Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Artistic Pens for Everyone

Unbeknownst to the rest of America, the State of New York is significantly different than New York City. In fact, as many native New Yorkers will tell you – with more than a sense of irritation – The City might as well be its own state considering how utterly different it is to the rest of the region. I speak for those who live in the state’s large, suburban neighborhoods, all nicely nestled in the rolling hills of the Catskill Mountains. Those who have multi-colored forests in their backyard with wildlife that boasts hawks large enough to snatch up medium-sized dogs, but whom you learn to admire for their exotic beauty. Those who live through warm summers with evergreen foliage and bitter winters with five-foot-high snow piles. Now, we don’t dislike our concrete jungle – we’re extremely proud of it, in fact; it’s just tough explaining to people, “No, I don’t come from the Bronx, I’m from Esperance.” (Or Poughkeepsie, or Arcadia, or Ira, or whatever other obscure Native American-named town in upstate New York you live in) Then having to explain how it might as well be Wyoming it’s so different from The City.
Yet as Miss Keys has undoubtedly let you know, there’s no place in the world that can compare. This World Center City is home to leading revolutions in economics, politics, globalization, stocks, music, theatre, and art. In fact, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) on 5th Avenue and 82nd Street, Manhattan, is one of the largest art galleries in the world. Founded in 1879, the Museum’s permanent collections feature works of art from classical antiquity, Ancient Egypt, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Byzantine and Islamic. It is also home to a myriad of collections of musical instruments, costumes, accessories, antique weapons and armor from around the world. (My favorites of course being Washington Crossing the Delaware, Hunting Knife Combined With Wheellock Pistol and William The Hippo. Will is just too cute!)
To exemplify these already immortalized pieces of artwork, The Met has put out a collection of pens that artfully embody a unique piece from the prestigious gallery. From the Tiffany Peacock Feathers Ballpoint Pen that boasts a multi-colored molten glass body to the Egyptian Hieroglyphic Fountain Pen whose obelisk-shaped is engraved with golden hieroglyphics, they are all collections of impeccable taste.
A fitting piece to start out our study of this series is the 18th Century Parisian Fountain Pen. It goes without saying that some of the world’s most beautiful and influential artwork originated in Paris, and this particular piece pays tribute to Georges-Antoine Croze. Ever since his ascension to master goldsmith in 1777, he specialized in small luxury items for an elite clientele that included members of the Royal French Court. Croze is most famous for his étuis (basically French for fancy boxI’m sorry, decorative box), which were small ornamental cases for carrying personal items such as scissors or tweezers. These superbly created cases, now on display at The Met, were made of blue enamel bordered by gold foliage in relief and serves as the inspiration for the Parisian Fountain Pen’s cap and barrel design. During the 19th century on the other side of the Channel, there was a British designer by the name of William Morris who created some of the most eye-catching wallpapers of the Victorian era. (That doesn’t sound glamorous at all, but hey, they have to put something on the walls of Buckingham Palace.) His designs were able to blur the distinction between fine and decorative arts. His more famous designs, such as Compton, manage to captivate the eye even today. The William Morris Compton Ballpoint Pen takes its inspiration from the aforementioned wallpaper that shows a masterful and peaceful profusion of flowers, leaves and fruit. Finally, there is the work of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. He is best known for his arresting paintings and murals. As a prominent member of the Vienna Workshops, he produced a number of woven and printed textiles reminiscent of Modern Art – especially for pieces that were produced in the mid-19th century. The barrel of the Accessory Kilmt Ballpoint Pen simply pulsates with Klimt’s signature kinetic swirls and color elongations.
The Egyptian pyramids are some of the most recognizable structures in the world, and the Great Pyramid of Giza is unquestionably one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. What seems to consistently escape the world’s notice, however, is the beauty inside these structures. Across the Nile in the cemeteries of western Thebes lie ancient Egyptian tombs with unexpectedly beautiful painted ceilings. Thousands of facsimiles of these distinctively patterned ceilings have been created with over 365 of them available in The Met’s Egyptian galleries. These brilliant colors and designs enwrap the body of The Accessory Egyptian Ceiling Ballpoint Pen in a fine display of Mediterranean culture. Alternatively, The Accessory Iznik Tile Ballpoint Pen pays homage to a small town in northwestern Turkey that became a cultural center almost overnight. Thanks to an Ottoman Sultan named Süleyman the Magnificent, Iznik became one of the Middle East’s most important centers for exceptional ceramics. Their tiles were shipped the world over and prized for their unquestionable beauty and perfection. The Iznik Tile Ballpoint Pen’s barrel boasts a vibrant white background whose blues and reds connect in stunning patterns that exemplify this design’s timeless appeal. Our enlightening Middle Eastern adventure ends with the Accessory Persian Patchwork Ballpoint Pen. (Persian, mind, not Parisian. Mixing those up in Europe would cause a very…colorfully worded scene, I’m sure.) The images upon the barrel are taken from The Met’s lavishly illustrated Shahnama, or Book of Kings, an epic poem penned in the eleventh century. It tells the story of Persia’s ancient kings with 250 paintings filling its folios. Details have been taken from some of the most exquisite paintings in the Book of Kings has been imprinted upon the Persian’s barrel in a patchwork of images that embody its namesake’s noble heritage.
One can never quite grasp the full scope of world art without at least mentioning Japan – and who can mention Japanese artwork without referencing was is arguably the most famous Japanese artwork of all time? (No, it’s not Dragon Ball.) The Met is home to one of the original copies of Kanagawa oki name ura, or, Under the Wave off Kanagawa. Despite its significance in Japanese history, The Met likes more decorative pieces, and the Accessory Japanese Nature Ballpoint Pen takes its inspiration from an elegant lacquer box circa 1800. The famous Japanese technique known as maki-e was used to combine powdered gold and silver to the lacquer to give the box a delicate tone. The Nature Ballpoint Pen uses the same design style to create the image of bamboo stalks – a fitting rendition, as bamboo itself is one of the earliest known writing surfaces. (How one has the patience or materials to write and or read anything on bamboo is beyond me, but I guess they just had to make do with what they had.)
The Tiffany Pine Bough Fountain Pen will be the piece to bring us full circle on our world tour back to the land of the free. Now, while the name Tiffany evokes images of intricately designed lamps and little blue boxes with white ribbons, its founder, Louis Comfort Tiffany, was a celebrated American designer who was a master of all decorative media. His skills encompassed, but were not limited to, mosaics, hand-blown glass vases, pottery enamels and metalwork. The Pen’s striking opalescent blue glass barrel forms the backdrop for an intricate network of gilt-bronze metalwork, patterned to suggest a pine bough. This slender and striking piece is finished off with a medium-sized, German made steel nib.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is not only an American treasure, but an institution that I can safely say every New Yorker (Yes, even the ones who live in Harrietstown) is proud of to some degree. Spanning over 2,000,000 square feet (which is absurdly big for a building in New York City), The Met is one of the most visited art museums in the world, second only to the Musée du Louvre in France. (Which I think is reasonable, considering the Louvre is, well, home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. (In addition to the Holy Grail, for all you The Da Vinci Code fans out there) So that’s all cool I suppose, but the last time I checked, the Louvre doesn’t have an awesome Art Roof Garden that provides a breathtaking panoramic view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. So really, who’s the true winner here?) Though it’s a bit unorthodox, there is something surprisingly appealing about a collection of pens dedicated to the various masterpieces housed in The Met. The pen, an object that traditionally seems so commonplace, is given a special type of beauty when adorned with the images from artifacts that have made their echoes in eternity. A perfect juxtaposition of immortality and ordinary is cleverly embodied within this truly remarkable collection.

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