There were so many cool things at the Philadelphia Art Museum and I know I only saw a fraction of them in my whirlwind trip. For one thing, there were three other locations with even more stuff, including the Rodin Museum, and the Perelman Building, which appears to have all sorts of modern collections, including costumes and clothes.
One of the coolest things I did get to see were all the little rooms that have been brought from actual castles and manors and temples and so on and reconstructed at the museum. This is the ceiling of a small chapel-like room (can't find the specific room in the collection database, but others are there). The rooms that are complete with furnishing give you a real sense of what it was like to live in a medieval manor house, or a German monastery.
I like this painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria for several reasons. First, she is reading a book; second, she is standing in front of Bruges, and it has a special place in my heart since we were there last year; and third, she is totally standing on the pagan emperor who killed her. Awesome. I didn't spend too much time in the medieval/Renaissance painting rooms because a lot of it was similar to all the art we saw last year in Europe. If I had been there longer I probably would have spent more time there. But I wanted to make sure I got to see the other cool stuff:
Like 14th and 15th century swords. While I was in Philadelphia (and for a month afterwards) I was listening to A Distant Mirror, Barbara Tuchman's history of 14th century France, and was excited to see things that came from that time and place. I also saw later dueling-type swords, but these were true war swords.
And where there are swords, there must be shields and armor. I decided not to try your patience with the (many) pictures of horse armor I took (not sure what I was thinking at the time other than "horsies, in armor!"), but this shield is amazing. All that detail, all done by hand without any modern tools or computer renderings or anything. So. Much. Detail.
If you ever have a chance to go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, do it. It definitely belongs in the same class as the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, and the Smithsonian, and the British Museum.
Next time, I will turn to the sights of Colonial America at Constitution Hall.