|Shaykh 'Abd al-Samad Shrine at Natanz (Iran): Analysis of Muqarnas Vault. (MMA, eeh1575)|
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
A Study in Close Looking: Reflections on Herzfeld's Architectural Drawings at the Met
Hello Herzfeld Scholars,
My name is Charmaine Branch and I am a rising senior studying art history at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. I’ve spent the past few months working as an intern here at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On the first day Matt Saba, a Research Fellow and my supervisor, introduced me to the works of Ernst Herzfeld housed in the Islamic Art Department. Although I had no previous knowledge of Herzfeld’s expeditions in Samarra and other cities across Iran, Turkey, and Syria, I welcomed the challenge of exploring a whole new area of art history. Matt acted as my guide as I familiarized myself with architectural drawings, watercolors of wall decorations, photographs, and their subject matter.
As part of my internship, I also gave tours in the Met galleries to the general public. The experience encouraged me not only to focus on the historical importance of an object, but to also appreciate the extensive information available through visual analysis. Herzfeld began his drawings with the act of close looking. For me, the task of digitizing a sketch was brought to life by his skill and meticulous documentation of detail. I often invited other interns in our department to join me in admiring a floor plan or study of a column before I moved on to the next.
Working with the Herzfeld papers during the course of the summer, I came to understand what a significant role this project plays within the international study of Herzfeld’s lifework. I find the possibility of reconstructing parts of a madrasa or mosque based on Herzfeld’s drawings incredibly compelling. The global exchange of information is intrinsic to the study of art not only for scholars but also for everyone who is interested in the visual history of our world. All of Herzfeld’s works are in dialog with one another, although they span his career and are now dispersed geographically as part of several collections. I am very lucky to have joined the conversation.
Charmaine Branch (Vassar College)