Alexander Hamilton in the Metropolitan Museum

Alexander Hamilton played a major role in my three-day retreat in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As I wrote about here, I was nervous as I approached the Met on the morning of the retreat's first day. I literally started getting panicky as I crossed Central Park, feeling overwhelmed by the vast collection of the Met and worrying that I wouldn’t be able to structure my time well.

That’s when I pulled out the big guns: I put in my earbuds and started the soundtrack to the musical Hamilton. I got lost in the music. By the time I reached the museum, the Schuyler Sisters were belting, “History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world!” I was ready to conquer the Met.

After a busy morning full of exploration, I sat in the American Art Café and entered the online lottery to win tickets to see Hamilton (I entered every day, and SPOILER ALERT I never won). As I dove back into the galleries, I turned a corner and who was staring back at me?

Alexander Hamilton, John Trumbull, Metropolitan Museum

Alexander Hamilton.

He stared off into the distance, with rosy cheeks, reflective eyes, and a slight smile. After Hamilton's ill-fated duel with Aaron Burr in 1804, there was a large demand for Hamilton portraits. This portrait is one of the replicas that John Trumbull made following Hamilton’s death, after a portrait he made when Hamilton was still alive.

I immediately put on my earbuds, and played the opening number of the musical. I gazed at Hamilton’s face, asking myself how a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished, in squalor, grew up to be a hero and a scholar.

Alexander Hamilton, John Trumbull, Metropolitan Museum

Hamilton’s portrait is surrounded by other depictions of early America, from George Washington to bald eagles. I loved a bust-length personification of America as a youthful maiden wearing a diadem with thirteen stars.

George Washington Clock, Metropolitan Museum of Art
America, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bald Eagle, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Even though I was not able to see the musical during my time in New York, I was pleased to get to spend some time reflecting on Alexander Hamilton’s legacy and early American visual culture.

Alexander Hamilton, Metropolitan Museum

This is an installment of this month's creativity theme of PLAY. If you missed it, check out a description of the project here


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York ∣ Opening hoursSunday to Thursday from 10am to 5:30pm, Friday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm