Thursday, July 15, 2010
A perfect Saturday: Part I
Part I: The Cloisters
I woke up in a fog. I was in my man Dave's bedroom in Queens. I looked over to see his adorable and awesome cat, Tristan, sleeping curled up in the folds of the blanket where Dave's legs were, he was sleeping like a bear in hibernation. I momentarily reveled in the cuteness, the echoes of the wedding we went to the night before still ringing in my ears. It was then that I looked over at the clock, that my eyes went wide and I barked "OH NO!".
We had made plans with my fellow Social Club Team Leader, Queen Emil, to spend the day at the cloisters way uptown in Manhattan. We were supposed to be in Penn Station by 10:30. It was now 10:17, in QUEENS. I was panic stricken, immediately a whirlwind of text messages were sent. Frantically running about gave way to a long subway ride. At least there were bagels.
At high noon, Dave and I were at 190th Street. I felt as if I had been transported to another universe. All around me was foliage, and beautiful architecture. I could see a bridge, and what was presumably the Hudson River past the beautiful garden plants, benches, and stone. It took us a little redirection from several passers by, but we ended up in the entrance to the cloisters, taking in all the beauty.
There were several things that struck me about the cloisters. The first thing being how well it "fit" in uptown Manhattan. I thought for sure that it was going to look out of place and awkwardly slammed in between two less attractive buildings. On the contrary, it was right at home. Sitting atop lush rolling hills, the cloisters stood alone- imperial and regal. Surrounded by a quaint little park elevated high above the city streets below it looked and felt like a miniaturized version of Edinburgh Castle. It was absolutely beautiful and charming all in the same instant.
I'd been wanting to go to the cloisters for YEARS. I knew it was home to two of my beloved works of art- the Merode Altarpiece and the tapestry known as the Unicorn in Captivity. Much like the exterior, the interior of the place is magical. It's like Hogwarts, scaled down with beautiful works of medieval art placed throughout. I swear the gargoyles come alive at night!
My breath was stolen. The sheer medieval opulence of the place riveted me beyond words. I wished I was born there, I wished I was raised there, I wish I was wed there, and I don't think I'd much mind it if I died there either! Every room was special. Every little hunk of marble resonated with its pious origins. Each room upon entrance gave way to me giving a little gasp of joy. I was in total reverence of the place... And that is a word not lightly used here. You can't deny its spiritual ties that are unequivocally attached to almost every aspect of art in the cloisters.
On top of its religious undertones, the artwork here is an interesting window into the way of life in the medieval ages. The ideals of beauty, the slowly creeping concepts of perspective, depth, and realism that would come into fruition in the Renaissance, and the repressive sadness of the era reverberate in loud clamorous pangs in every work of art.
None effected me more than the Unicorn Tapestries of the Cloisters. In chronological order, the tapestries depict a hunting party first entering the layer of the unicorn, their descent to attack it, the beautiful beast defending itself, and its ultimate demise and presentation to the lord and lady of the land. The "rebirth" of the unicorn is represented by "The Unicorn in Captivity". This has been one of my favorite images in art history since I was a little girl, dreaming of Unicorns, mermaids, and fairies. I never really got a chance to understand what I was looking at, until it was before my eyes. Covered in wounds, the Unicorn is in repose, defeated. I'd be a liar if I denied that I was moved to tears. I found myself horrified by the cruelty of man, and his wild, strange, and beautiful imagination. We dream up such fantastic ideas, and then fantasize about killing them and making them a trophy. My mind ran away with itself in this humble little room. By the time I left I was convinced that unicorns DID exist, but they were brought to extinction due to over-hunting.
As I write this, I find myself reflecting upon metaphors for the unicorn. It can represent the elusive male or female heart- and our futile attempts to catch it, keep it, kill it, or try to set it free. The Unicorn is a representation of magic, of purity, or further still and maybe the most out there idea is that it's the unicorn is metaphor for Jesus. Whatever your interpretation, I will continue to love this romantic mythical beast. I hate to think of its extinction, or even worse, I hate to think of its passing into the realm of absurdity.
I can’t wait to go back to The Cloisters in the Autumn.