collections. And the Victoria & Albert in London is also great. One has to make multiple trips to the last two museums to even scratch the surface of what they have to offer.

I agree with the previous commentator that aristocratic houses, in England especially, are a wonderful resource, especially for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I include in that the gardens and grounds, many of which were landscaped by Capability Brown and others. The National Trust and English Heritage do an amazing job!

3:38 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Maureen, I too love the National Portrait Gallery! I saw a Byron-centered exhibit there that was also full of people who are characters in my books.

And I really agree about English country houses - I've loved them since my first visit to Britain at not-quite seven.

Helena, like the British Museum and the V & A, tge Met is a museum where one visit can barely scratch the surface. There's still a lot of it I haven't explored, because I keep wanting to go back to favorite spots.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

I agree with Helena about the Cluny in Paris. I loved those tapestries, especially after seeing the ones in New York City where the unicorn is killed. The ones in Paris are peaceful and beautiful... I have yet to visit the V&A...next time.

7:53 PM  

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