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Barbara Drake Boehm

Barbara Drake Boehm is the Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters.

In Season

Reclaiming Saint James

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, July 31, 2015

In 2014, over two hundred thousand enthusiasts walked at least part of the road to the shrine of Saint James in northern Spain, and more than two-and-a-half million visited the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. My more energetic colleagues at The Cloisters lead organized trips to Santiago on behalf of the Museum, and the Met produced Journey to Saint James: A Pilgrim's Guide (1993), a film about the pilgrimage, in the 1990s.

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In Season

Founding Father

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, June 12, 2015

At the heart of the Saint-Guilhem Cloister lies the heavily embroidered legend of the man who founded it—Saint William (Guilhem in the local Occitan dialect). A painted coffret on loan to The Cloisters depicts an early and colorful episode of his story; the stone cloister reflects the final, more sober chapter of the life of Guilhem.

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In Season

In the Nick of Time

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014

All around the world, the Feast of Saint Nicholas is celebrated in December. So why would I choose to write about "jolly old Saint Nick" this summer? Because two stories from the legend of this saintly bishop, both dealing with innocent young people who are in danger, have become suddenly and unexpectedly resonant for me.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

High Ground

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012

In previous posts, we discussed the origins of chess in India centuries ago. For the final post of this blog, we turn to modern-day India, where chess remains as popular as ever.

The city of Banaras (or Varanasi), in Uttar Pradesh, India, is holy to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It is sometimes celebrated as the "City of Temples," of "Learning," or of "Lights." Located on the banks of the Ganges, it is also subject to relentless flooding.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

End Game

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chess games are sometimes accurately represented in works of art, but that is not always the case. Consider, for example, this curiously theatrical photograph from the mid-nineteenth century.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

War Games

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Allusions to chess appear frequently in the news these days. Alas, these pertain not to art, but rather to what is sometimes perversely called the "art" of war. One recent editorial refers to the excruciating "game of regional chess over Syrian tragedy" (New Age, March 6, 2012, online edition). Another editorial, in The Huffington Post, was entitled "Syria: Three-Level Chess Game" (February 8, 2012).

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Boarded Up

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2012

The Metropolitan Museum owns more than forty chessboards dating from the Renaissance through the twentieth century; some private collectors have hundreds of boards. Medieval chessboards, on the other hand, rarely survive in any collection, and our knowledge of them depends largely on written sources. While some legends focus uniquely on the fact that they were big and heavy enough to be wielded as lethal weapons (see "An Epic Battle"), more nuanced information can be also gleaned from literature, from chess treatises, and from princely inventories.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Finding a Mate

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012

Who would have thought there could be a connection between chess and Valentine's Day? Growing up, my image of chess pretty much corresponded to the Thomas Eakins painting shown above: graying gentlemen gathered around a table in a dimly lit sitting room, with only a glass of port to warm things up. Indeed, as a game that focuses on battle strategy (see "An Epic Battle"), chess seemed to me to be pretty much "a guy thing."

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

Carving Out a Collection

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012

With the purchase of the Lewis Chessmen in 1831, the British Museum created, overnight, the single-most important collection of medieval chess pieces in the world, its holdings rivaled only by the Cabinet des médailles of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, which houses the famed "Charlemagne" chessmen. So rich is the treasure from the Isle of Lewis that the British Museum was able to lend enough pieces to re-create a famous chess game for our current exhibition while retaining a substantial number of pieces on display in London.

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The Game of Kings Exhibition Blog

All Set

Barbara Drake Boehm, Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For centuries, chess sets have been crafted from a wide range of materials. The Metropolitan's collection of chess pieces, numbering in the hundreds, ranges geographically from Persia to the United States, and chronologically from as early as the eighth to the twentieth century.

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