"QUITE SIMPLY, THE BEST HORROR-THEMED BLOG ON THE NET." -- Joe Maddrey, Nightmares in Red White & Blue

**Find The Vault of Horror on Facebook and Twitter, or download the new mobile app!**

**Check out my other blogs, Standard of the Day, Proof of a Benevolent God and Lots of Pulp!**

Monday, October 19, 2009

Visceral Visionaries: The Cloisters

Detail from an Italian credenza, c.1440.

I always knew that the Middle Ages produced some of the gnarliest, most nightmarish art ever known to man. After all, this was the era of the Black Plague, a constant state of Braveheart-style warfare, fire-and-brimstone style Christianity, and a generally lower prioritization of value for human life.

But knowing it, and coming face-to-face with it are two different things. I happen to be a big fan of European medieval art, but most of what I had seen had been in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum. But earlier this month, I had an opportunity to visit The Cloisters Museum, a satellite of the Met, for the very first time.

Located at the northernmost tip of Manhattan--I'm not kidding, it's practically in the water--is a unique museum first established in 1938. Built from the remnants of five actual French monasteries, it is the perfect setting for a literally unparalleled collection of painting, sculpture and architecture ranging from roughly the 9th through the 15th centuries. And it is downright amazing.

I was lucky enough to have had the foresight to bring a camera along, and so I'd like to share with you some of the awe-inspiring imagery I encountered. Why here, you ask? Simply because this is some of the most creepy and downright horrifying art I've ever been in the presence of...

The torture of souls in Hell. Stained glass, Germany, 1532. Part of the series "The Temptation of St. Anthony".

The Lamentation. Florence, Italy, c.1340. By the Master of the Codex of St. George (gotta love that name). Tempera and gold leaf on wood. Note the rivulets of blood at the foot of the cross.

Arm reliquary. South Netherlands, c.1230. Was purported to have once contained the actual arm bones of a saint, long since gone.

Illustration from The Cloisters Apocalypse. Normandy, France, c.1300. Death rides on his pale horse, as the souls of sinners burn in Hell. You can't really tell here, but some of those souls are dressed as priests and bishops. Some things never change.

Detail from the Vesperbild Pieta. Bohemia, c.1400. Limestone.

Detail from the sepulchral monument of Count Ermengol VII. Spanish, limestone, c.1300. I think this is supposed to be a lion.

Some other sarcophagi that I can't identify from memory. It would be nice if the Cloisters website updated their holdings catalogue at some point since 2001.

Christ frees Adam and Eve from the mouth of Hell itself. I always loved the Harrowing of Hell and Jesus-as-Rambo. Gotta love those post-Gospel revisionists for trying to make J.C. into a more virile, manly hero.

Joab Murdering Abner. Stained glass, Netherlands, c.1200. Joab, King David's general, killed Abner as revenge for the killing of his brother. Another lovely Old Testament tale, from the second book of Samuel.

Detail from The Unicorn Defends Itself. Tapestry, South Netherlands, c. 1500. The Cloisters has an amazing collection of the famous unicorn tapestries, and in this detail, a hunting dog meets his fate at the end of the creature's horn. Striking in its depiction of the unicorn committing violence.

Pieta. Germany, c.1375. Wood and plaster.

Fountainhead from the Cuxa Cloister. Either French or Spanish, c.1150.


Missy Y. (formerly A Case of You) said...

Heya B-Sol.

I just came across this here entry. I don't know if I mentioned this, but this is actually where I live (just blocks away from The Cloisters). I used to run every single morning in this park--until I became a useless layabout.

And I haven't actually been to the museum, but I thought I would ask you what time of year you went to the museum (did you actually do in October when you posted this?). The park is, in my opinion, the best in Manhattan. In the spring, it boasts the best and most beautiful vegetation, and I think it is the most unkempt, and to me this makes it the most joyous visit in the city because it seems the most natural.

When I ran there in the mornings, I used to find myself actually kind of scared because I was often the only one on the path, and if I forgot my mp3 player, which I often did, I could sometimes only hear the river because the city was so quiet at such an early hour. It's an eerie place if you hit it at the right times.

(On a side note: I also found an anal sex den in this park once when I was exploring with a friend from Hawaii, and that, my dear, was quite a find.)

B-Sol said...

Yep, October was when I went, the park was beautiful at that time of year. I confess I was not familiar with the anal sex den. Should I take the high road and *not* ask if you partook? Hey, you brought it up...

Missy Y. (formerly A Case of You) said...

It was a boys-only place, B-Sol. Get serious.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...