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A Cloisters in New York

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I have long been a huge fan of medieval art. It was probably through my love of medieval art... which broke many of the "rules" of Western Art from the Renaissance through the late-19th century (with regard to illusionism/realism) that first led me to an appreciation of Modernism. I found that if I could recognize that the "expressive" distortions of a Romanesque sculpted figure or the "flatness" of a medieval Iberian painting or book illumination were not the result of a lack of skill or proof of the primitive nature of these cultures, then I could recognize... and appreciate the same characteristics in a painting by Matisse, Klee, Picasso, etc... I have tried to visit New York to see the Met and the great medieval collection every year... especially around the holidays... however, I must admit that the "Cloisters"... an entire monastery structure moved from France brick by brick to New York... and devoted to medieval art... is the one major New York art museum (it is actually part of the Met, but located far further uptown) that I have never been to. I need to rectify that ASAP.

My particular favorites among medieval art would have to include Romanesque sculpture (like the Madonna in the slide show)... which I find incredibly expressive in its distortions/abstractions:

This figure of Eve, by the great sculptor, Giselbertus (possibly the first artist to have proudly signed his work) is but one of the vast collection of sculptural works he carved for the Romanesque cathedral at Autun.

I also love Byzantine art... especially the marvelous mosaic works that are often hidden inside the most modest looking chapels in Ravenna (and elsewhere):

Of course the cathedrals themselves were the central artworks... the central focus of all the creative activities... in the medieval societies. These works strike me as absolutely amazing... the product of the combined efforts of numerous artists, craftsmen, artisans, etc... working toward a single common spiritual goal:

My absolute obsession among medieval art, however, is the "illuminated manuscripts". These hand-painted and written books are among some of the greatest artistic achievements known. Included among these I would count the Book of Kells (I am quite familiar with most of the images that you sent me):

The Commentaries on the Apocalypse from the Paris Psalter:

... any number of Mozarabic (Arab-Andalusian) Apocalypses:

... and the absolutely brilliant Tres Riches Heures by the Limbourg Brothers:

I was hoping to get to the Cloisters this summer to see famous Unicorn Tapestries:

But with massive layoffs and the threat of a strike looming in the not so distant future, any such unnecessary spending is out of the question.


  1. Virgil's Avatar
    Now that's more what I like. The Met does have a great medival section. I'm ashamed to say I've never been up to the Cloisters. I keep telling myself I need to go but I never do. If you come to NYC perhaps we can meet there and both go for the first time.

    Which cathedral is the first one? It looks familiar but I can't quite place it.
  2. qimissung's Avatar
    Is it, perhaps, Chartres? The art is, as usual, magnificent.
  3. stlukesguild's Avatar
    The first church (the interior view) is Galla Placidia from Ravenna, Italy during the Byzantine era. The first cathedral (with all the exterior mosaics work)... from which the interior view of the rafters comes as well... is the Cathedral of Sienna, Italy. I would expect Virgil to know that one. It is one of the most stunning buildings of Europe. The French Gothic cathedral is that of Rheims. My intensive art history courses demanded that I could discern Rheims from Amien from Chartres from Notre Dame de Paris from Rouen from Strasbourg from Salisbury etc... from both the exterior and interior views! I can still recognize one from the other from the exterior... but the interior is another matter altogether. The stained glass window, by the way, is from Chartres.
  4. Virgil's Avatar
    I've never been to Sienna unfortunately (and amazingly my wife has without me ) but that church does have a Tuscan look to it. Churches are glorious structures. You know i have a fascination with lighthouses because of the diversity of pattern given form and function, but it has just occured to me that churches are even more diverse and creative within their form and function. One realizes something new every day on lit net.