A few weeks ago, we went up to New York for the day. I wanted to see the Jewels by JAR exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and he-who-indulges-my-every-whim agreed to come along. It had been receiving lots of buzz and I like shiny, sparkly things. The only problem was, we didn’t think too much of it. A few of the pieces were interesting enough, but we were unmoved. We spent about twenty minutes there. Now what?
“Have you ever seen the Wrightsman Galleries?” I asked.
He-who-indulges-my-every-whim said that he hadn’t. What an oversight! We set about rectifying that right away.
The thirteen Wrightsman Galleries on the main floor of the Met hold an amazing collection of French furniture and decorative arts. They were renovated in 2007, which included cleaning the carved and gilded boiseries, re-creating some of the eighteenth-century upholstery, and updating the lighting. The Galleries are period rooms assembled from grand European homes that were sentenced to the wrecking ball.
The rooms are generally compilations of pieces from various estates, brought together in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. For instance, some elements of paneling had to be replicated in order to fill in gaps in the originals. The furniture is pretty spectacular, including pieces that were made for Louis XV and Marie Antoinette. The console and secretary of the ill-fated queen were described by expert James Parker as “two of the most splendid pieces of French furniture ever created.” I particularly love the little oval sitting room, above. I always wish I could move right in. Do you think the Met would mind? I’d give it all a homey feeling.
Today’s expression démêler le vrai du faux (day-mell-ay luh vreh due foe) means “to separate the true from the false” or, as we often say, “to separate fact from fiction.” You’ll be hard pressed to separate what is three hundred years old from the skillful modern reproductions in the Wrightsman Galleries.