The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Before catching a plane back home from Philadelphia, I took a few hours to check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I parked near Logan Square and walked down the boulevard from there to the museum, which sits perched atop a hill overlooking the boulevard and square with a huge impressive staircase leading up to it, as though it were a government capitol building, a temple, or a manor overlooking it’s property. At the top of the stairs was an entrance to the museum which admitted me to the great stairwell chamber providing access to the exhibits in the wings. I spent the next few hours exploring the exhibits. The first floor is home to the more modern collections, 17th century and later, and there is also a space fir special exhibitions which at the time of my visit featured the art of Kano, a japanese artist. I was most impressed with the older european art on the second floor as well as the arms and armor and asian art collection.

The second floor exhibits start at the balconies at the top of the great stairwell which are lined with huge tapestries depicting scenes from the life of Constantine. Looking up at the giant works I amusedly thought, “Well why don’t you weave and paint a tapestry of it, it’ll last longer.”

Next, in a small exhibit past a wall at the top of the stairs is the arms and armor exhibit. The interesting thing about these works of steel and leather is the custom ornamentation. I couldn’t help but imagine a sixteenth century version of “Pimp my ride” in which the smiths would first appraise a horse, then create custom armor for it and show it off to the owner.

Then there are the older european paintings, statues, and architecture pieces split by age into two exhibitis on the second floor. These works mostly followed the common themes of christian scenes and architecture, scenes from greek mythology, and portraits and busts. I recall a portrait of the angel Michael with a child like face sort of rolling its eyes as he stands on top of the heads of six baby-like cherubs, as if it were saying, “I don’t care if I’m standing on babies, I’m the archangel Michael.”

Finally, there is a collection of Asian art on the second floor, featuring several architectural recreations of temple interiors, one of which included my favorite piece on the museum. It was the carved Ceiling From the Hall of Great Wisdom in the Temple of Wisdom Attained, and it is shown the attached picture. You have to imagine looking up at it from below, or better yet, go and visit the museum to get the full effect, the picture doesn’t do it justice because you cannot see the depth of the carvings. All in all, it is a great museum, and I’d recommend it if you should happen to find yourself in Philadelphia and in need of some contemplative amusement.


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