If it’s Saturday …..Then it’s Museum Day (at least sometimes)

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The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

I have a question for any of you wanderers of the web who may happen by my little space — do you like museums?  I realize that the automatic answer is usually a “yes” but with fingers crossed — we think we ought to like museums, just as we think we ought to like classical music, paintings and serious books.  Meanwhile, of course, we all spend far more time with movies, pop music and those wonderful paperbacks that promise a rollicking good time, especially when consumed with a nice glass of something white & dry, or a morsel or two of something dark and gooey!  The point I’m trying to make is that, while I (and perhaps some of you) may appreciate museums, along with other indicia of high culture, my enjoyment is a bit constrained and artificial; two hours max and I’m out of there!  Well, if you, too, share this limitation (and even if you don’t), I’d really recommend a visit to the Walters.  It’s a museum and it’s FUN!  Don’t be fooled by that forbidding exterior — there are wonders within.  Paintings!  Mummies!  Sculpture!  Stuffed alligators!  Shells!  Bugs (stuffed ones)!  Jewelry!  Chinese vases!  More stuffed things!  And — the staff is really, really nice and — admission is free.  It is, in short, a Baltimore treasure and not to be missed (especially the Chamber of Wonders).  I won’t bore you with blathering about the collection — that’s what websites are for — but here’s a brief sample of what’s on view:

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The Chamber of Wonders (or part of it): there are marvelous things in the cabinets!

 

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A brief glimpse of the Chamber of Wonders: to the 18th century, the alligator was an exotic beast from a mysterious new world. If you were lucky enough to have a stuffed one, well, you flaunted it!
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Isn’t that skull in the lower left wonderful? Memento Mori, y’all!

 

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This is a rare depiction of an what an actual 17th century Chamber of Wonders in the Spanish Netherlands would have looked like.  Note the sunflower in the bouquet on the left; a recent arrival from the New World, it was incredibly exotic!

 

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A portion of the Walters’ interior courtyard. If you’re really lucky, there could be a concert on the ground level during your visit!

 

My one criticism of the Walters is its lack of a cafe (there is a very nice snack bar, when art becomes too much, but sometimes you just want more).  But — Little Italy is reasonably close!  And there’s nothing like ending a day of culture with a nice plate of pasta ……………………..

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4 thoughts on “If it’s Saturday …..Then it’s Museum Day (at least sometimes)

  1. So true what you write. I second your opinion on museums. I like the variety this one you showcase today has, and your plan for after. It truly depends on the museum. I have to say that some are pretty anodyne. The ones I’ve visited in Houston are such, much more inferior than the ones I experienced in Madrid. The thing is that there’s one museum in Madrid, the Reina Sofía, that is in a building that’s so pleasant itself, so full of history and character. And they have special exhibits every six months or so, and they are wonderful, (or were when I was young). Then they have small ones, in old houses, such as the Romantic Museum, or Museum Madrid, very pleasant because the size is small and they have also a variety of art pieces, not just one type of art, plus they one which is a home has a special appeal, it’s like traveling in the past. Otherwise, the big museums, two hours and it’s true, I too want out. And good cafes, in or close by, are nice too.

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  2. Silvia, Silvia — you lucky dog, to have had the opportunity to know and enjoy Madrid! I’ve wanted to go there for years, even before I became interested in paintings. I’ve heard of the Reina Sofía; the Thyssen Bornemisza and the Prado (of course) but not the other two museums you mention and I know there are many more beyond them. If I get a chance to visit Madrid, now I know who to contact! I’m in awe of the large museums that I’ve visited, but my favorites are, as you’ve said, the ones where the buildings or collections have a special appeal beyond the awe inspired by a world class collection. There’s also a somewhat different category of small museums outside major metropolitan areas. I’ve actually become addicted to these and check them out when I travel (there are a couple of guide books, along the lines of “America’s Small Art Museums” or some such). Sometimes there’s a good painting collection; sometimes there’s one good or interesting painting and lots of bad ones (which can be interesting in themselves); sometimes it’s the setting (there’s a small museum in St Petersburg, Fla that’s right on the bay and has stunning views); or a good collection of antique glass or whatever! There’s always something to explore. But oh, to see Madrid and it’s artistic treasures …..

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  3. Ahh, I love the Walters! You’re so right: it is such a FUN and unique museum. A true hidden gem. I’ve only been the once, but will definitely visit again the next time I find myself in Baltimore.

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    1. I find the Walters totally addictive — aside from the paintings, it’s all those offbeat and, frequently gorgeous objects! A Nautilus cup! an ivory statute of a skeleton Death! a Faberge egg! a stuffed alligator! And — the paintings! What’s not to like? Have you been to the Baltimore Museum of Art? It’s also a really nice museum, especially for Matisse (and they’ve got van Dyck’s great Rinaldo and Armida) but it just doesn’t have the Walters’ sense of quirky individuality? I really adore those museums that reflect a sense of the founder’s personality or that have interesting quirks in their collections ….

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