Museum Home Past Exhibitions Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art

March 6–June 23, 2008 at the Getty Villa

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St. Lawrence / Riemenschneider
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The Cleveland Museum of Art houses one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval European art in the world. It includes rare examples of decorative works of gold and silver, armor, carved ivories, enamels, sculpture, paintings, and illuminated manuscripts from the third through the 16th centuries.

In 2005 the Cleveland Museum of Art closed its permanent collection galleries for the first time since opening in 1916 to embark on a large-scale renovation and expansion. This closure presented the unique opportunity to lend some of its most treasured works of art before they are reinstalled in the renovated museum, scheduled to reopen in Summer 2008. Presenting more than 120 works of art in a variety of media, this exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity for West Coast audiences to view these extraordinary treasures outside of Cleveland.

The Cleveland Museum and its Medieval Collection

Soon after opening to the public in 1916, the Cleveland Museum of Art established a pattern of acquiring medieval European art of the highest quality. The collection was formed primarily by two of America's most distinguished medievalists, the museum's second director, William M. Milliken (1930–1958), and the collection's former curator, William D. Wixom (1958–1978). Over the course of his 39-year career at the museum, Milliken followed a pattern of collecting that he later described as: "to buy quality, never to fill in a gap in the collection. If the proper piece came, so much the better. If not, a gap was far more important than a mediocre work of art."

In 1930 Milliken made what is considered the greatest purchase of the museum's history—eight objects from the Guelph Treasure, one of the most important church treasuries to have survived from medieval Germany. Five of these masterpieces of early medieval goldsmiths' work are included in this exhibition.

Wixom continued Milliken's legacy during his 20-year career at the museum. His contribution was particularly strong in the fields of Gothic sculpture and decorative arts as well as significant works of illuminated manuscripts, including the Hours of Queen Isabella, a masterpiece of Flemish painting. Major acquisitions of medieval European art continue at the Cleveland Museum of Art, making it one of the finest collections in the country.

Music in audio stops by Yuval Ron