PILGRIMAGE TO THE MUSEUM

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Stephen F. Auth serves as executive vice President and a chief investment officer of Federated Global Equities in Manhattan. He’s also a Catholic who, along with his wife Evelyn, has led the New York City street mission for more than fourteen years. 

Most to the point here, he’s a lover of art, intimately familiar with the world-class, world-renowned Metropolitan Museum.  

He and Evelyn had been haunting the Met galleries for years when, on a guided tour in September, 2009, the docent stopped in front of a small Rembrandt painting called “The Toilet of Bathsheba.”

The docent accurately contextualizes the painting in terms of art history and the trajectory of Rembrandt’s work. She points out the shadowy figure of David in the upper left corner. She reports that Bathsheba is one of the very few nudes painted by Rembrandt in the heavily Protestant Dutch Republic of the 1600s.

Auth notes: “Everything she says is delivered cleanly and precisely. It’s all entirely accurate. Objective. Neutral. Almost scientific. That fits well with my own prejudices. My classical training at one of the country’s great universities has left me instinctively of the mind that art can and should be studied in an almost scientific context.”

“Still, as the docent whisks the group forward to Rembrandt nearby self portraits, I find myself lagging behind, reflecting. “Beneath the rich surface of this canvas, something is stirring. Something dark.”

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