Posts Tagged 'Art and Nature in the Middle Ages'

Sounds of the Middle Ages

Take a walk through the DMA’s Art and Nature in the Middle Ages exhibition and you’ll see beautiful paintings and tapestries, pieces of architectural wonder, and some ancient oddities from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. But looking only gives a bit of the story. What would people back then not only see but hear?

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By way of introduction, let’s start with the architecture. Looking at the capitals that once sat atop soaring Gothic structures is a sight for the eyes. But what would the music be like inside, say, a great cathedral? Here’s a musical example from around the year 1200 that might have been heard inside Notre Dame in Paris one joyous Christmas night. The piece is by the composer Perotin.

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Coming around the corner to the right we see a vibrant painting from about the year 1500 called The Virgin of the Wheat.  The work comes from northern France around Amiens. The Virgin Mary has long been a favorite topic for composers. Here we have one of the most famous examples from this era, Ave Maria, virgo serena by the Franco-Flemish master Josquin des Prez.

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Secular music was an equally important part of life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The tapestries in this exhibition show everyday scenes of love and romance. Chivalry and knighthood meant not only bravery and codes of conduct but also courtly love. One of the most popular instruments of the time was the lute.

Before the printing press, books were also works of art. Monks created illuminated manuscripts from which they would sing their daily prayers. Smaller versions called Books of Hours would be sold to wealthy people so that they could take part in monastic prayers in their own homes. Pages from the Litany of the Saints can be seen on the interactive tablet in our exhibition. This is what it might have sounded like.

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come into the next room and we see an odd wooden carving called a misericord, or, “act of mercy.” What’s funny about this piece is the carvings depicting, among other things, laughing pigs playing an organ. You’ll also notice a little shelf on top of the piece. So what’s going on here? This is actually from a section of choir stall where monks or choir singers would have to stand for hours at a time during church services. When the seats were flipped up for standing, the little shelf allowed them to discreetly rest their tired rear ends without anyone really noticing.

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Continuing on, we see a small 14th-century carving of the Virgin Mary, whose seat is covered with roses. The rose was a common metaphor for Mary, the rose without thorns. Here we have an English medieval carol, “There is no Rose of such virtue.”

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Finally, we see some interesting metal work. Tabernacles and monstrances were used to house the consecrated bread of the Mass, which Catholics consider to be the actual body of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it was kept in special vessels. One to take note of is the bird, which would have been understood to be the dove of the Holy Spirit. Here is some music from a Mass by the 15th-century composer Ockeghem.

Rather than being a “dark” period, the Middle Ages was actually a vibrant time of creation, both visual and aural. Don’t miss the DMA’s exhibition Art and Nature in the Middle Ages.

Dr. Alfred Calabrese is Director of Music at St. Rita Catholic Church in Dallas and Music Director of the Denton Bach Society.

2016 in a Flash

It’s been a busy year at the DMA. From the opening of Eagle Family Plaza to the hiring of Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the new Eugene McDermott Director, my cameras have not taken a break! Now, I get that this is pictures of the year, but before we get to the photos, let’s run some numbers (Because who doesn’t love math when you’re trying to look at pictures).

Since January 5, 2016, I’ve photographed between 140-150 assignments. After a quick scan of all my folders from 2016 and some elementary-school-level math, my approximate total for photos taken this year is give-or-take 20,000.

With a little help from accounting, factoring that we work about 260 days a year, that’s an average of 77 photos every day. It’s also about 150 gigabytes of data for our computer savvy audience.

Clearly, a small fraction of the frames I take actually end up being used for our publications, ads, blogs, and more, but still, that’s a lot! In those 20,000 photos are celebrities, artists, politicians, dignitaries, and of course our amazing visitors. But, as corny as it may sound, nothing makes my day more than taking a photo of a group of kids creating art in the C3, a new mom holding her baby in the Young Learners gallery, or someone with their eyes glued to a painting in the DMA’s galleries.

These images range from some of the most momentous occasions we’ve had in 2016, to some fun behind-the-scenes moments and even just some of my personal favorites. Either way, I can’t wait for the next 20,000.

Greg Castillo is the Multimedia Producer at the DMA

A Wondrous Woven Magic

Earlier this week, the DMA exhibitions team wrapped up the installation for Art and Nature in the Middle Ages, which opens Sunday, December 4. Here, our team of skilled preparators carefully unfurl a tapestry from the Middle Ages, overseen by conservators and couriers who traveled with the art from the Musée de Cluny in Paris, France. This exhibition contains a variety of different types of objects: liturgical objects in precious metals, capitals and keystones from building structures, large woven tapestries, unbelievably detailed manuscripts including Books of Hours, and fifteen illuminated stained glass windows. It’s only on view in the US here at the DMA. We hope you’ll come see it, and us, soon.

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Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer at the DMA. 


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