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: Friday, February 13, 2015
After trudging to work through Fort Tryon Park in the morning after a heavy snowfall, the first thing I do is grab my camera and head straight to some of my favorite spots in The Cloisters museum and gardens. First, up to the top of the tower to look out over the park, the river, and the George Washington Bridge.
Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
The Morgan Leaf (pictured above) was the last and greatest single leaf acquired by financier John Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). (Morgan's collection later became the Morgan Library and Museum.) The twelfth-century Winchester Bible, the largest and finest English Romanesque Bible, on view at the Met through March 8, was begun in around 1160, but was never finished. Although full-page miniatures were not originally planned for the Bible, drawings for four of them were made. Only two were finished: those on the Morgan Leaf.
Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015
The Cloisters museum and gardens has many devotees, but I wonder how many of its visitors know about the Glencairn Museum, located in Bryn Athyn, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Glencairn, like The Cloisters, is home to an excellent collection of medieval art on view in a building inspired by medieval architecture. As a current Met fellow and former Glencairn fellow, I have had ample opportunity to study the histories of these two marvelous collections, both of which took shape during the early twentieth century. Together they constitute an important chapter in the story of collecting medieval art in the United States, and I am continually impressed by the close relationship between them.
Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015
It is a common misconception that people living during the Middle Ages rarely traveled. In fact, many did—to go on a pilgrimage, to trade commercial goods, or to forge political ties in far-off lands. Artists also traveled, taking their own styles, techniques, and ideas with them. Yet, because so little information about medieval artists has survived, especially from the earlier Middle Ages, we know little about their itineraries from when they did venture out into the world. The Met's exhibition of the Winchester Bible, however, allows me to highlight one fascinating instance in which we actually can track the movement of a specific workshop of painters from Winchester in southern England to a monastery in Aragon, northern Spain. That's quite a distance to cover!
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015
"How do you get to The Cloisters?" For me and the two full-time gardeners charged with the care of Fort Tryon Park's sixty-seven acres of forest and two historic gardens, this is the question we are asked the most. Our answer changes from season to season: the paths don't move, but the flowers do, and we always guide visitors through the most beautiful experience the season offers.
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.