Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Cloisters

A couple weeks ago, I left for a long weekend to visit friends in New York City. The most gracious Kai, Meridith and baby Ed hosted my stay in their new home located in East Williamsburg/ Bushwick. I had a red eye out of Seattle, landing early in the morning on a Thursday. I didn’t sleep at all on the plane, so when I finally arrived via the train from the airport, I slept for most of the afternoon. When Kai returned from work that evening, we went to a couple openings in Williamsburg. I’m convinced that the artists I saw performing at Present Co. just wanted to live in Portland.

On Friday, Kai and I went uptown to visit The Cloisters, which houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval art collection. From the Met’s website: “The Cloisters museum and gardens, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, was assembled from architectural elements, both domestic and religious, that date from the twelfth through the fifteenth century.” I had never been to the Cloisters, and having heard about how amazing the collections were for years, I decided it was worth the nearly 80 minute subway ride from Brooklyn.

The Unicorn Tapestries are a must see, and something that had I thought about it more, could have easily made it onto my Things To See Before I Die list. As a child, I was infatuated with unicorns, so at some point, a friendly librarian handed me a book detailing the tapestries. I studied them further in college, in both an Art History survey course and a Medieval Art and Architecture class. It was amazing to finally see these magnificent weavings in person, as reproductions simply cannot match their true splendor. From the Cloister’s brochure:

With brilliant colors, beautiful landscapes, and precise depictions of flora and fauna, these renowned tapestries depicting the hunt and capture of the ythical unicorn are among the most studied and beloved objects in The Cloisters. Probably designed in Paris and woven in Brussels about 1500 for an unknown patron, these hangings blend the secular and sacred worlds of the Middle Ages.

The Cloister gardens were gorgeous, even in the middle of fall. Different plots were dedicated to specific types of herbs, spices, medicinal plants and magical plants. Below, a Downy Thorn Apple is in bloom. Also known as The Horn of Plenty or The Devil’s Trumpet, this is an incredibly toxic plant often used in the creation of poisons during the medieval ages.

Next to the Horn of Plenty grew Deadly Nightshade, another highly toxic plant used in the creation of deadly poisons. In small doses, it produces delirium and hallucinations. Yeah, no big deal.

From the cloisters, Kai and I decided to check out the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The Cathedral houses Keith Haring’s final work of art, completed mere months before his death in 1990. The altarpiece, titled “Life of Christ” is cast bronze with gold leaf. It is one in an edition of nine, though perhaps St. John the Divine is the most fitting gallery for such a piece–  the cathedral was host to Haring’s memorial service.

Another long train ride back to Brooklyn. We stopped in to the famous Crest Hardware where Franklin the Pig resides. He even has his own Facebook page! Unfortunately, he wouldn’t even give me a first look, let alone a second. Franklin had the right idea though — nap time.

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