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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

Regal Rheums

Caleb Leech, Managing Horticulturist, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2015

For those who appreciate its tart flavor, rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a quintessential early summer treat. Stewed with strawberries, infused in summer spritzers, or preserved in jams and chutneys, this vegetable is one of the "fruits" of the season.

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In Season

Transforming the Glass Gallery—Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection

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

Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring has finally arrived in New York, and the gardens of The Cloisters are filling out quickly, announcing their return with tender shoots and splashes of color. Inside the museum, we have opened the new exhibition Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection, now on view in the Glass Gallery. This exhibition showcases a group of exceptional rings assembled by a private collector alongside works of art drawn from the holdings of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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In Season

Welcoming the Growing Mandrake

Yvette Weaver, Gardener, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2015

Last summer, in mid-July, I was handed the once-fragrant fruit of our mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), and it was bursting with seeds that were ready to be sown. This was my opportunity to propagate the legendary plant depicted in Pan's Labyrinth and Harry Potter.

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In Season

Tales and a Tune of the Willow

Christina Alphonso, Administrator, The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015

Within the past few weeks the grip of a long winter has loosened, and we have turned our attention toward our trees. Recent visitors might have noticed that our consulting arborist was hard at work pollarding the crab apples in the Cuxa Cloister. She'll have moved on to the trees in the orchard and our beloved veteran fruit trees in the Bonnefont Herb Garden by the time this post is published. We'll also be undertaking the first coppicing of our willows, a topic introduced in my previous post.

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In Season

A Blanket of Gold

Caleb Leech, Managing Horticulturist, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015

The winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has just revealed its cheerful, yellow blooms. Most years, winter aconite is one of the earliest winter-blooming bulbs, appearing in January and February, but this year's cold temperatures have delayed its arrival.

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In Season

Here I Sette My Thynge to Sprynge

Caleb Leech, Managing Horticulturist, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015

Although the vernal equinox is mere days away, this week is our first taste of spring. For most people, the start of spring is a celebrated event that signals longer days and warmer temperatures. In medieval Europe, spring was considered a highly auspicious time; in many parts of Western Europe, it marked the beginning of a new year and included one of the most important occasions, the Feast of the Annunciation (see "Lady Day" [March 25, 2011] on The Medieval Garden Enclosed).

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

Reflecting on the Winchester Bible

Charles T. Little, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015

In the course of the last three months, we have had the privilege of exhibiting the Winchester Bible—one of the masterpieces of medieval painting—and seeing it reunited with the Morgan Leaf, one of most spectacular paintings from the year 1200 and originally part of the Bible. Because of the possibility of displaying multiple openings of volume one of the Bible and three bi-folios of volume two—currently in the midst of conservation treatment and rebinding—one was able to compare and contrast the multiple artists who created this special work.

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In Season

A Treasury for The Cloisters

Christine E. Brennan, Senior Research Associate, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2015

Today, visitors to The Cloisters museum and gardens marvel at precious works of gold, silver, and ivory in the Treasury. But this richly furnished gallery was not part of the original design of The Cloisters. It owes its inception to two individuals: Museum Curator James Rorimer and the art dealer Joseph Brummer (both pictured above).

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In Circulation

A Scholar's Passion: The William H. Forsyth Papers at The Cloisters

Michael Carter, Librarian, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Cloisters Library and Archives is pleased to announce that it has completed processing the papers of one of the Museum's founding figures, curator William H. Forsyth (1907–2003). The finding aid can be found on the Digital Collections site.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

The Winchester Bible and Europe

Charles T. Little, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The team of artists producing the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, were among the most original and inventive in Europe before 1200. The display of the Bible within the Museum's collection of contemporary medieval works enhances the picture of the larger setting and warrants a closer look. The connection between the Winchester Bible and Spain, explored in an earlier blog post, is one of the more fascinating instances of artistic migration. Let's explore three others that look to Burgundy in France, the Meuse Valley in Belgium, and Sicily.

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In Season

Whence Willow Wattle?

Christina Alphonso, Administrator, The Cloisters

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2015

An attractive feature of the Bonnefont Herb Garden in winter and early spring is the distinctive wattle used in the raised beds. Medieval gardens, orchards, and property boundaries were enclosed in a variety of ways, including by hedges and wattle fences. In the Bonnefont Herb Garden, our wattle, or hurdles (pictured above), of various heights edge the beds and support the plants. The hurdles and supports are made from willow from the Somerset Levels (wetlands) in England; willow has been grown and woven in Somerset since the late Iron Age. Willow work is still commercially produced in the region and the same family has made our wattle elements for many years.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

The Entire Bible in a Single Letter: The Genesis Initial

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

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Each book of the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, begins with an oversized, decorated first letter called an initial. The initials' decorations vary from fancy foliate designs to narrative scenes framed within the letter itself. The initial prefacing the Winchester Bible's book of Genesis is especially complex in its composition because it serves an extraordinary purpose: to encompass the entire Bible—and with it the entire history of salvation—in a single composition. This ambitious endeavor presents a way of thinking about the Bible that would have been second nature to its original readers, a community of Benedictine monks.

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In Season

Snowy Days at The Cloisters

Andrew Winslow, Senior Departmental Technician, The Cloisters museum and gardens

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.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

The Morgan Leaf and the Winchester Bible

William M. Voelkle, Senior Research Curator at the Morgan Library and Museum

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.

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In Season

A Tale of Two Collections: The Cloisters and Glencairn Museums

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

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.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

The Spanish Connection: The Winchester Bible and Spain

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

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!

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In Season

A Winter Walk through Fort Tryon Park

Jonathan Landsman, Landscape Coordinator, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

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.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

Conservation Concerns: The Care of Medieval Manuscripts

Yana van Dyke, Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

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.

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In Season

Dyeing for Color

Carly Still, Assistant Horticulturist, The Cloisters Museum and Gardens

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.

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Winchester Bible Exhibition Blog

The Making of the Winchester Bible

Charles T. Little, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

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.

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