The museum itself is undergoing massive construction and renovation, so a number of galleries were closed, to my disappointment. It also has that highly disorienting layout that makes so many art museums so confusing -- gallery leads into gallery, which doubles back onto gallery, and pretty soon, you're going around and around the same statue of Buddha, which is why I tend not to visit the Asian art exhibits. (I DID, however, enjoy the gallery of antique Chinese furniture. Very simple and beautiful.)
Anybody who wants to tour the place can start at the MFA's fantastic website, http://www.mfa.org/index.asp. I have some observations to make that aren't exactly museum-specific.
1. Asia, India, and Indonesia must have produced craptons of "art," because every museum I have ever been in has had rooms and rooms of it. One wonders if there are any votive statues, family altars, antique porcelains, bronze Krishnas, or statues of the Buddha left anywhere in Asia. I think I saw all these same artifacts in Seattle, so I skipped through.
2. Why do middle schools insist on bringing three busloads of seventh graders to museums when I am there? Why, in fact, do they do this at all? The middle schoolers run shrieking through the galleries, waving the lists of questions their teachers have given them, and pooling their answers. They're having a blast, but it's so LOUD.
3. And that leads me to my next question: why are we so hushed and deferential in the presence of Art? It's not like we're going to wake it up or something. Certain pieces have left me speechless, for deeply personal reasons, (Mary Cassatt's "Baby Reaching for an Apple," for instance, and Titian's "Daniel"), but I'm not exactly sure why the middle schoolers shattering the quiet should be considered irreverant. The Appreciation of Art is, apparently, best conducted sotto voce.
4. Finally, where is Sarah and that convenient art history minor when I need her? She's better than a museum guidebook, plus, I can make comments to her that I probably couldn't make to anyone else.
Some of those comments are pretty irreverent. For instance, Theodore van Loon's 1620 "Adoration of the Shepherds," portrays a creepy scene where Mary lifts the blanket off of a blond two year old, so a bunch of people leaning over him can have a closer look. Where do we get these ideas? Then there's Aert de Gelder's "Rest on the Flight into Egypt," above, where Mary appears to be wearing a sombrero. Perhaps she was trying to be incognito? In Antonio de Pereda's "The Immaculate Conception," Mary is standing on a disturbing pile of baby heads. I need to stay out of the 17th Century European galleries.