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Curtains of the Tabernacle From the Postilla litteralis of Nicholas of Lyra France (Paris), 1360 – 80 Opaque watercolor, iron gall ink, and gold on vellum; 16 ½ x 9 ¾ in. (41.9 x 24.8 cm) Provenance: [ Bruce Ferrini, Akron, Ohio, sold 1987 ]; Schøyen collection, Oslo; [ Sam Fogg Ltd, London, sold 2011 ]. The Cloisters Collection, 2011 (2011.20.1)

One of the most influential university texts of the Middle Ages, the Postilla litteralis (Literal Commentary) provided a systematic and detailed analysis of the entire Christian Bible. Its author, Nicholas of Lyra (ca. 1270 – 1349), taught theology at the University of Paris. No doubt impressed by the magnificent cathedrals in and around the city, Nicholas possessed a particular interest in divinely inspired architecture. His extensive commentary includes numerous diagrams meant to clarify the Bible’s sometimes confusing textual descriptions of monuments. This leaf and five others acquired by the Museum in 2011 come from a deluxe edition of the Postilla that was probably handcrafted in Paris by the scribes and illustrators who catered to a university clientele. The text discusses God’s directives in the book of Exodus for the building of the Tabernacle and the creation of its curtain: ten panels of “fine, twisted linen, and violet and purple, and scarlet twice-dyed.” Without precisely rendering them, the artist evoked the sumptuous hues with concision and graphic boldness. The small circles of gold leaf glistening across the top and down the center suggest the rings of gold God prescribed to join the panels together.  M. Holcomb

Medallion with the Face of Christ Lands of the Teutonic Knights (present-day Poland), ca. 1380 – 1400 Transparent amber with traces of paint, 3 ¼ x 1 ¼ in. (8.2 x 3.3 cm) Provenance: Sale, Arnhem Notarishuis, The Netherlands; C. A. W. van Dam, Zalbommel, The Netherlands, before 2010; art market, Amsterdam, 2010; [ Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Munich, sold 2011 ]. The Cloisters Collection, 2011 (2011.503)

Carved of translucent amber, a honey-colored, fossilized pine resin, this numinous image reflects medieval devotion that focused on the appearance of the Face of Jesus, evoked in public and private prayer and considered to be shining with “the semblance of divine splendor.” The European medieval amber trade was controlled by the Teutonic Knights, whose castles dominated the Baltic coast. Amber carvers working under their authority are recorded at Gdansk as early as 1350 and at Malbork Castle by 1399. Amber rosary beads were their stock-in-trade; statuettes of saints and other holy images were special commissions, descriptions of which can be found in documents from Malbork. Amber carvings are occasionally listed with the treasured property of princes. Among the possessions of Charles V, king of France, in 1380 was “A ‘Veronica’ [ the image of Jesus believed to be imprinted on a cloth with which Saint Veronica wiped his face ] of amber, round, with four evangelists of ivory.” Only two other amber medallions of the Holy Face exist, both with silver frames. BDB

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recent acquisitions

Profile for The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2010–2012  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2012 Volume LXX, Number 2 Copyright © 2012 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2010–2012  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2012 Volume LXX, Number 2 Copyright © 2012 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Profile for metmuseum
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