The Museum's collection of medieval and Byzantine art is among the most comprehensive in the world. Displayed in both the Main Building and in the Metropolitan's branch in northern Manhattan, The Cloisters museum and gardens, the collection encompasses the art of the Mediterranean and Europe from the fall of Rome in the fourth century to the beginning of the Renaissance in the early sixteenth century. It also includes pre-medieval European works of art created during the Bronze Age and early Iron Age.
Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015
In the past few weeks, my colleagues have shared tales from their summer travels. This past summer, I went to France to visit several spectacular sites of Romanesque art and architecture with a group of fellow medieval-art historians.
Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2015
In October, the sound of acorns falling from our oak trees, ricocheting off car roofs and crashing to the cobblestones, steadily and loudly increases. Etymologically, "acorn" is related to the Old English aecer (modern acre), as well as to Old French words for "nut" or "fruits and vegetables." Ultimately, acorn evolved to mean something akin to "fruit of the unenclosed land." Although the term originally referred to the nuts of any tree, we now use the word specifically for the nuts of oak trees.
Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2015
In recent weeks, my colleagues have shared tales from their summer travels. My trip took me to Paris, where I made excursions to several medieval monuments that are experiencing ongoing restoration work, which provides unusual access to see them up close. (Scaffolds are a good thing!) The most exciting visit was to Notre-Dame de Reims, or Reims Cathedral, in the heart of the Champagne region. Not only is it one of the canonic Gothic cathedrals of the thirteenth century, but it is also the subject of the dissertation that I completed some years ago.
Posted: Thursday, October 22, 2015
This fall, several of my colleagues shared tales from their summer travels. My summer adventures took me to paradise. Well, paradise from a medieval perspective. I traveled to Kerala, a coastal state on the southwest tip of India. Kerala is known as the land of spices because of its role as a major producer and exporter of spices for thousands of years.
Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2015
Handmade objects can bring seemingly distant times and places powerfully into the present. This is particularly true for finger rings—readily familiar and still widely worn by men and women—which are especially effective at reaching across the ages. While fashions, techniques, and technologies have changed dramatically over the centuries, the essential ingredients of the finger ring, consisting of the hoop, bezel, and shoulders, have remained the same for millennia.
Posted: Thursday, October 1, 2015
In last week's post, my colleague Christina Alphonso shared a tale from her summer travels. My own adventures beyond The Cloisters led in a different direction. The month of July took me to England, where my colleague Melanie Holcomb and I examined works of art that will be featured in the forthcoming exhibition Jerusalem in the Middle Ages.
Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
One of the most striking aspects of the silk and metal-thread embroideries on view through November 1, 2015, in Liturgical Textiles of the Post-Byzantine World is how labor-intensive they are. One might wonder who devoted so much time and eyestrain to creating these pieces, and at whose behest? Although they form a minority within the body of surviving liturgical embroideries, pieces inscribed with the names of the donor or the embroiderer help scholars to answer these questions.
Posted: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Does anyone else remember the first day back at grade school after summer vacation? My teachers often had the class write an essay detailing what they did over the course of the summer. In the next few posts, several staff members at The Cloisters will present the ways in which we spent our time at work and play this summer. My story begins on seas once crossed by Viking longships.
Posted: Wednesday, September 16, 2015
It's hardly a secret that librarians strongly frown upon the idea of anyone scribbling away and leaving marks inside the books in our collections. However, there are instances where annotations and marginalia can shed light on the thought process of a work's previous owner. Notes and observations handwritten onto the pages of a book can tell us which titles in a personal library most compelled a historical figure, they can elaborate or clarify an author's feelings on a work she'd published years earlier, and they can illuminate what one great author found most notable in the work of another. Even a recent exhibition held at the New York Society Library focused exclusively on interesting annotated items from their collections.
Posted: Friday, September 11, 2015
While summer may be a slow season for some, it is teeming with activity at The Cloisters museum and gardens, especially during the nine weeks of The Cloisters Summer College Internship Program. This intensive program provides training on the Museum and its collection, the contextual background of medieval art, and pedagogy, giving interns the opportunity to conduct workshops for day-camp groups and pursue concentrated research to develop a thematic tour for the general public. Special gallery talks are the final project of this rigorous summer program.