"Hey!" you think as you hop off the T at the Museum stop and catch your first glimpse of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, "It's a mini Metropolitan Museum of Art." This assessment actually isn't far off the mark.
The MFA wasn't designed by Richard Morris Hunt, as was the Met, but it has a similarly imposing style (albeit with none of the Met's more baroque decorative flourishes). The MFA's collection, too, has many of the same strengths as the Met's--Classical and Egyptian art and American decorative arts and painting.
Once you enter the building, however, you begin to see where the Met and the MFA differ. Unlike the Met's gigantic entry hall, the MFA's is built on a more modest, human scale. And the MFA has one thing that the Met doesn't--a glorious mural by Boston artist John Singer Sargent. Unfortunately, you can't see most of it at the moment--it's undergoing a full restoration--but when the work is complete,
Sargent's masterpiece will shine forth with it's original glory.
Some of the highlights of the MFA's collection include Houdon's bust of Thomas Jefferson, a fine collection of works by Washington Allson, an early American artist (Boston's Allston neighborhood was the home of his studio and still bears his name), John Singelton Copley's famous portrait of Paul Revere, and one of Gilbert Stuart's portraits of George Washington. The MFA also exhibits works by Goya, El Greco, Velasquez, Manet, and Matisse, among others.
My favorite part of the Museum, though, are the period rooms--especially those taken from Oak Hill, the country estate of shipping heiress Elisabeth Derby West and her husband Nathaniel. The rooms are spendidly furnished with the creme de la creme of American Federal furnishings--including items created by John and Thomas Seymour. To see some of the rest of Oak Hill, check out the Stephen Phillips Memorial Trust House museum in Salem.
If you get hungry while perusing the great artworks, head to the basement and the Norma-Jean Calderwood Courtyard Cafe. It has an awesome gourmet salad bar with tempting offerings including grilled eggplant and roasted potatoes. Load up your plate and take it to the cashier--you pay by the ounce. You can also try one of a rotating selection of hot entrees, or grab a piece of pizza. And if the weather's good, you can take your meal outside and eat in in the green and sculpture-filled Calderwood courtyard.
Admission to the MFA is $15/adult, $13 students and seniors, or $6.50 for children. An admission ticket is good for 2 visits in 30 days, so hold on to it and go back to really get your money's worth.