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: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
One of the most striking aspects of the silk and metal-thread embroideries on view through November 1, 2015, in Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World is how labor-intensive they are. One might wonder who devoted so much time and eyestrain to creating these pieces, and at whose behest? Although they form a minority within the body of surviving liturgical embroideries, pieces inscribed with the names of the donor or the embroiderer help scholars to answer these questions.
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Does anyone else remember the first day back at grade school after summer vacation? My teachers often had the class write an essay detailing what they did over the course of the summer. In the next few posts, several staff members at The Cloisters will present the ways in which we spent our time at work and play this summer. My story begins on seas once crossed by Viking longships.
Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015
It's hardly a secret that librarians strongly frown upon the idea of anyone scribbling away and leaving marks inside the books in our collections. However, there are instances where annotations and marginalia can shed light on the thought process of a work's previous owner. Notes and observations handwritten onto the pages of a book can tell us which titles in a personal library most compelled a historical figure, they can elaborate or clarify an author's feelings on a work she'd published years earlier, and they can illuminate what one great author found most notable in the work of another. Even a recent exhibition held at the New York Society Library focused exclusively on interesting annotated items from their collections.
Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015
While summer may be a slow season for some, it is teeming with activity at The Cloisters museum and gardens, especially during the nine weeks of The Cloisters Summer College Internship Program. This intensive program provides training on the Museum and its collection, the contextual background of medieval art, and pedagogy, giving interns the opportunity to conduct workshops for day-camp groups and pursue concentrated research to develop a thematic tour for the general public. Special gallery talks are the final project of this rigorous summer program.
Posted: Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Every time I walk through gallery 457 I am arrested by a big vitrine displaying a rich range of medieval ivory objects produced around the shores of the Mediterranean. This collection of ivories holds secret stories of transformation, from secular to sacred, ending ultimately in their place as objects of desire for collectors. Rare and durable, elephant ivory was valued as one of the most precious materials in medieval times, and a wide range of artifacts were created by skillful craftsmen throughout the Mediterranean. The main patrons were powerful rulers such as Muslim caliphs, Latin or Byzantine emperors, and high-ranking ecclesiastics and noblemen, who took advantage of the ivory supply being imported from Africa.
Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas) is described as an annual weed that thrives on wastelands, roadsides, and neglected fields, and it is most famously associated with battlefields. As a denizen of disturbed lands, the poppy was one of the first and most striking colonizers of a trampled and scarred landscape. Its luminescent red flowers symbolize the blood of the fallen and serve as a reminder of the beauty of life amidst the devastation of war. Dubbed Flanders, or remembrance, poppy, the corn poppy is a symbol of the First World War in contemporary culture.
Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2015
Earlier this season, the gardens department here at the The Cloisters museum and gardens decided to freshen up and expand our cultivated hops (Humulus lupulus). In last week's post, I explained the precedent for vertical trellises in late medieval and early modern horticulture and how we used this to construct a vertical trellis for the hops in the Bonnefont Herb Garden. Today I'll outline the creation of a new bed outside the museum's walls for several young hops plants started in the greenhouse and the construction of a structure for the plants to climb.
Posted: Friday, August 7, 2015
Earlier this season, we decided to freshen up and expand the cultivated hops (Humulus lupulus) at The Cloisters museum and gardens. Managing Horticulturist Caleb Leech, Gardener Yvette Weaver, and I sought to construct a new structure on which to train the hops in the Bonnefont Herb Garden to grow, and to install a new bed in the grounds outside the Museum's walls for additional hops cultivation. We will share the process for accomplishing both projects over two blog posts. Today I will discuss how the gardens department went about constructing the new hops trellis in the Bonnefont Herb Garden, and the story of the new hops bed will be explained in a later post.
Posted: Monday, August 3, 2015
The exhibition Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World, now on view through November 1, 2015, presents a selection of notable liturgical vestments that communicate the continuing prestige of the Orthodox Church and its clergy in the centuries following the fifteenth-century fall of Byzantine Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. From a strictly theological viewpoint, vestments are hardly a necessity for Christian worship. Liturgical scholars are largely in agreement that for the first several centuries of Christianity's existence, its clergy officiated at services wearing the normal "street dress" of the Roman world. Only gradually did these items of clothing take on special significance as liturgical vestments, to be worn only during worship.
Posted: Friday, July 31, 2015
In 2014, over two hundred thousand enthusiasts walked at least part of the road to the shrine of Saint James in northern Spain, and more than two-and-a-half million visited the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. My more energetic colleagues at The Cloisters lead organized trips to Santiago on behalf of the Museum, and the Met produced Journey to Saint James: A Pilgrim's Guide (1993), a film about the pilgrimage, in the 1990s.