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Press release

Metropolitan Museum to Show Medieval Masterworks from New York City's Morgan Library

For a period of two-and-one-half years beginning this fall, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will display seven superb examples of medieval art from the Morgan Library, while that facility undergoes a major expansion project. The long-term loans include some of the favorite works of the noted financier and collector J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), a past President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. After Morgan's death, nearly 7,000 paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from his astonishing collection were given to the Metropolitan, while his private library – and the illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and Old Master drawings and prints it contained – became The Pierpont Morgan Library. Most of the works that are being lent to the Metropolitan had been kept in Mr. Morgan's study during his lifetime and, since his death, have been displayed in the room with other personal belongings.

All of the loans will be on view in the Metropolitan Museum's Medieval Tapestry Hall until June 2005.

"J. Pierpont Morgan was certainly the greatest collector of medieval art this country has known," commented Peter Barnet, the Metropolitan Museum's Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. "We are particularly pleased to show so many of the important works he prized, and to do so in the Medieval Tapestry Hall, where they will be surrounded by other medieval sculptures and decorative works from his collection. For the duration of the loan, rare and sumptuous works that are usually shown in the setting of Mr. Morgan's private study may be enjoyed in a very different way at the Metropolitan."

The splendid 12th-century Stavelot Triptych (from the Abbey of Stavelot in Belgium) is one of the highlights of the loan. Originally intended to hold relic fragments of the True Cross, this celebrated object is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval goldsmith work, incorporating champlevé enamel, silver, and precious stones in a deluxe setting. The relic of the True Cross is held in a small Byzantine triptych – made of cloisonné enamel on gold – that is the centerpiece of the larger triptych.

The gold and jeweled binding of the Lindau Gospel Book – one of Morgan's most important acquisitions – is without equal in this country. The dazzling upper cover was created in the court workshop of Emperor Charles the Bald (reigned 840-877), grandson of Charlemagne, and incorporates finely worked gold, star sapphires, garnets, emeralds, pearls, and other stones. Scholars believe that the architecture of the frame may allude to the jeweled city of the Heavenly Jerusalem. The exquisite lower cover, made in a German workshop, includes champlevé enamel, silver gilt, topaz, and garnets.

The other works in the loan are the 14th-century portable shrine of Cardinal Bazin, the late-13th-century Klosterneuberg Ciborium, the 13th-century silver gilt relief of a king from Bourges, the highly ornamented 12th-century Malmesbury Ciborium, and the 14th-century Eucharistic casket from Lichtenthal. Housed in the 1906 structure built by McKim Mead & White to serve as J. Pierpont Morgan's private library, the public institution now known as the Morgan Library was founded in 1924. It has embarked on a three-year captial project that is due to be completed in late 2005.

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