“Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages” is the most original museum show in this country since 2002’s “Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence.” These audacious exhibitions turn scholarly probity into artistic revelation; it speaks volumes about the curatorial esprit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that this great institution has been responsible for both events. “Tapestry in the Renaissance,” which made a definitive case for the centrality of woven images in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century European art, was the defining moment in the career of Thomas Campbell, a relatively untested curator who is now the director of the Metropolitan. It is anyone’s guess where the curator Melanie Holcomb will be in seven years, but there is no doubt that with this new, gorgeously focused show, she has reframed the place of drawing in the history of European art. I cannot imagine someone going through this epochal exhibition without being convinced that drawing was recognized as a deeply personal avowal as early as the ninth century. We may know next to nothing about the artists who did most of this work, but we can see that they were expressing their own sense of life through the energy that they brought to marks made with pen and ink on parchment.
more from Jed Perl at TNR here.