I went to The Cloisters museum today with my Mom. We had a great time; I can’t recommend it enough. It was busy but not too crowded. The collection was small enough to see in a day’s visit, with time out to rest your feet and eat a snack in the cafe (sure can’t say that about the rest of the Met–I’ve been there probably thirty times, and I still haven’t seen everything. There’s just no way).
We didn’t tour all the gardens because the wind coming in off the river was uncomfortably cold, even though the sun was shining. The ones we saw were lovely, however.
I took a bunch of photos with my new camera (Thanks, Mom!). My new camera is a vast improvement over the refurbished Kodak I’ve been using the last few years (I lost my last good camera in Paris).
Here are a few photos. You can click on any one to enlarge.
|Lawn outside of main building|
|Approaching Main Building|
If you look closely, the art of the Middle Ages is full of weird, fantastical, macabre imagery–especially the Northern European stuff. Until the Renaissance, it was a pretty dismal time to be alive, even if you were rich. There was no cultural concept of progress. Renaissance life was no great shakes, either, but at least things started to get interesting.
If you want a crash course in the history and cultural movements of this time period, I recommend two accessible, entertaining, and highly informative books: The Great Mortality, by John Kelly and A World Lit Only by Fire, by William Manchester.
Look at this dragon! It’s really only–12th century? What’s also interesting to me are the angels and animals underneath the dragon. One of them is playing a hard (lyre?) and the angels look almost like sirens:
|See the dancing animals on their hind legs?|
This one is Spanish 13th Century. Artistically it’s not that great, compared to the other stuff in the collection, but the colors are so bright it looks like it was painted yesterday. Note the bottom panel. The harrowing of hell; Christ raising forth souls from out of the mouth of hell. That is quite a story. It’s almost like a Greek myth.
|LITERALLY “THE MOUTH OF HELL”|
St. George slaying a dragon. Wow, check out what a freaky dragon this is, with all its faces and eyes! If this was in a Church, I would have gone and sat underneath it just so that I could look at it all during the service:
Polytryptich with Nativity–not Dutch, South Lowlands, which would make it Belgian or Flemish, I believe. This was a stunning piece, a religious theme in a contemporaneous secular household setting. The colors were eye-popping:
|Look at this little lap dog! It has bells on its collar!|
|Click to enlarge. His heart is literally full of arrows.|
For my money, there was nothing more entertaining than these colored windows called Silver Stained Roundels. German or from the Lowlands, many of them presented scenes that were gruesome or wickedly funny, intentionally or not. There were also scenes from secular life, which I enjoyed a great deal. I spent way too much time examining these. Click any one to enlarge.
|Entitled “CAREFREE IN POVERTY.” Tell me the artist wasn’t in on the joke.|
|Death kills a peasant, a prince, and a pope. He got a lot of animals, too. Death is a democrat!|
|Netting pheasant! I LOVE THIS ONE! See how they did it back then? That guy is standing behind a board with an ox painted on it and herding the pheasant into the net! And the castle and hills in the background!|
|A BOOKBURNING! Yeah! Burn those expensive, precious books almost nobody can read in 1350! GOOD IDEA!|
|Souls in hell. Check out those gnarly monsters. And the hot babe.|
|Temptation of St. Anthony|
|Entitled “Three Apes Assembling a Trestle Table.” Uh, what?|