Browse Exhibits (5 total)

Journeys | Spectacles |Tastemakers

Every work of European medieval art or fragment from medieval architecture that is in the United States today is a transplanted object. The luxurious sculptures, paintings, and manuscripts of the Middle Ages (ca. 400-1400) mostly were created for the eyes of kings, queens, or priests, and the makers and original users of these pieces never could have imagined the diverse museum-goers of today in America. The journeys that medieval objects took to get to the New World often were circuitous, facilitated by the destructions of the French Revolution or dissolutions of monasteries elsewhere in Europe and the ambitions of dealers, curators, and fabulously wealthy collectors in the Gilded Age.

Our digital narrative, Medieval Art and the American Public tells the story of the objects, individuals, and institutions that helped bring material remains from the European Middle Ages before the eyes of twentieth- and twenty-first-century audiences in the United States. Our Exhibit essays are structured into three categories, each on a different theme. Journeys maps the life of individual objects from their European medieval origins to their modern installations in New York museums. Tastemakers investigates dealers, collectors, and curators who had the wealth or vision to acquire medieval art in the years between roughly 1890 and 1940. And Spectacles investigates early exhibitions of medieval works in New York and the American heartland.

With this project, we aim to reveal the ways that complex histories of collecting and viewing medieval art have shaped the stories Americans tell about the Middle Ages and we hope to inspire new ways of conceptualizing both the past and the future.