The Cloisters in Late September

Master of Belmonte (Spanish, Aragon, active ca. 1460–90) Saint Michael, 1450–1500 North Spanish, Tempera and oil on wood; Overall: 85 1/2 x 47 in. (217.2 x 119.4 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1955 (55.120.2)

Early on in our walk through the Cloisters, I encountered Saint Michael. The Met writes of him:

“Armed with a coat of mail, dagger, shield, and lance, the archangel Michael symbolizes the triumph over evil. The demon at his feet is the Antichrist, cast out of heaven. The youthful beauty and sumptuous raiment of Saint Michael in the rich courtly setting combine with the image of the demon to form a stark visual contrast between the strength and splendor of the Church and the monstrousness of evil defeated.” [cite]

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Oddly, as I examined the painting, the Antichrist looked far from dead to me, despite the spear impaling his jaw. I will say, though, that it’s hard to imagine a portrait of a demon that betters this one.

Saint Michael, Master of Belmonte (detail)

Elsewhere on our tour around the premises, there was plenty of beauty to offset the terrors.

Dish with Unidentified Coat of Arms 1470–1490 (Spanish)
Window Looking on a Courtyard
Window with Grisaille Decoration 1320-1330 (French; detail)
The Lamentation, ca. 1480 Central Spanish, Walnut, paint, and gilt; Overall: 83 x 48 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (210.8 x 123.2 x 34.3 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1955 (55.85)
Courtyard columns (detail)
Sedum against a Stone Wall

Music for the last of September:

5 thoughts on “The Cloisters in Late September

  1. Curt Barnes

    Very enjoyable tour! And is there an inadvertent lesson here, from St. Michael and what must have been hundreds of man-hours in the depiction, to a spray of sedum, tossed off by Nature in a couple of days? But we could argue that many eons went into the realization of that latter…

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Curt, this is such a wonderful observation, and yes, you are right, inadvertent on my part (unless subliminal). The work that went into the Saint Michael/Antichrist painting is truly remarkable in its imaginative scope and skillful detail, and also makes me curious about other depictions to see how they portray the two. You have made me curious, also, about when and where sedum was first grown, a sort of etymology of the plant. My google skills do not seem up to the task, alas!

  2. shoreacres

    That demon’s quite interesting. I count seven ‘faces’ within his body. I wonder if they were meant to symbolize the seven deadly sins? As for the sedums, there are hundreds of species in several genera. One of our most common is called stonecrop; it’s low growing and mat forming, and rarely gets more than a few inches tall.

    I think my favorite among your treasures is the Window with Grisaille Decoration. That blue is gorgeous.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Interesting about the seven deadly sins. Could be–may have to spend some “quality time” with demons and find out more. Re sedum, yes, so many types! Around here the one I see most is Autumn Joy, which may be what is in the photo, though not sure of that. I gather, looking it up, that Autumn Joy sedum is also sometimes called stonecrop, but the one I know is much taller than what you describe. I also found the blue in that window transfixing, even more so in person. Yet another reminder that there is no telling what you can discover if you just slow down and look.

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