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.
Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The most common conservation issue related to the care and preservation of medieval manuscripts—such as the pages from the Winchester Bible, on view in the exhibition The Winchester Bible: A Masterpiece of Medieval Art through March 8—is the loss of cohesion in the paint layer. Most often, flaking paint is due to the dehydration of the binding vehicle used in the original mixing of the paint.
Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015
In the midst of ice and wind, I retreat to the warmth of the indoors at The Cloisters museum and gardens. I long for growth, and daydream about the upcoming spring. And I write about color now to invigorate myself against a possible winter slump.
Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015
One of the most ambitious artistic enterprises of twelfth-century England, the Winchester Bible offers a critical glimpse into the process of its creation, in part, because it was left unfinished.
Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015
The Cloisters museum and gardens came relatively late to the collection of late medieval glass vessels. The reasons are twofold: first, because very few of these objects have survived—they were everyday household objects, and fragile ones at that—and second, because collectors and scholars were slow to appreciate the elegant simplicity and skillful fabrication of these modest, utilitarian objects. The first glass vessel entered The Cloisters Collection in 1977 and, like all those to follow, was a product of the German-speaking world of central Europe, a vast region that supported an extensive glass-making industry. The three recent acquisitions discussed here significantly enhance the collection's holdings of these appealing tablewares.
Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2015
The Old Testament book of Jeremiah begins with a frightened cry. Overwhelmed that God has chosen him as a mouthpiece, the young Jeremiah protests, "Ah, ah, ah." These three repeated syllables, simple and unassuming on the page, express the future prophet's trepidation—which is almost panic—toward the enormous task ahead of him. Taking his cue from this utterance of fear, one of the main artists responsible for the illuminations of the Winchester Bible chose to preface the book of Jeremiah with an image of this dramatic moment, eloquently capturing all of Jeremiah's instability and anxiety. His portrayal is one of the most affecting in the Winchester Bible, and its inclusion in the Met's exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the medieval depiction of emotion through the eyes of one particularly imaginative artist.
Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015
The details that artists choose to embellish in their works offer a small glimpse into what they value. Such is the case with the Gerard David (ca. 1455–1523) painting The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard, shown above. I examined this Nativity scene in the course of my research on the important plant stuffs associated with the medieval Christmastide feast. In this case, the sheaf of wheat as a symbol of the Eucharist was the object of my attention, but what piqued my curiosity was the variety of flora illustrated in the cracks of the walls.
Posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2015
The Winchester Bible: A Masterpiece of Medieval Art offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine one of the great surviving monuments of twelfth-century art. Presented together with the Morgan Leaf, which is reunited for the first time with the book to which it once belonged, the exhibition occupies the heart of the Museum's medieval European galleries. This setting offers an ideal context for exploring the Winchester Bible.
Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015
The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, is an extraordinary illuminated manuscript and one of the great treasures of The Cloisters Collection. It is also relevant to the holiday season, as a few of its astonishingly beautiful illuminations depict scenes from the Christmas story.
Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Deluxe giant Bibles were prestige works for major ecclesiastical institutions, but there is no record, written or otherwise, that clearly identifies the patron of the Winchester Bible. We assume that the bishop of Winchester, Henry of Blois (about 1098–1171) patronized its creation since he was of privileged background and the younger brother of King Stephen of England (r. 1135–54) and grandson of William the Conqueror. As a child oblate dedicated to become a monk at the great Burgundian abbey of Cluny, he quickly rose in the ranks of the Church to become abbot of Glastonbury in 1126, the richest abbey in Norman England, and in 1129 the bishop of Winchester, the richest cathedral in the land.
Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Giant Bibles such as the Winchester Bible, the subject of the current exhibition at the Metropolitan, were among the most ambitious enterprises for major medieval scriptoria. They are massive volumes containing the Holy Scriptures as they were translated into Latin by Saint Jerome (ca. 342–60), and the great age of their creation was the later eleventh and twelfth centuries. Giant Bibles probably started out as prestigious papal gifts—several were produced in Rome itself—but they quickly became more widespread.