Must-see medieval art exhibit at the Frist in Nashville

If you live within driving distance of Nashville, Tennessee and are interested in medieval art, crafts, culture or manuscripts or early Christian history, you can’t afford to miss Medieval Treasures from te Cleveland Museum of art at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, running until June 7, 2009. Seeing the illuminations, sculpture, jewelry, calligraphy and paintings in the exhibit has been a perspective-changer for me as all of it showed a level of craftsmanship and especially individuality that I hadn’t previously been aware of as far as medieval art is concerned.

Medieval culture and art are not taught well in schools – in mine the entire period and the entire continent to which the term applied were treated as an amorphous, unchanging, uninteresting blob. I’m not sure how it could have been done better though – most historians who teach at secondary school level simply don’t have the expertise and haven’t been taught it themselves. Add to that the fact that medieval art doesn’t reproduce well (in fact, I’ve bought the catalogue and have been looking at it and it just doesn’t come near capturing the brilliance of it all – gold colours wash out in manuscripts but are overemphasized in some pictures of some of the sculptures, detail is blurred and fine lines in miniatures get lost in the printing process) and it becomes very difficult to communicate to people who haven’t seen it in real life, just how brilliant it is. But it is brilliant, and you should see it if you can.

As I sit here, Aggie is reading the catalog and correcting mistakes in it. She’s an absolute sucker for stuff like this. Update: She just ruined half the catalogue for me by pointing out that many of the shadows on the photos of the sculpture have been photoshopped on, and some of them qualify as Photoshop disasters. That book is only good to be a souvenir of the exhibit, and it’s too expensive for that.

(Meanwhile, here’s what all else we’ve done on our vacation. On the day I arrived, Aggie’s dog was killed in an accident, which put a damper on our reunion. Also, Aggie’s youngest son was sick with Fifth Disease, so we took it easy for a few days for his sake and didn’t go on any outings. On Tuesday, I crashed with the fatigue of three difficult months at work, and on Wednesday, we bought baby chicks for the minifarm, and I crashed again, sleeping away the whole afternoon. Oh, and we shopped for engagement rings – a lot. We eventually got what we wanted, but it’ll need some work done and I won’t see the finished product until after I return to the Netherlands. Aggie will send me pictures of it and I told her I’ll photoshop a presentation box around it and present that to her while I propose to her. Having told you people that, I may even follow through on it and do just that)