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A guide to The Cloisters Museum and Garden

Cloisters Museum is located in a medieval-style building set on top of a cliff in North Manhattan, overlooking the River Hudson. It houses much of the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The site is landscaped with gardens planted according to information suggested by medieval sources, including medieval-style cloistered herb gardens.

History of Cloisters Museum and Gardens

The Cloisters houses historical artefacts from the period twelfth to sixteenth century, from the Romanesque to the Gothic. Many of these are stone carvings and statuary garnered from France by the founder of the collection, sculptor George Grey Barnard, before World War 1. Barnard displayed them in New York, the first medieval collection on public display in the United States, where they came to the attention of John D. Rockefeller Jnr. Eventually, Rockefeller bought the collection and the land, now called Fort Tryon Park, and commissioned architects to design the current building, eventually completed in 1938. The challenge was to incorporate genuine medieval architectural features within a new building, and the use of fragments of cloisters from various European ruins to create the walkways linking the galleries.

Cloisters Museum, tapestries and treasures

Three of the five Cloisters chambers or quadrangles created feature specialist gardens. This is designed to give visitors a sense of the tranquillity of an actual monastic cloister. Information about medieval plants comes from some of the artefacts within the museum, such as the Unicorn Tapestries, where many of the hundred or more plant species depicted have been identified. One of the glories, and most visited exhibits, of the Cloisters collection is the enormous seven-panel tapestry known as 'The Hunt of the Unicorn'. Its history is somewhat obscure, but James Rorimer, first one of the building's interior designers and then curator, believed he had proved them to have been begun around 1499 on the commission of Queen Anne of Brittany. There are other such multi-part tapestries of the story in existence, and this set may include sections from more than one. Their colours have preserved well, and the romance and cultural symbolism of the story enhances their value as beautiful medieval art works. Ivory, gold, and silver objects are also on display at the Cloisters Museum, along with the illuminated manuscripts famously produced in medieval monasteries, and works of art in stained glass and enamel. Sources Stan Parchin (2010) 'The Cloisters Museum and Gardens' in [[Art Museum Journal|http://artmuseumjournal.com/the_cloisters.aspx]] James J. Rorimer (1942) 'The Unicorn Tapestries were made for Anne of Brittany' in Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Summer

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