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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

MFA Boston: Art, history and cultural exploration

Anuoluwapo Mokuolu
A vase from the Ancient Greek exhibit at MFA. Photo submitted by Anuoluwapo Mokuolu / Mass Media Contributor.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is a beacon of creativity to the local community and home to the boundless imagination of artists from around the globe. Located opposite Northeastern University and about a 20-minute drive from the UMass Boston campus, it is truly one of those must-visit places. From the interior design to the collection of art and historical pieces, everything is well-thought-out, well-constructed and elegant.  

Stepping into the section on American history, one is first greeted by a display of portraits of various notable individuals, including John Singleton Copley, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. The portrait of Revere is particularly unique. Despite his notoriety in American history, he holds one of his works, a teapot, suggesting that his priority was his craftsmanship as a silversmith. His passion, however, extended beyond his craft, and he played an active role in politics, particularly during the Revolutionary War. Though he possessed exceptional skills, his portrait gives a sense of humility. 

Beyond the portraits of renowned people, the American history section contains a diverse array of artifacts, silver cups and decorative arts. Each item in that section—from intricate textiles and porcelain figurines to finely crafted silver pieces and furniture—whispers tales of history. It reveals the intricacies of craftsmanship, the ingenuity of design and the everyday lives of those who once cherished these objects. 

An interesting exhibition that certainly attracts attention is the “Fashioned by Sargent” exhibition, which is a display of some of the finest paintings by John Singer Sargenta painter trained in Paris and acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. On display are examples of period fashion such as a red velvet evening gown, a beautiful portrait titled “La Carmencita” of the famous Spanish dancer wearing an exquisite yellow dress, and many other portraits which can strike conversations about how fashion has changed over the years.  

For people interested in Ancient Greek and Roman art, there is a section to check out and enjoy. Mediterranean art does not have to be seen in pictures alone. In the Museum of Fine Arts, there are various sculptures such as the Head of Aphrodite (“The Bartlett Head”), the Statue of Athena Parthenos (the Virgin Goddess) and the Portrait Head of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. 

Within the Mediterranean art section, there are also many ceramic pieces on display, including the oldest known piece, a Cycladic frying pan, which dates back to approximately 3200 BCE. These pieces may pique the interest of anyone curious about the cultures practiced in ancient civilizations such as marriage, war and daily practices. One object on display is a ceramic pot with a black-figure drawing that depicts women carrying water jars. It was painted in Athens, Greece by the Priam Painter. The scene on the vase vividly portrayed the act of water collecting, raising the question of its purpose; it is unknown whether the vessel was for a celebratory festival or daily tasks like washing, and the identities of the women on the vase are largely debated. 

Going to a museum would probably be the last thing on the minds of most students. However, a visit to the MFA may completely change anyone’s perspectives on museums and expose them to fascinating facets of history. New to Boston and looking for a place to relive history and embark on a little cultural adventure? A visit to the MFA Boston is highly recommended.