The Treasury – an intimate gallery displaying some of the most precious small-scale works at The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages – has reopened to the public after two years of renovation. Originally constructed in 1988 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of The Cloisters, the Treasury houses small luxury objects acquired in the years subsequent to the branch museum's 1938 founding.
The renovation included the installation of all-new glass in the vitrines, lighting fixtures that offer more subtle illumination than those installed three decades ago, and walls that have been replastered to more closely resemble the color of stone used in medieval buildings. Returning to the gallery are many beloved and important works, such as the "Cloisters Cross" – a stunning mid-12th-century English altar cross featuring religious scenes intricately carved from walrus ivory; the diminutive, magnificent prayer book illustrated by the influential Parisian painter Jean Pucelle between 1325 and 1328 for Jeanne d'Evreux, queen of France; and the fascinating "Monkey cup" – a beautiful Flemish silver-gilt beaker of 1425-50, which contains the images of more than three dozen mischievous apes hunting, robbing a peddler of his wares, and disporting themselves with their prizes.
"Every medieval church had a treasury in which its most important objects were kept," commented Peter Barnet, the Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of
Medieval Art and The Cloisters. "For this reason, the Cloisters Treasury is very much in keeping with tradition. Like its medieval prototypes, our treasury is a rich repository of beautifully crafted liturgical vessels, private devotional objects, and illuminated manuscripts. And – further reflecting our mission as an art museum – it houses precious secular objects as well."
During the recent, comprehensive renovation, a selection of these masterworks – which include a rich collection of ivory carvings, outstanding examples of silver, fine enamels, superb textiles, and magnificent manuscripts – was shown elsewhere in The Cloisters.
The renovation of the Treasury is part of a larger project that has included refurbished stonework and a new installation of stained glass in the Early Gothic Hall earlier this summer, renovation and repair of the Unicorn Tapestries Gallery (completed in 1999), the construction of a new skylight for the St.-Guilhem Cloister (completed in 2003), and the installation of new track lighting and climate control systems in all of the galleries (completed in 2006). The unveiling of an installation in the Cuxa Cloister of not-previously-shown architectural elements from the monastery church of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa is planned for December 2006, to be followed by the reopening in summer 2007 of the Campin Room – which takes its name from the most important work of art displayed in it, Robert Campin's Annunciation altarpiece (often called the Mérode altarpiece after the family that owned it in the 19th century).
Constructed in New York City's Fort Tryon Park in the 1930s to house part of the Metropolitan Museum's superb collection of medieval art, The Cloisters evokes the feeling of a medieval monastery without attempting to recreate any single site.
Within The Cloisters are four reconstructed medieval cloisters – the Cuxa Cloister, Trie Cloister, Bonnefont Cloister, and St. Guilhem Cloister – that give the museum its name.
Located in northern Manhattan, The Cloisters is a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Cloisters is the only museum in the United Stated dedicated solely to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.