My last day in New York City in March 2012, I took myself to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My eyes were drawn to the wall niche where hydrangeas–slightly pink, slightly blue, slightly lavender–raised their plump arms towards the upper reaches of the Great Hall. Passing through this room, I climbed the large steps to the exhibit I wanted to see: The Worlld of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. The Met’s program notes describe the exposition as covering the period from 1215, the year of Khubilai’s birth, to 1368, the year of the fall of the Yuan dynasty in China founded by Khubilai Khan.”
I spent an hour and a half with the guided audio tour taking in the paintings, sculpture, textiles, and other decorative arts. I came away with a sense of the art and culture of this period. My favorite single piece was a drawing in ink on a handscoll titled: Noble Horse by George Kai, which beautifully captures a once robust and noble horse, his jutting ribs depicting neglect while retaining nobility–a symbol of lament for the fallen dynasty.
Time running out before the clang of the airport call, I wandered down the stairs and into the American Wing. My purpose: to eat an early lunch in view of the Tiffany windows so that–in my mind’s eye–I would take home a piece of my great-grandfather’s (Louis Comfort Tiffany’s) art.
Whilst in my revierie, a woman put her coffee cup and Danish down on my table and sat down. Before long, I knew she was Dutch, lived in rural east Holland, had not recovered from her husband’s death but was trying hard to move on. Her two grown sons were applauding her uncharacteristic trip to get out in the world with this trip to New York. Then she found out exactly what I was doing at this table in this room with this view, in this museum at this moment in time.
She said she was thrilled to have a personal meeting story to take home to Holland and tell her sons.