PRINT January 1992


AS YOU ENTER the first gallery of “Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration,” your Acoustiguide—J. Carter Brown himself, the director of the National Gallery—leads you to a cabinet of late-medieval treasures: an ostrich egg, brought to Europe from North Africa in classical antiquity, and turned into a gold jug sometime in the 14th century; a rock-crystal elephant, carved in India in the 15th century, caparisoned with gold and enamel mounts somewhere in Europe during the 16th century, and made up as a salt cellar. In these exotic transformations, wide geographical distances conjure cunningly with historical circumstance. The creation of a global culture circa 1492, as it emerges in the “sciences” of mapping and measurement and in the fantasy of cultural expansion, is a major narrative of this exhibit.

Immediately after these gilded Oriental treasures, your Acoustiguide draws you to the dark

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