Oct 12, 2011

Metropolitan Zoo

by Joseph Bell

This book has been sitting on my shelf a long time, picked up from a library sale who-knows-when. I read it through several bouts of nursing the baby, taking time to look closely at all the pictures. Metropolitan Zoo is a collection of images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that all feature wild animals. There are paintings, drawings, sculpture, embroideries, jewelry and other forms of art. Each image is described, not only explaining the medium and style, the artist's inspiration (whether from life or completely fanciful) and a bit of history, but also something about the animal. In particular, the author points out when the details of the artwork show something factual about the animal's life or habits, and when they got it dead wrong! I noticed myself a few small details: in the painted screen of white-handed gibbons (shown on the cover), the male is holding some kind of insect in his clenched fist. In few pages showing lions, I saw that quite a number of them depicted the Barbary lion, now extinct in the wild, whose mane extends along the belly. And one left me with a question: what is the other, un-named animal in the detail of the unicorn tapestry shown? Next to the hyena (which doesn't look much like a hyena) is a creature with a striped tail like a raccoon (only skinnier) but the longer neck and finer face of a weasel. A civet? I keep turning to that page, trying to puzzle it out. The artworks feature lions, elephants, rhinos, deer, squirrels and many other mammals. There are also quite a few pieces depicting snakes and other reptiles, and lots of various and beautiful birds. It's a book I thoroughly enjoyed looking through, and should be very popular with anyone who loves animals or art (or both, like me!)

I want to get my hands someday on the other edition they've printed featuring cats from the museum's artwork.

Rating: 5/5 .......112 pages, 1985

No comments: