April 16, 2010

Beautiful Mourning

From the WSJ, Beautiful Mourning by Tom Freudheim, a review of "The Mourners: Medieval Tomb Sculptures From the Court of Burgundy" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mourner 1

A group of modestly sized (c. 15-inch-high) alabaster figures ripped from their context—the tomb of John the Fearless (reigned 1404-19)—seems barely enough to constitute a major exhibition. Yet this grouping casts a magic spell that is as sublime and compelling as anything you are likely to encounter in any museum this season.

Mourner 2

As displayed in the Dijon museum, the mourning figures are in their original position—delicately carved gothic niches, which support the effigy of John the Fearless lying above. With only the figures to display, the Met has created an incredibly moving funeral procession that suggests the universality of the mourning mode. The small alabaster figures here attain a stunning monumentality and convey a variety of emotions that force us to contemplate the meanings in their various attitudes.

Mourner 3

The power of the installation, set in the midst of the Met's majestic medieval courtyard, makes it hard not to get drawn into the sadness, even if we're totally disconnected from the actual subject of this mourning—that is, the death of John the Fearless.

Posted by Jill Fallon at April 16, 2010 11:32 PM | Permalink