Showing posts with label Metropolitan Museum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Metropolitan Museum. Show all posts

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Medieval exhibitions in New York

I am currently on vacation in the New York area, and thus I had a chance to explore the museums of New York City a little bit. As always, there are plenty of medieval things on offer here - the following is my recommendation to lovers of medieval art (you can have a look at what NYC had to offer last summer in my earlier post).

The Corvinus dish. Metropolitan Museum 
The Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to medieval art, opened 75 years ago, in 1938. To celebrate the anniversary, there is a special exhibition there, titled Search for the Unicorn. The focus of the exhibition is the most famous set of objects in The Cloisters: the Unicorn tapestries. The exhibition, consiting of about forty works drawn mainly from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, provides an overview of the subject of unicorns in medieval and Renaissance art and belief. One of the highlights for me was a well-known piece, the magnificent Corvinus-dish with the coat of arms of Matthias Corvinus and his wife, Beatrice of Aragon, showing the unicorn and a maiden. The dish - along with related pieces in the Victoria and Albert Museum and at Berkeley - was made in Pesaro, likely for the wedding of Matthias and Beatrice in 1476. Another object of Hungarian connection on view was a bone saddle from the series generally associated with King Sigismund's Order of the Dragon.

While the exhibition itself is not too large - and the focus of it is part of the permanent display of the Cloisters - it was good to see that the renovation and reinstallation of the Cloisters galleries is now complete, and the works can be enjoyed in wonderful circumstances.

Jean Barbet: Angel, 1475
The Frick Collection 
Accross Central Park from the Metropolitan Museum, at the Bard Graduate Center, a special exhibition also drawn from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum can be seen, dedicated to Georges Hoentschel. Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art focuses on Hoentschel as a collector and a ceramic artist. The highlight of the exhibition is his collection, which entered the Metropolitan Museum as a gift of J. Pierpont Morgan in the early twentieth century, and consist largely of medieval objects. This section displays medieval artworks, including sculpture, ivories, and metalwork, and includes one of the finest surviving examples of French Limoges enamelwork: a twelfth-century reliquary container. The most dramatic object, however, is on loan from The Frick Collection: a large bronze angel from Lyon, dated 1475. The exhibition is on view until Aug. 11.


Elevation of the Eucharist, detail from the Della Rovere Missal
Italy, Rome, ca. 1485–90
The Morgan Library & Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum presents and exhibition of medieval manuscripts, titled Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art. According to the website, "featuring more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, Illuminating Faith offers glimpses into medieval culture, and explores the ways in which artists of the period depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society." The exhibition features some of the highlights of the Morgan Library's collection, such as the Stefaneschi Missal or the Farnese Hours, as well as a few medieval liturgical objects. A selection of objects is available on the website. You can read more about the exhibition in the Huffington Post. I would like to mention that a manuscript made in Buda (Hungary) is on display as well: the Kálmáncsehi Breviary and Missal, dating from 1481 (MS G.7).

Finally, I would like to call attention to one exhibition which I have missed: Writing the Word: A Selection of Medieval Latin Biblical Manuscripts in Columbia Collections was on display in Butler Library at Columbia University, until July 5. The exhibition featured codices and fragments from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML) and the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. The manuscripts, which span the period from the eighth to the fifteenth century, demonstrated the range of scripts, formats, and versions in which the Latin Bible circulated during the western European Middle Ages.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Medieval and Renaissance exhibitions in NYC

Even though New York obviously has no original medieval buildings (except for those built into The Cloisters), the City is home to wonderful collections of medieval art. The Metropolitan Museum houses the largest and best collection of medieval art in the US, much of it on display in the main building, while many more are on view at The Cloisters, the branch of the museum devoted to the European Middle Ages. The Morgan Library and the New York Public Library house hundreds of valuable medieval illuminated manuscripts. (To see how many objects from medieval Hungary these collections hold, have a look at my preliminary checklist). I had a chance to spend two days in New York this past week - instead of these permament collections, I seeked out some Medieval and Renaissance exhibitions, which I will briefly describe below.

St. Mark preaching - Ivory panel from the
so-called Grado Chair, 7th-8th c.
First on my list was the Byzantium and Islam exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum, which actually closes today. This large exhibition is part of a series of shows curated by Helen C. Evans and dedicated to Byzantine Culture (a series which acutually started with Kurt Weitzmann's 1977 exhibition titled The Age of Spirituality). The two earlier exhibitions - “The Glory of Byzantium” in 1997 and “Byzantium: Faith and Power” in 2004 - focused on later periods of Byzantine art (the Middle Byzantine period and the last centuries of the Byzantine empire, respectively), while the current exhibition goes back to the early centuries of Byzantium, exploring the vast southern part of the Empire. The focus is on the diverse cultural traditions (Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Jewish, etc.) and on the emergence of a new force in the region: Islam. The exhibition is arranged thematically, surveying first religious art of the Byzantine empire, then focusing on themes of secular art (such as commerce or dress), finishing with Islamic religious art. The website of the museum gives a very good overview of the material on view, and more in-depth information is provided by tthe accompanying blog.

While the earlier exhibitions mainly focused on highlights of Byzantine art - icons, luxury manuscripts, goldsmith works - and on the connections of Byzantium with western Europe and Latin Christianity, this exhibition was quite different. The exhibition looked to the Eastern and Southern neighbours of Byzantium, and raised a number of very interesting and novel questions about cultural transfer and the co-existence of different traditions. Naturally, the show also includes a number of truly spectacular items: such as the famous Rabbula Gospels from 586 or the wonderful ivories of the so-called Grado Chair. The narrative was clear, and the display - as always at the Met - was wonderfully arranged. Overall, however, I was not quite as impressed with this exhibition as with the 1997 "Glory of Byzantium" - the wonderful display of icons from the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai remains a vivid memory to this day from the earlier exhibition. Due to political circumstances, no loans arrived from Egypt this time. These objects, however, are included in the catalogue - their presence would have definitely made the whole exhibition different.

Head of a man.
Bohemian, 1360-1380 

Currently, there is one more exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum focusing on Medieval and Renaissance art: titled Dürer and Beyond, it displays Central European Drawings, 1400–1700. It starts with a few beautiful Bohemian drawings, well-known from the Prague: The Crown of Bohemia exhibition (2005). In other parts of the museum, there are additional special displays, including the Rylands Haggadah (mid 14th c., Catalonia), Renaissance illuminations from the Robert Lehman Collection, and a handful of Northern Italian paintings from the Accademia Carrara at Bergamo.





Saturday, July 09, 2011

Museums of Medieval Art

My recent visit to the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne got me thinking about museums focusing mainly on medieval art. I decided to make a brief list of such museums, with direct links to their collection databases - thousands of medieval artworks can be discovered this way.

Reliquary ('Ursulabüste'),
Museum Schnütgen, Köln 
Let's start with the Schnütgen Museum, then (Museum Schnütgen, Köln). Located in the Romanesque church of St. Cecilia, this 100 year old museum received a complete makeover, completed last year. The new entrance opens from a large hall, which is in the new building erected for the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, a museum of world cultures. The collection of the Schnütgen Museum consists largely of Christian religious objects, ranging from the Early Christian period to the Baroque, with a strong focus on sculpture, liturgical textiles and stained glass from Cologne and the Rheinland. There is no full collection database online, and the English version of the website only provides basic information. The website however does provide a good overview of chief works on display. An audioguide to the museum is available for download - although I don't know what its purpose is without the artworks.




Lady with the Unicorn,
Musée Cluny, Paris
Maybe the most famous of all medieval art museums is the Musée Cluny in Paris - officially the Musée national du Moyen Age. Located in the building of the Gallo-Roman thermes and the 15th century Hôtel de Cluny, and surrounded by a medieval garden, visiting this museum is a unique experience. The collection ranges from late Antiquity to the late Middle Ages, and includes exceptional goldsmith works, stone sculptures from Parisian churches - such as the Notre-Dame, as well as the famous Unicorn tapestries. There is a brief overview of the collection on the museum's website, but a lot more objects and images can be found through the photo agency of the Réunion des musées nationaux (where you can search for specific objects, but also by selecting the museum on the search form). The Museum's objects are also incorporated into the French national art database, Joconde. You can select the Musée Cluny directly, or search for thousands of other medieval objects in various French collection. In addition, a fascinating resource on the museum is also available online: the catalogue of 13th century sculptures (Les sculptures du XIIIe siècle du musée de Cluny).


The Unicorn in Captivity
The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum
The only similar museum to the Musée Cluny is on the other side of the Atlantic, in Manhattan: The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Housed in a large pseudo-medieval structure, which contains actual chapels and cloisters shipped over from Europe, this is one of the finest collections of medieval art anywhere. The website of the Metropolitan Museum provides a lot of information on The Cloisters, and also on the medieval department, including a selection of works on view. The collection is rich in sculptures of all kind, goldsmith works, manuscripts and also includes another set of Unicorn tapestries. You can search these objects in the museum's Collection Database, which is continually growing. If you select The Cloisters from the list of collections, 2300 objects can be browsed at present (about half of which are on view). Selecting the Collection of Medieval Art from the list yields an incredible further 6700 medieval objects in the database.

You can also download the Metropolitan Museum's Resource for Educators on Medieval Art. 



I would like to mention that many other American museums made their collections accessible online. For medieval art, I would particularly recommend the database of the The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (see also the manuscripts there!) and that of The Cleveland Museum of Art, with 1214 works online.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Detail views of Salgó chalices at the Metropolitan

The Metropolitan Museum has just made available a number of detail photographs of the two medieval chalices which had recently entered the museum from the Salgó collection. Both chalices date from the mid-15th century, and are decorated with a special technique very popular in late medieval Hungary: the so called filigree-enamel. In this special variation of the cloisonné enamel, the fields of enamel are applied inside loops and shapes of filigree wire attached to the surface of the objects. You can read about medieval enameling techniques in this article (pdf) by David Buckton of the British Museum.
The two chalices are now described on the Metropolitan website as of "Central European" origin. However, the technique and details of both chalices - which can be studies on these photographs - makes their Hungarian origin quite certain - there is plenty of comparative material available, such as this chalice. More information could be gleaned from the coat of arms on the foot of one chalice, and the inscription on the cup of the other.


These are the links to the object pages:


I wrote about the Salgó collection before in two previous posts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hungarian goldsmith objects enter the Metropolitan Museum, part II.

I could not resist - I have to include here a few other superb objects from the Salgó collection. All these have been published before in the catalog of the collection, and now appear in the Collection database of the Metropolitan Museum, as outlined in my previous post.

First here is this beautiful 16th century Hungarian belt buckle, decorated with pearls and rubies:

Belt buckle from the Salgó collection
Metropolitan Museum, 2010.110.1

Then there is a nice late 16th century silver-gilt tankard from Transylvania, made by the goldsmith Gregorius Gunesch (Nagyszeben/Hermannstadt/Sibiu). It is not illustrated in the collection database, the picture below is from the 1996 catalog.

Silver-gilt tankard from the Salgó collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010.110.6


Somewhat later is one of my favorite pieces from the Salgó-collection, a spice canister from 1681, commissioned by Michael Teleki, chancellor of Mihály Apafi, Prince of Transylvania. Once again the image below is from the 1996 catalog - a brief description is given by the Metropolitan Museum collection database.

Spice canister from the Salgó collection
Metropolitan Museum, 2010.110.39

There is a lot more in the collection. I will give an update here, once more images will be added to the collection database of the museum.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hungarian goldsmith objects enter the Metropolitan Museum

Chalice with filigree enamel
Hungary, 1462
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

One of the most important collection of Hungarian goldsmith works outside Hungary was assembled by financier Nicolas M. Salgó, former US ambassador in Budapest. Salgó collected all kinds of Hungarian art; his painting collection was donated to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in 2006, as you can read here.

Most important, however, is his collection of Hungarian silver, which was cataloged by an expert from the Hungarian National Museum, Judit H. Kolba. The handsome English-language catalog was first published in 1996, and is still in print (Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996): see here.

The collection includes two superb medieval chalices from Hungary, both coming from the Viennese collection of Nathaniel Rothschild. One of them, dating from 1462, can bee seen on the left. Both chalices are decorated with filigree enamel, a technique which came to prominence at the Hungarian court of King Sigismund during 1420s.



In 2010, much of the collection entered the Metropolitan Museum of art, as "Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo". No press release has been issued about the transfer of the objects, but most objects already appear in the collection database. 83 objects are listed in the collection of the department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. If you go to the main search page of the museum, entering "Salgo" will provide you with the full list of these - although not all objects are illustrated at this stage. You can find beautiful objects here, such as this 17th century coconut cup seen on the right.