Tim Husband is a curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters.
Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2016
Readers unfamiliar with early European playing cards will be surprised by their total lack of uniformity. In the English-speaking world, all decks of ordinary playing cards comprise fifty-two cards in four suits—Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs, ranked in that order—with Kings, Queens, and Jacks as face cards and number (or "pip") cards from 10 through 2. Instead of a 1, there is an Ace, which has the highest value. Additionally, there are two Jokers, which are used in some games and not in others.
Posted: Thursday, January 21, 2016
The Cloisters Playing Cards, one of which is illustrated above, are the focus of the small but exciting exhibition The World in Play: Luxury Cards, 1430–1540 (January 20–April 17, 2016). Alongside them are examples from the only other hand-painted decks of cards to have survived from the late Middle Ages, together with playing cards from the earliest engraved and luxury woodblock decks. This blog series on In Season will explore the history and uses of the rare medieval playing cards in the exhibition.
Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015
The Cloisters museum and gardens came relatively late to the collection of late medieval glass vessels. The reasons are twofold: first, because very few of these objects have survived—they were everyday household objects, and fragile ones at that—and second, because collectors and scholars were slow to appreciate the elegant simplicity and skillful fabrication of these modest, utilitarian objects. The first glass vessel entered The Cloisters Collection in 1977 and, like all those to follow, was a product of the German-speaking world of central Europe, a vast region that supported an extensive glass-making industry. The three recent acquisitions discussed here significantly enhance the collection's holdings of these appealing tablewares.
Posted: Thursday, October 2, 2014
Caleb Leech, managing horticulturalist at The Cloisters museum and gardens, recently wrote a post for In Season entitled "Successful Secale," in which he discussed the use of rye (Secale cereale) in the Middle Ages. Rye was considered humble and undesirable during Roman and early medieval times, but because it thrived in poor soil and harsh conditions, it became widespread throughout Europe and was considered the basis of an excellent bread by the fourteenth century. Its widespread use, however, brought darker consequences—which will be shown in highlighting another object from The Cloisters Collection.
Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2014
Once every month or so, we'll post about a recent addition to The Cloisters Collection. This month, we'll take a look at a large glass dish with painted decoration.