The Metropolitan and Cloisters: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures and The Royal George (the Fourth) Cello, Fit for a King
On View at the Cloisters*:
|Exhibition Dates:||February 22–May 21, 2017|
||The Met Cloisters, Glass Gallery
||Tuesday, February 21, 10 am–noon
Small in scale, yet teeming with life, miniature boxwood carvings have been a source of wonder since their creation in the Netherlands in the 16th century. On these intricately carved objects — some measuring a mere two inches (five centimeters) in diameter — the miracles and drama of the Bible unfold on a tiny stage. The execution of these prayer beads and diminutive altarpieces seems almost as miraculous as the stories they tell and, in this first exhibition of its kind, the wizardry of the carvers who created these precious panoramas is revealed. Beginning February 22, nearly 50 of these tiny treasures will be featured in the exhibition Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures at The Met Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval art and architecture.
|Among the highlights of the exhibition is a complete carved boxwood rosary made for King Henry VIII of England and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, before his notorious efforts to dissolve the marriage and his break from the Catholic Church. Equally remarkable is a diminutive sculpture, in the shape of the letter P, that opens to reveal scenes of the legend of Saint Philip. This newly discovered treasure has recently been acquired by The Met.
Used in prayer and meditation, such ingenious carvings enable access to a sacred realm. Among the images are: stories from the life of Jesus; saintly men and women; and events from Hebrew Scripture embraced by Christians as part of their own narrative — from the Biblical King David to the Queen of Sheba.
The artists' techniques for creating these delicate works have defied comprehension for centuries, but now, through a collaborative study by conservators at The Met and the Art Gallery of Ontario, their secrets have at last been unraveled. The conservators' findings are presented in the exhibition through video documentation and the display of a disassembled prayer bead.
Beloved in gardens across the world today, boxwood is a slow-growing evergreen, native to the Mediterranean region. In the Middle Ages, it was linked by the biblical authority to the Holy Land. Dense and fine-grained, it is ideally suited to precision carving. Early illustrated botanical texts elucidating the medieval understanding of this valuable wood will also be on view in the exhibition. Plantings of boxwood in the gardens of The Met Cloisters will deepen appreciation for the artists' extraordinary work in transforming the material from plant specimen to precious possessions.
Carved with astonishingly minute detail, this rosary bead probably was created with the help of a magnifying lens. When opened, it forms a triptych. On the left is the Journey to Bethlehem and the Nativity; in the center is the Journey of the Magi, complete with horses and camels, followed by their Adoration of the baby Jesus and offering of gifts; and on the right is the Presentation of the Child in the Temple at Jerusalem. The Latin inscription is the text of Psalm 71:10, which refers to kings of Arabia and Saba and is associated by Christians with the Magi. Adam and Eve appear on the outside of the wings. The Crucifixion of Jesus occupies the lower half of the bead.
*The Met Cloisters, located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in northern Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, is the branch of the Museum dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. Deriving its name from the medieval cloisters that form the core of the building, it presents a harmonious and evocative setting for more than 2,000 exceptional artworks and architectural elements from the medieval West.
Pages: 1 · 2