A day in New York

A wonderful day in NYC.

It was warm and sunny.  Here is a nice view of my favorite tall building, the Chrysler Building, with its shining hubcaps.

After lunch we caught a train to Columbus Circle and then had a stroll in Central Park.

And then into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for a few hours.

I hadn’t seen the Ancient Greek holdings for a while, so we spent some time in that collection.

Here is a fine Attic red-figure terracotta kylix from about 515-510 BC.  It is even signed and has the owner’s name incised into the bottom in Etruscan letters.

An illuminated MS with the 1st Psalm.

This is a Madonna and Child by Carlo Crivelli from 1480.

“But Father! But Father!”, you might be saying.  “Why is there a cucumber hanging from the corner?  Isn’t that a little strange?”


Here is my take.

What is interesting here are the symbols that form a chiasmus or X in the composition, therefore a Cross.

At your 2 and your 7 are respectively symbols of Original Sin and Evil One, the apple and a nasty little fly.

The Christ Child doesn’t like the look of the fly at all.

The other symbols are at your 10 a cucumber or gourd and at your 5 a crack in the balustrade.  The lines of the chiasmus pass through the center where the Christ Child’s hands gently clutch a type of goldfinch.

The cuke, very much like the gourd, is associated with the story of Jonah and the whale and therefore the Resurrection.

The goldfinch is a little tougher, but I recall something about a legend that a goldfinch tried to help Christ on the road to Calvary by landing on His Head and pulling out one of the thorns.  The red feathers on the heads of some species of goldfinches suggest this.

I figured you might be missing shots of birds at my feeders.  Here are some substitutes.

The crack in the balustrade, because it is juxtaposed to the gourd, I am guessing is a reference to the cracking and splitting in the Holy of Holies.

So here we have a story of our redemption in the shape of a Cross in the composition.  And the Christ Child, recoiling from the nasty fly, symbol of corruption, finds comfort in the little goldfinch.

Okay.. this is why it takes me a long time to explore galleries.

My guy St. Augustine in a polychrome statue from 15th c. Burgundy

And we were at the lighting of the Christmas tree!

I have a video of the lights coming up on the tree, but it is too big to transfer at the moment.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Marq says:

    And that is why I love the great Renaissance painters. So much knowledge to be found in one painting.

  2. edwardo3 says:

    The Chrysler Building is truly one of the most beautiful examples of Deco architecture in the world.

  3. They may also be supposed to be in Egypt, where there are plenty of cucumbers. Or in a lodge of cucumbers, for that matter. :)

  4. Btw, you don’t often see Mary depicted as an ash blonde or platinum blonde. Must have been an interesting model.

  5. I found a bigger picture, and now I see that it’s wimple folds and not hair. Sorry.

    Wikimedia has another Crivelli with cukes. Man, he is just the king of the produce section!

    And another:

    And yet another:

    And another:

    Even more cukes:

    Really funky chibi Passion visions in this picture:

  6. irishgirl says:

    That’s very interesting about the symbolism of the cucumber-makes me think of ‘higher thoughts’ the next time I buy a jar of pickles!

    Father Z, you’re like my older sister, who is an ‘artist type’. Whenever we went to art shows, she would always stop and take closer looks at the different pieces. She’d drive me crazy doing that, especially on hot summer days if the exhibits were outdoors.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Oh, and cool pictures, both inside and outside!

    All the snow that NYC had last weekend is melted away!

  8. Ogard says:

    The goldfinch is exactly as I know the goldfinches. But Father, you frequetly show photographs of yellow “goldfinches”. Mistake or another spacies?

  9. Art says:

    Thanks Father for the explanation of the Crivelli. That amount of symbolism found in that painting is not unlike those found in eastern icons. I think it was in that period when western iconography reached its peak as well.

    Your attraction to anime is showing. -_^

  10. Marq says:

    Ogard: the goldfinch that Father showed in this post is the European Goldfinch, which lives in Europe, North Africa and western Asia from the Urals to northern Pakistan. Father’s own goldfinches would be American Goldfinches. living from southern Canada to central Mexico. There are two more species of Goldfinch in the Americas as well, Lawrence’s and the Lesser Goldfinch.

  11. wanda says:

    So many bird lovers! I too, looked right away for the Goldfinch from the painting. Couldn’t find him in my NA Bird Book, suspected he was from another country. I love how the child Jesus takes comfort in the little bird and at the same time seems to shelter the little bird.

    Father Z., thank you so much for the art teaching. So much right before my eyes, but, I would not have seen or understood any of the symbols you pointed out. Now, I don’t don’t like that fly either.

  12. Miseno says:

    I love the Neapolitan presepio that the Met puts out every year. It is absolutely breathtaking. I love also the angels on the tree who are holding censors. They are just beautiful. Neapolitans are experts at how to make pizza, Limoncello and presepios.

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