From the Met


Whether you are interested in the rise of Gothic art in 12th century France, or the arms and armor of the samurai in Japan, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has something for you. The museum is making freely available hundreds of previously published books, as part of their new online and social media initiatives.

While the museum remains temporarily closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has launched many new online activities, including performances, conversations with curators, 360-degree tours, and educational resources that will share The Met collection.

“The Museum’s mission is to connect people, wherever they are, to creativity, knowledge, and ideas—an effort we’re especially committed to in this time of isolation and uncertainty,” says Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “We strongly believe that art can bring people together—even remotely—by helping to share our stories and our reflections on the world around us. Art has the power to engage our minds, to provide comfort and respite in times of suffering, and to feed our spirits and strengthen our resolve. The Met is not just a place to visit, but a provider of cultural experiences, narratives, and educational offerings for people all around the world.”

One part of this outreach that will be of interest to medievalists is how MetPublications is releasing even more out-of-print titles for free download. They now have over 500 books  which can be freely read or downloaded as a PDF.

I recommend

One of the most lavishly illustrated codices of the Middle Ages, the Belle Heures of Jean de France, duc de Berry (ca. 1405–1408/9), is the only manuscript with miniatures executed entirely by the famed Limbourg brothers. Commissioned by its royal patron, this richly illuminated Book of Hours, intended for private devotion and now housed in The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, belonged to the duke’s large collection of prized possessions. The luminous scenes depicting the legends of the saints, the Hours of the Virgin, and the like, many with elaborately designed borders, exemplify the transcendent splendor of the Limbourg brothers’ talents.

English and French Medieval Stained Glass in the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2003)

This comprehensive two-volume catalogue covers the outstanding collection of English and French medieval stained glass in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Written by curator Jane Hayward, the catalogue is posthumously published as Part I in the Corpus Vitrearum USA series and represents the culmination of Hayward’s pioneering work in the field, from the years immediately following World War II, when Hayward first journeyed to France to study medieval stained glass with Louis Grodecki and Jean Lafond, to the month before her death in 1994. Hayward was unrelenting in her efforts to research and write about the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The fruits of this long-standing work features 123 panels examined in depth, ranging from 12th-century border ornament from the Royal Abbey Church of Saint-Denis to early 16th-century English Passion glass.

Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis (1986)

Suger, abbot of the French abbey of Saint-Denis, lived from 1081 to 1151. This book of essays about his life and achievements grew out of a symposium sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art and by Columbia University. The symposium was held in 1981 simultaneously at The Cloisters and Columbia University in conjunction with an exhibition at The Cloisters that commemorated the 900th anniversary of Suger’s birth. For the symposium, twenty-three medieval scholars from all parts of the world, representing a wide range of humanistic disciplines, were brought together to discuss the varied nature of Suger’s activities.

From Attila to Charlemagne: Arts of the Early Medieval Period in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010)

The twenty-six essays in this volume provide the first in-depth study of this American repository of arts representing the many cultures and peoples that created early Europe, including the Ostrogoths, the Langobards, the Franks, and the Anglo-Saxons. The products of this great age of “portable art” range from elaborate weapon fittings and ornate buckles to gold brooches and other intricately designed and decorated jewelry. Over six hundred black-and-white photographs and eighteen color-plates dramatically testify to the depth, breadth, and beauty of the Museum’s Early Medieval collection.


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