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Art From Us MUSEUM GUIDE : The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1

The MET : Gallery 1 : Romanesque Hall

Art From Us Museum Guide

For Museum GuideArt From Us brings you three works from the Metropolitan Museum NY’s Cloisters’ Gallery 1. They are:

CANDLEABRA 15th Century, Metropolitan Museum, Romanesque Hall

AQUAMANILE IN THE FORM OF A LION ca. 1200, Metropolitan Museum, Romanesque Hall

DOORWAY FROM MOUTIERS-SAINT-JEAN ca. 1250., Metropolitan Museum, Romanesque Hall

The term “Romanesque” alludes to a visual vocabulary that developed in Medieval Europe.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1 at the Cloisters in New York takes you on a journey to the Middle Ages. It is largely agreed upon by European historians that the Medieval Period or the “Middle Ages”  is a time-frame of human activity in Europe, having taken place between the 5th-15th century A.C.E  A period of history that parallels the fall of the Roman Empire and witnesses the birth of the New Roman Empire. It was a time of great-disruption, many a battles and wars, that ended in blood-shed and redrawing the lines of Empire. The key characteristics of the Middle Ages are :

  1. The rise of the Catholic Church,
  2. The establishment of a feudal society, and
  3. The development of Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1” at the Cloisters in New York is a treasure-trove of Romanesque and Gothic Art and Architecture from the Middle Ages. We love the in-situ experience. Our favourite is the aquamanilia collection on display.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1 : Discovering Aquamanilia

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York boasts of one of the most prominent collections of aquamanilia. What is aquamanilia ? It’s not just a tongue-twister, believe us – its a real thing. The term is used to define and identify objects that are seemingly decorative, but, are also highly utilitarian in nature. To further our understanding of aquamanilia it is worth noting how they were created. Aquamanilia were made predominantly from casting copper, and they served historically as vessels to hold water for washing hands. The shape of Aquamanilia were largely cast in animal and human forms. The popular animal forms consist of lions, dragons, and other mythical creatures such as centaurs and unicorns. The most popular human form that is seen is the shape of a knight riding his horse.

The Aquamanilia is not singularly a christian object. There are many similarities in form, structure, materiality and usage with Islamic objects of the 12th and 13th centuries.  This is an exploration for another time, but worth noting.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1 : Beyond Aquamanilia

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1  contains more than just these aquamanilia. It also contains several references to the Church and certain monasteries and cathedrals that existed during the Medieval period. After the fall of Rome, Catholicism and the Catholic Church became tools for the victors for ambitious empire building. Religion was the carrier that spread the Empire and the Church was the centrifugal point which housed the Empire’s identity, as well as the identity of it’s people and citizens. Fear was a new currency used by the Church to build and fortify new lands. Even European royals feared the power of the Church. Following a shift in political dynamics, the royals quickly aligned their interest with the that of the Church. This was done as a means to ensure that they were not dethroned. You may wonder where the Church suddenly amassed the wealth to carry out its functions. Well, the church earned it’s revenue through taxation. Citizens were required to pay an annual tax of 10%.


Pale skin was not considered beautiful in the Middle Ages. As a result, European women used lead based powders which would give them give their skin a certain glow, but also result in their premature death.

  1. It was during this period that the Black Plague hit Europe. The disease was carried by rats and killed thousands of people across Europe.
  2. The period also saw what is now termed as The Great Famine of the early 14th century. It is believed that 10% of the English population died during this period.
  3. According to records, the mortality rate of children under 7 years of age was 20-30%.
  4. Before the era of digital entertainment, public executions were a source of amusement for crowds. Apart from being beheaded, people were burned, quartered, crushed and even strung to death.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 1 at the Cloisters invites you to re-discover Medieval Europe.

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