The fruits of a lifetime of experience by a cultural colossus, Philippe de Montebello, the longest-serving director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its history, distilled in conversations with an acclaimed critic.
Beginning with a fragment of yellow jasper―all that is left of the face of an Egyptian woman who lived 3,500 years ago―this book confronts the elusive questions: how, and why, do we look at art?
Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford talked in art galleries or churches or their own homes, and this book is structured around their journeys. But whether they were in the Louvre or the Prado, the Mauritshuis of the Palazzo Pitti, they reveal the pleasures of truly looking.
De Montebello shares the sense of excitement recorded by Goethe in his autobiography―"akin to the emotion experienced on entering a House of God"―but also reflects on why these secular temples might nevertheless be the "worst possible places to look at art." But in the end both men convey, with subtlety and brilliance, the delights and significance of their subject matter and some of the intense creations of human beings throughout our long history. 75 illustrations