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Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Medieval Art

The Museum's collection of medieval and Byzantine art is among the most comprehensive in the world. Displayed in both the Main Building and in the Metropolitan's branch in northern Manhattan, The Cloisters museum and gardens, the collection encompasses the art of the Mediterranean and Europe from the fall of Rome in the fourth century to the beginning of the Renaissance in the early sixteenth century. It also includes pre-medieval European works of art created during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age.

In Season

Calling a Spade a Spade: A Lack of Uniformity in Suits and Decks

Tim Husband, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2016

Readers unfamiliar with early European playing cards will be surprised by their total lack of uniformity. In the English-speaking world, all decks of ordinary playing cards comprise fifty-two cards in four suits—Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs, ranked in that order—with Kings, Queens, and Jacks as face cards and number (or "pip") cards from 10 through 2. Instead of a 1, there is an Ace, which has the highest value. Additionally, there are two Jokers, which are used in some games and not in others.

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In Season

Welcome to The World in Play: Luxury Cards, 1430–1540

Tim Husband, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Cloisters Playing Cards, one of which is illustrated above, are the focus of the small but exciting exhibition The World in Play: Luxury Cards, 1430–1540 (January 20–April 17, 2016). Alongside them are examples from the only other hand-painted decks of cards to have survived from the late Middle Ages, together with playing cards from the earliest engraved and luxury woodblock decks. This blog series on In Season will explore the history and uses of the rare medieval playing cards in the exhibition.

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In Season

Sounds of The Cloisters: A New Refectory Bell

Peter Barnet, Senior Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Cloisters recently acquired a rare medieval refectory bell that is now installed in the Cuxa Cloister outside the Chapter House from Notre-Dame-de-Pontaut. Smaller than the taller and more familiar church bells usually suspended in bell towers, this bell was probably made for a monastic refectory, or dining hall. Cast in copper alloy using the lost-wax method, it is inscribed with the words Tinnio pransvris cenatvris bibitvris, which translates to "I ring for breakfast, dinner, and drinks." In addition to the inscription, the bell is decorated with roundels depicting two angels, a winged lion, and the Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God.

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In Season

'Tis the Season

Christina Alphonso, Administrator, The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Cloisters will be decorated through January 6 in celebration of the holiday season. Last year, we provided historical context for the designs and explained how our unique decorations are made using fresh plant materials associated with the medieval celebration of Christmastide, the twelve days between the Nativity and the Epiphany.

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In Season

Taming Nature in the Twelfth Century

Julia Perratore, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015

In the past few weeks, my colleagues have shared tales from their summer travels. This past summer, I went to France to visit several spectacular sites of Romanesque art and architecture with a group of fellow medieval-art historians.

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In Season

Acres of Acorns

Christina Alphonso, Administrator, The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2015

In October, the sound of acorns falling from our oak trees, ricocheting off car roofs and crashing to the cobblestones, steadily and loudly increases. Etymologically, "acorn" is related to the Old English aecer (modern acre), as well as to Old French words for "nut" or "fruits and vegetables." Ultimately, acorn evolved to mean something akin to "fruit of the unenclosed land." Although the term originally referred to the nuts of any tree, we now use the word specifically for the nuts of oak trees.

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In Season

Restoration Up Close

Nancy Wu, Museum Educator, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015

In recent weeks, my colleagues have shared tales from their summer travels. My trip took me to Paris, where I made excursions to several medieval monuments that are experiencing ongoing restoration work, which provides unusual access to see them up close. (Scaffolds are a good thing!) The most exciting visit was to Notre-Dame de Reims, or Reims Cathedral, in the heart of the Champagne region. Not only is it one of the canonic Gothic cathedrals of the thirteenth century, but it is also the subject of the dissertation that I completed some years ago.

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In Season

From West to East, South to North

Caleb Leech, Managing Horticulturist, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015

This fall, several of my colleagues shared tales from their summer travels. My summer adventures took me to paradise. Well, paradise from a medieval perspective. I traveled to Kerala, a coastal state on the southwest tip of India. Kerala is known as the land of spices because of its role as a major producer and exporter of spices for thousands of years.

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In Season

Binding Together Past and Present

C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2015

Handmade objects can bring seemingly distant times and places powerfully into the present. This is particularly true for finger rings—readily familiar and still widely worn by men and women—which are especially effective at reaching across the ages. While fashions, techniques, and technologies have changed dramatically over the centuries, the essential ingredients of the finger ring, consisting of the hoop, bezel, and shoulders, have remained the same for millennia.

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In Season

At the Crossroads

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for The Met Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015

In last week's post, my colleague Christina Alphonso shared a tale from her summer travels. My own adventures beyond The Cloisters led in a different direction. The month of July took me to England, where my colleague Melanie Holcomb and I examined works of art that will be featured in the forthcoming exhibition Every People Under Heaven: Jerusalem, 1000–1400 (September 20, 2016–January 8, 2017).

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