Christina Alphonso is the administrator at The Cloisters museum and gardens.
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.
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.
Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015
The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, is an extraordinary illuminated manuscript and one of the great treasures of The Cloisters Collection. It is also relevant to the holiday season, as a few of its astonishingly beautiful illuminations depict scenes from the Christmas story.
Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The Cloisters museum and gardens will be decorated for the holidays through January 6. Today's post is intended to provide historical context for the designs, explain how the decorations are made, and to entice readers to visit and see them in person.
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014
Christmastide, the medieval celebration of Christmas, provides us with the opportunity to decorate The Cloisters with traditional materials to celebrate the season. As regular visitors and readers know, the decorative designs and elements are based on medieval evidence and are fabricated almost entirely from fresh seasonal materials. Among them is the familiar hazelnut.
Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2014
I have borrowed an evocative description of the season from the great English Romantic poet John Keats. His "Ode to Autumn" (see below) was written in September 1819 and published the following year, and it serves as an elegy to his career as a poet. Keats's personification of autumn reveals the progression from the ripening of summer fruit to the fall harvest, the fading of spring birdsong to the bleating of mature lambs.
Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Recent posts by Michael Carter and a special seventy-fifth anniversary Bulletin by Timothy B. Husband introduced readers to a pivotal yet seldom-recognized figure in the formative years of The Cloisters museum and gardens—Joseph Henry Breck (1885–1933). The basic layout of the galleries and gardens of The Cloisters is primarily due to Breck's close collaboration with the architect Charles Collens, and their final plans provide coherence when the museum and gardens are seen as a whole. Sadly, Breck died suddenly in 1933 and never saw his plans realized. In addition to his formidable talents as an art historian, Breck was also a skilled artist, contributing many illustrations to the Harvard Lampoon during his undergraduate years. His watercolors and pencil sketches serve as visual evidence of his inspirations and thought processes while planning The Cloisters. While Breck's curatorial training and career are well documented, his interest in gardens is not.
Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014
Emily Dickinson was a passionate gardener as well as an accomplished poet, and nature provided her with a lifelong source of inspiration.
Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014
The scope of architectural treasures at The Cloisters museum and gardens extends beyond our extraordinary medieval collection and includes work by the modern-day Samuel Yellin Metalworker studio. In fact, most visitors enter The Cloisters through spaces enhanced by Samuel Yellin (1884–1940), who played a major role in the American Arts and Crafts movement, both as a designer and metalworker. He was extraordinarily prolific, working alternately on an intimate or monumental scale, for private homes or large institutions, in fanciful or restrained styles.