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: 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: 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: Friday, February 13, 2015
After trudging to work through Fort Tryon Park in the morning after a heavy snowfall, the first thing I do is grab my camera and head straight to some of my favorite spots in The Cloisters museum and gardens. First, up to the top of the tower to look out over the park, the river, and the George Washington Bridge.
Posted: Thursday, February 5, 2015
The Cloisters museum and gardens has many devotees, but I wonder how many of its visitors know about the Glencairn Museum, located in Bryn Athyn, just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Glencairn, like The Cloisters, is home to an excellent collection of medieval art on view in a building inspired by medieval architecture. As a current Met fellow and former Glencairn fellow, I have had ample opportunity to study the histories of these two marvelous collections, both of which took shape during the early twentieth century. Together they constitute an important chapter in the story of collecting medieval art in the United States, and I am continually impressed by the close relationship between them.
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015
"How do you get to The Cloisters?" For me and the two full-time gardeners charged with the care of Fort Tryon Park's sixty-seven acres of forest and two historic gardens, this is the question we are asked the most. Our answer changes from season to season: the paths don't move, but the flowers do, and we always guide visitors through the most beautiful experience the season offers.
Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015
In the midst of ice and wind, I retreat to the warmth of the indoors at The Cloisters museum and gardens. I long for growth, and daydream about the upcoming spring. And I write about color now to invigorate myself against a possible winter slump.
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: Friday, January 9, 2015
The details that artists choose to embellish in their works offer a small glimpse into what they value. Such is the case with the Gerard David (ca. 1455–1523) painting The Nativity with Donors and Saints Jerome and Leonard, shown above. I examined this Nativity scene in the course of my research on the important plant stuffs associated with the medieval Christmastide feast. In this case, the sheaf of wheat as a symbol of the Eucharist was the object of my attention, but what piqued my curiosity was the variety of flora illustrated in the cracks of the walls.
Posted: Friday, January 2, 2015
The Belles Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry, is an extraordinary illuminated manuscript and one of the great treasures of The Cloisters Collection. It is also relevant to the holiday season, as a few of its astonishingly beautiful illuminations depict scenes from the Christmas story.