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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.

Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Christian Imagery on Silk Textiles: The Annunciation Silk

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The red Annunciation silk depicts the seated Virgin dressed in royal purple, receiving a message from the angel Gabriel, encircled by floral medallions referencing a jeweled garden. The fragment is believed to be part of the same textile as a Nativity scene that survives at the Vatican.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Fashion and Style in Byzantium

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

In a post last week, Annie discussed how certain forms of dress distinguished cultural groups during the Byzantine era, but what about fashion and style?

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Dress Styles in the Mosaics of San Vitale

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

The pinnacle of early imperial Byzantine dress is best seen in the mosaics of Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora at the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy (ca. 547 A.D.). Facing opposite one another in the apse of the church, each mosaic depicts the main figure bedecked in finery and accompanied by a retinue.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Woven Silk

Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, Artist and Art Historian

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2012

Silk textiles were produced in Byzantium long before local weavers had figured out how to acquire and produce silk from silkworms. For centuries, the Chinese held a monopoly on the raw materials required to create these highly desired textiles.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam by Sidney H. Griffith

Heather Badamo, Harper-Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

Walking through galleries that display Qur'ans and Muslim palatial sculpture, you may wonder what happened to the Christian communities who came to live under Islamic rule. In The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, Sidney H. Griffith goes some way toward answering this question, showing how Christians made a place for themselves in the new Islamic caliphate.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

The Dome of the Rock

Ana Botchkareva, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012

Originally constructed between 688 and 692 under the rule of Abd al-Malik, whom Yitzchak introduced in the previous post, the Dome of the Rock is one of the most emblematic architectural landmarks in the history of Islamic culture. On the one hand, the monument carries a unique and unifying significance for Islamic religious communities over broad temporal and geographic scopes; on the other hand, it reflects the far-reaching extent of intercultural contacts and dialogues that have shaped such Islamic communities over time, on a local level.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Abd al Malik ibn Marwan

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012

Born in Mecca and raised in Medina, the two most holy sites of Islam, the fifth caliph, Abd Al Malik Ibn Marwan, spearheaded the creation of many of the institutions that centralized the Islamic empire around his capital in Damascus and asserted its independence from Byzantine traditions.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Costume Styles

Annie Labatt, 2012 Chester Dale Fellow, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Although this exhibition demonstrates how difficult it can be to draw definitive cultural distinctions during periods of transition, certain forms of dress from the period do indicate regional affiliations.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Synagogue at Hammam Lif, Tunisia

Yitzchak Schwartz, Intern, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012

In the late nineteenth century, French soldiers stationed at the town of Hammam Lif—the ancient city of Naro in southern Tunisia—accidentally rediscovered an ancient structure. The building's layout and floor mosaics were so in line with regional conventions that it was at first thought to have been a church. However, the Latin inscription in the center of the mosaic floor, which identifies the building as "Sancta Sinagoga" and is flanked by menorahs on either side, revealed the site to be a synagogue.

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Byzantium and Islam Exhibition Blog

Walid II

Betsy Williams, Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellow, Department of Islamic Art

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Although al-Walid ibn Yazid, known as al-Walid II (r. 743–744), ruled for only a year, he is nonetheless one of the most colorful Umayyad caliphs. A grandson of Abd al-Malik, builder of the Dome of the Rock, he is recorded in historical sources as a proverbial man about town. His behavior was considered so profligate that he was passed over in succession to grandfather's throne. Instead, his uncle Hisham became caliph and al-Walid retired to his desert qasr to pass his time in song and pleasure among a retinue of his favorite drinking companions.

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