If museums don’t inspire some level of childish fascination in you, it’s time to re-read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the intriguing tale of two children who run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Seriously, who wouldn’t want the run of a majestic building full of amazing treasures?)
The Cincinnati Art Museum, one of the Queen City's most beloved homes to “serious” art, provides a similarly transportve (and beautiful) experience. With an impressive collection spanning centuries, the CAM houses plenty of paintings, but you may be surprised by what else you’ll find there. I recently visited the museum on a search for the unexpected, and this is what I found:
1. INSERT CLEVER MUMMY JOKE HERE
Did you know there’s a for-real mummy in the CAM? You didn’t?! Consider yourself duly apprised. When I first visited the museum way back when, I had never seen a mummy in-person. It’s totally awesome. (Especially if Brendan Frasier’s Mummy franchise is the closest you’ve ever been to Egypt). Cincinnati’s very own mummy is remarkably well-preserved and dates back to the Ptolemaic Period, 332 BC to 30 AD. Don’t forget to turn around and check out the X-ray of his skeleton.
2. SURPRISINGLY STYLISH ROOKWOOD FOUNTAIN
If you’re a Cincinnati native, you might have noticed that the word “Rookwood” gets bandied about quite a bit. If you’re like me, though, you may have never actually seen the precious pottery. Until now. Fountain of the Water Nymph, which dates back to 1913, was displayed in the Rookwood showroom until it was purchased in 1960 and then installed in a bowling alley (of all places). The fountain found its way back to the upper crust of society 30 years later, when it was acquired for the CAM.
3. BALLER BEDROOM SUITE
In the Asian art wing, you may stumble across a beautiful, Cincinnati-made suite of furniture that looks like something Yeezus might install in his bedroom. This one-of-a-kind, circa-1880s, maple four-piece set is decorated with carved Japanese dragons, birds, and lattice work, along with paintings of beautiful Asian ladies. Plus, the dresser and washstand are topped with onyx. Ya know, for those of us who love the simple life.
4. UM… IS THAT A COFFIN?
Not too far away from Kanye’s bedroom suite lies the effigy of Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, wife of Frank Duveneck (remember him from our tour of the Taft?). Frank sculpted the plaster cast himself, which was then used as a blueprint for the bronze version that adorns Elizabeth’s grave in Allori Cemetery near Florence, Italy. Besides being the wife of one of Greater Cincinnati’s favorite artists, Elizabeth was also close friends with author Henry James, who called this piece “a Knight’s Lady in Death.” Impressive, Liz. Very impressive.
5. COOLEST CHANDELIER EVER
Comprised of 180 blown glass squiggles, Dale Chihuly’s Rio Delle Torreselle Chandelier graces the lobby of the Cincinnati Art Museum. The piece weighs a whopping 800 pounds (no casualties yet!), and soars directly above your head as you step through the museum's main entrance. This cobalt-hued abstract artwork is a permanent fixture at the museum. Lucky us.
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