Princeton Museum—Additional Visit 2 thoughts


So my second visit to the Princeton Museum was mainly to see the Itinerant Languages of Photography exhibition. But since I hadn’t gone through all the galleries in my previous trip, I figured I should poke around some more. Especially since I felt like the museum deserved a second chance.

The good news is that most of what I saw was good. I’m not going to review everything. But highlights from my trip were the set of Giovanni Battista Piranesi Carceri d’Invenzione prints in the older European rooms as well as some of the Senese alterpiece paintings.

The Battista Piranesi prints are very cool. I’m a sucker for prints rather than paintings anyway and these are both very evocative in and of themselves as well as reminding me of sketches for movie concepts.

And the alterpiece paintings I just liked. When I’m not looking at modern art or photography, I’m partial to the pre/early renaissance work. I particularly seem to like anything having to do with Siena (I liked these before I saw where they were from).

I was also pleased to see in the late 19th, early 20th century Europe rooms that some of the Asian and African inspirations* for the artists—Toulouse Lautrec and Modigliani in particular—are on display next to the works which quote them. There are more works and styles mentioned in the wall texts as well. I’d like to see those displayed, even if it has to be a reproduction, too.

*It’s interesting though how none of the non-western inspirations ever get mentioned with descriptions of how those cultures came into contact with the West.

But it’s not all good. I went back to the basement just to check whether or not my bad reaction as me having a bad day or something more.

It’s something more. This time the Japanese room was open. All sorts of beautiful scrolls and artifacts nicely displayed with no context and just an indication of what period they date to. My eyebrows raised a bit when I saw some Showa Period pieces. I understand the idea of dating things by period when a culture has had little to no interaction with the outside world. But continuing marking everything created in most of the 20th century in a way which implies that it’s ancient craft rubs me the wrong way.

I also checked the website and found that they also list Heisei Period—aka, right now—on some items as well. Sigh. While I’m tempted to start referring to all Japanese art by imperial period, it would really be a sarcastic joke.

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at, and the web at

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