I don’t know how today could have been better. After I bombed choosing the comedy club and restaurant, I encouraged Dwayne to plan our Friday. He chose the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is quite a bit north and very different. Like the Met, it is situated in beautiful gardens, but that is where the similarities end.
First, it took 3 train transfers to get there, but we got off at 190th and the world changed.
Just to relate it back to Hamilton, there’s a lyric that repeats a few times after Phillip’s death, It’s quiet uptown, and it was hard not to hum it as we opened up into a quiet park full of the block walls Dwayne and I favor.
We walked through Tryon Park, a beautiful hill Rockefeller, Jr. liked so much that he bought it, helped build the Cloisters, purchased most of the medieval art for it, and then donated it. God bless Rockefeller!
The Met proper has so many objects that any one gallery (of the 400!) could make your head explode. The Cloisters had several rooms, but you wouldn’t need to take off a second shoe to count them all. And most of the art is architectural, which meant a lot of the rooms were works of art without further adornment. This included doors, stained glass windows, and, ahem, entire rooms.
The Chapters, where monks would congregate for daily meetings and readings of a chapter of the Benedictine’s handbook for being a monk (or similarly entitled), was taken from Europe and reassembled here, with only the floor being new.
Similarly, this Romanesque Apse was also taken down brick by brick in France and rebuilt here.
You can barely see the door in the right of the picture above. That door was originally on a older church (1100AD, give or take a century) until it was removed to put in another door. Supposedly it got moved around and around until it was found lying unloved in a field in France.
Here’s a quick architecture lesson, ducklings. Romanesque buildings have semi-circular arches. Look in that last pictures. Very Romanesque—you should be able to count 8 arches in that shot. That was earlier medieval.
Here’s another example:
Then medieval went Gothic.
I always think of Gothic as gargoyles, and there certainly is an aspect of elaborate, slightly twisted to Gothic. But especially in architecture, it meant using new methods (like flying buttresses) to make a building’s skeleton narrow. Cathedrals now were able to point up to heaven. Windows, doors, ceilings all come to a point rather than the semi-circle that Romanesque does. It meant significant amount of walls being taken up with windows (compared to Romanesque structures, at least), and so much lighter.
You can see a strong Gothic influence on this decorative Virgin Mary box—about the size of a toaster.
Kyla, do you remember one of the first artists we read about in your art book last year? It was about 3 teenage brothers who made marvelous illuminated books? This is by those brothers:
The books are some of my favorite medieval treasures.
I won’t—can’t—show you everything but here are a few articles that stood out.
This tapestry was less religious than most of medieval art, but still has saints and other Christian symbols mixed in the lords and ladies it represented. It looks in terrible shape (it is about 800 year old cloth!), but its history included being cut up to make curtains!
This was a choir chair. Like theater chairs, they can be folded upright or left down. When it is up, the seat has a bit of a leaning post on it, as choir boys had to stand for long times and needed to lean against something. The funny face? Just a bit of levity, I believe!
I just thought this was a marvelous carving. His face is beautiful in its realism.
Unicorns are a huge part of medieval themes. First of all, the unicorn was supposed to have all sorts of magical power (being able to purify water with a touch of its horn, for one). Secondly, it was a symbol of Christ—pure and strong. The Unicorn room had several tapestries. Just this room alone probably makes the Cloisters priceless.
But I thought the narwhal horn here in the corner was amazing. It’s about 8 feet long, and was thought to be a unicorn horn hundreds of years ago (probably not by the person who sold it as such, though!).
Daddy and I were most enchanted by the cloisters (the covered walkways) and the courtyard gardens. The entire cloisters were naturally uncrowded, peaceful places, again in contrast to the Met proper, and this time of year, smelled divine.
Here’s a 5 minute video of the Cloisters, if you wanted more.
From the outdoor draped ceilings accented with chandeliers to the fancy food, he was quite pleased with himself.
Between happy hour and dinner there (yes, we did both), we explored more of the Heather Garden and Fort Tryon. I know my ducklings would have enjoyed exploring this park with us!
We had a great plan (and it was Daddy’s so it was supposed to work well) to take the subway to the north end of Central Park, rent Citi Bikes, and ride to the south end, close to our hotel. However, all the north end Citi Bike lots were “coming soon”, as opposed to the south end where they are ubiquitous.
Central Park is about 1/2 mile wide and 2.6 miles long…with no straight paths. Dwayne and I walked the entire park, slightly by accident, and with lots of zigzagging.
But the sunset was beautiful, and there are so many pockets of joy in Central Park. Even with all the walking we did tonight, we saw only the most obvious landmarks. It would take real dedication to know this entire park well, which means there will always be a surprise…if you are willing to walk for it!
This time tomorrow, we’ll be landing in Seattle. See you soon, beloved children.