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RC Student Trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. by Brieanah Gouveia

Students stand on the steps of the National Gallery, D.C.
Students stand on the steps of the National Gallery, D.C.

Saturday, February 1st, Roanoke College students, faculty, and affiliates visited the National Gallery of Art in D.C. Put together by Dr. Wendy Larson-Harris, the day trip provided students with a culture-filled getaway. Though some students visited other places around town, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History or various national monuments, those who did stay to explore the artistic wonders of the Gallery surely felt their time had not gone to waste.

Students had very exciting and interesting experiences to share once they arrived back on campus. Freshman Emily Densmore, who visited the National Museum of Natural History, stated her favorite part of the trip was getting to hold a live Madagascar Cockroach in the palm of her hand.

 Senior Renae Dower remarked: “I went with the City Modern Ensemble up to Friendship Heights and I took a jazz class at the Joy of Motion Dance Company…I also went to the National Gallery. So I got to split my time between dance and art. It was a good combination.”

Personally, I found this experience to be completely enlightening. As a local from the Big Island of Hawaii, I had never before been in an art museum, especially not one of this majesty and prestige. Visiting the National Gallery of Art not only opened my eyes to the extent of cultural and historic diversity throughout the world, but by being an Art History major, it also made me appreciate the field of work much more. I found myself wandering around in a place for 5 hours where I could see myself spending the rest of my life.

The international exhibit entitled “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections,” has been on display since October 6th, 2013 and will continue to be in the museum until March 2nd. It will later move to Los Angeles’s J. Paul Getty Museum from April 9th to August 25th. The exhibition, of roughly 170 breathtaking works, ranges from tempera paintings, frescoes, mosaics, sculpture, jewelry, illuminated text, and embroidered tapestry.

This is the first time the Gallery has ever displayed Byzantine art, and many included here have never before been shown anywhere else in the United States. The exclusivity and grandeur of this display translates directly into the audience’s minds, allowing them to get a sense of the unique culture of Byzantium. Specifically, and arguably the most anticipated work in this exhibit due to its extensive use in the advertisement for this event, a tempera painting entitled Icon of the Archangel Michael dated c. 1350, hangs just before the exiting door, leaving its audience with a profound lasting impression of Byzantine’s cultural richness.

Another equally as rare and tantalizing exhibit on display in the Gallery was that of the Dying Gaul. The Dying Gaul dates back from around the 1st or 2nd century BCE. This is the first time the Ancient Roman masterpiece of marble sculpture has left Italy since 1797. The Capitoline Museum in Rome has lent the Gallery this work, where it has been on display since December 12th, 2013 and will continue to be until March 16th. Since its discovery in the early 17th century, the depiction of this conquered Gallic warrior has never ceased to receive great amounts of praise and fame.

Some of the Gallery’s other exhibits in the West Building include: a memorial, on long-term loan, to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth Regiment; the Dutch and Flemish Cabinet Galleries; “Civic Pride: Groups Portraits from Amsterdam”; “Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection”; as well as a display of the museum’s newly acquired painting by Vincent Van Gogh entitled Green Wheat Fields, Auvers c. 1890, which has been added to its permanent collection.