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.
Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014
The Cloisters museum and gardens will be decorated for the holidays through January 6. Today's post is intended to provide historical context for the designs, explain how the decorations are made, and to entice readers to visit and see them in person.
Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014
Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014
Christmastide, the medieval celebration of Christmas, provides us with the opportunity to decorate The Cloisters with traditional materials to celebrate the season. As regular visitors and readers know, the decorative designs and elements are based on medieval evidence and are fabricated almost entirely from fresh seasonal materials. Among them is the familiar hazelnut.
Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014
Every curator, at one point or another, has to grapple with questions of provenance. In the case of medieval stone sculpture, works often come to us in fragmentary states, roughly removed from their original sites during revolutionary events, or cautiously salvaged from monuments that have not been cared for over time. Conservators, scientists, and art historians often collaborate to solve questions of geographic origin and attribution.
Posted: Thursday, November 13, 2014
But if you let the gourd stay
Enjoying the summer sun on its parent tree and only
set your blade to it late in the year, then after scooping
the flesh from its ponderous belly and shaving the sides
on a nimble lathe, you can put it to practical use as a vessel.
A pint this mighty paunch will sometimes hold, sometimes half a gallon or more; and if you seal your jar with gummy pitch it will keep wine good for many a day.
Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014
Levant cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) is a beautiful plant. I was quickly charmed by its flawless, creamy white flowers, which bloom in our Medieval Artists and Craftsmen bed through the summer months. This economically important fiber plant belongs to the Mallow family (Malvaceae), and is a relative of some of my garden favorites, like the hollyhock (Alcea rosea) and common mallow (Malva sylvestris), both of which are medieval and grown in the medicinal bed.