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, April 23, 2015
Last summer, in mid-July, I was handed the once-fragrant fruit of our mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), and it was bursting with seeds that were ready to be sown. This was my opportunity to propagate the legendary plant depicted in Pan's Labyrinth and Harry Potter.
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, April 9, 2015
The winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) has just revealed its cheerful, yellow blooms. Most years, winter aconite is one of the earliest winter-blooming bulbs, appearing in January and February, but this year's cold temperatures have delayed its arrival.
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015
Although the vernal equinox is mere days away, this week is our first taste of spring. For most people, the start of spring is a celebrated event that signals longer days and warmer temperatures. In medieval Europe, spring was considered a highly auspicious time; in many parts of Western Europe, it marked the beginning of a new year and included one of the most important occasions, the Feast of the Annunciation (see "Lady Day" [March 25, 2011] on The Medieval Garden Enclosed).
Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015
In the course of the last three months, we have had the privilege of exhibiting the Winchester Bible—one of the masterpieces of medieval painting—and seeing it reunited with the Morgan Leaf, one of most spectacular paintings from the year 1200 and originally part of the Bible. Because of the possibility of displaying multiple openings of volume one of the Bible and three bi-folios of volume two—currently in the midst of conservation treatment and rebinding—one was able to compare and contrast the multiple artists who created this special work.
Posted: Thursday, March 5, 2015
Today, visitors to The Cloisters museum and gardens marvel at precious works of gold, silver, and ivory in the Treasury. But this richly furnished gallery was not part of the original design of The Cloisters. It owes its inception to two individuals: Museum Curator James Rorimer and the art dealer Joseph Brummer (both pictured above).
Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The Cloisters Library and Archives is pleased to announce that it has completed processing the papers of one of the Museum's founding figures, curator William H. Forsyth (1907–2003). The finding aid can be found on the Digital Collections site.
Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2015
The team of artists producing the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, were among the most original and inventive in Europe before 1200. The display of the Bible within the Museum's collection of contemporary medieval works enhances the picture of the larger setting and warrants a closer look. The connection between the Winchester Bible and Spain, explored in an earlier blog post, is one of the more fascinating instances of artistic migration. Let's explore three others that look to Burgundy in France, the Meuse Valley in Belgium, and Sicily.
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: Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Each book of the Winchester Bible, on view through March 8, begins with an oversized, decorated first letter called an initial. The initials' decorations vary from fancy foliate designs to narrative scenes framed within the letter itself. The initial prefacing the Winchester Bible's book of Genesis is especially complex in its composition because it serves an extraordinary purpose: to encompass the entire Bible—and with it the entire history of salvation—in a single composition. This ambitious endeavor presents a way of thinking about the Bible that would have been second nature to its original readers, a community of Benedictine monks.