Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014
When, in 1925, the Metropolitan Museum purchased the building and collection amassed by George Grey Barnard that he had named "The Cloisters," its stewardship was given to Joseph Breck, then chief curator of the Decorative Arts Department. As the first director of The Cloisters museum and gardens, he oversaw a new installation of the collection, the electrification of the galleries, and the laying of garden spaces. But his greatest charge was coordinating the design of an entirely new building, funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in what is now Fort Tryon Park.
Posted: Friday, September 5, 2014
On my walks to and from work, I have often noted how people from the neighborhoods surrounding The Cloisters museum and gardens gather in the evenings in Fort Tryon Park to watch the sun as it dips below the Palisades to the west. People jogging, pushing strollers, walking dogs, sitting on benches, or lounging on blankets in the grass are all drawn to the sweeping vistas over the Hudson River. This view, long protected from large-scale development, is now under threat. LG, the Korean electronics company, is in the process of creating a corporate headquarters directly across the river from The Cloisters. In this post, I am not only hoping to build greater awareness of this project but am asking people to get involved in convincing LG to revise its plans, which would alter these majestic views for future generations. While this is an issue that we care deeply about at the museum, it also has broader implications for all who come to this corner of Manhattan seeking temporary relief from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014
"The honey bee (apis) is from the heat of the sun. It loves the summer, has a swift heat, and is unable to endure cold…" —Hildegard von Bingen
Posted: Friday, August 22, 2014
To clean or not to clean? That is the question.
The decision whether to clean a work of art is a difficult one for art conservators, as doing so is an irreversible action. Art that has withstood the vicissitudes of time comes to us with surfaces that show their age. While superficial layers may appear dirty, cleaning them sometimes removes information that is relevant to the history of the object. Thus, prior to making any treatment decision, conservators thoroughly study and analyze all aspects of a work of art.
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.
Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014
A midsummer storm sweeping off the Hudson River and lashing the buttresses of The Cloisters is a dramatic sight. Perched on a rocky outcrop with sweeping views across the river to the still-unspoiled Palisades, there is little shelter from the winds that batter the walls. This summer, we decided to strengthen our defenses against the gales and lightning with a little bit of medieval protection.
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.
Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
The Cloisters Summer College Internship is a nine-week program for undergraduate students. Every summer, eight interns—selected from more than two hundred applicants—receive intensive training in museum education techniques at The Cloisters museum and gardens, where they conduct gallery workshops for five weeks with New York City day campers.
Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014
In the Middle Ages, the diet of the wealthy, while plentiful, was nutritionally bereft compared to that of the common people. Those with the means feasted on meat seasoned with exotic and costly spices and wheat bread. The lighter and fresher the bread, the higher one's station in life. High-protein, low-gluten rye bread made from rye (Secale cereale) was fit only for the lowest. Rye was considered such humble food that Carthusian monks would take as a penance a hard tort made of the poorest-quality rye to symbolize their station in life as "Christ's beggars" (Henisch, 158); it was considered second rate to wheat and barley. Nonetheless, and despite its inauspicious beginnings, rye went from minor cultivation in the early Middle Ages to a staple food of temperate Europe in the ensuing centuries.
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.