Windows from Canterbury Cathedral in New York Exhibition


Fig. 1. Abraham. © Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral.

Fig. 1. Abraham. © Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral.

Six near-life-size figures from Canterbury Cathedral will be shown in the exhibition ‘Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral’, opening 25 February at The Cloisters, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York devoted to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The exhibition completes the celebration of the 75th anniversary year of the founding of The Cloisters. The exhibition was made possible by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.

The windows were originally from the clerestory of the cathedral’s choir, east transepts, and Trinity Chapel. The six figures – Jared, Lamech, Thara, Abraham, Noah and Phalec – were part of an original cycle of eighty-six ancestors of Christ, the most comprehensive ancestor cycle known in art history. One complete window (Thara and Abraham), nearly 12 feet in height, will be shown with its associated rich foliate border.

These imposing figures are masterpieces of Romanesque art, and exude an aura of dignified power. The angular limbs, form-defining drapery, and encompassing folds of the mantles all add a sculptural quality to the majestic figures, which are remarkably legible, even at a distance. (At Canterbury Cathedral, the clerestory windows are some 60 feet above the floor. The display at The Cloisters will be arranged in a towerlike structure.) The glass painting of the Methuselah Master, to whom the figures of Jared and Lamech are attributed, is distinguished by a remarkable delineation of form, achieved by means of a fluid graduated line and bold shading.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication, The Ancestors of Christ Windows at Canterbury Cathedral, by Jeffrey Weaver (The J. Paul Getty Museum) and American CVMA author Madeline H. Caviness (Tufts University). Written for general audiences, the book provides information about the context, iconography and style of the windows, and how they were perceived by various communities during the Middle Ages. Published by The J. Paul Getty Museum, the book will be available in the museum’s book shops ($25).

An interactive panorama of the Canterbury Cathedral on a large touch-screen monitor will provide visitors with a 360-degree view of the building’s interior and will show the windows in their original locations. A short video, Recreating a Medieval Window, will be shown in gallery.

For more details, see the museum’s website.


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