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Art and Nature in the Middle Ages at DMA

In the fast-paced life of the 21st century, bombarded by images and information both in real and in virtual experience, we tend to compartmentalize life into easily digestible fragments. There is work, there is entertainment, and there is a family and familial obligations. Nature rarely registers in our minds as more than just a beautiful backdrop for a vacation, or the subject of a documentary film. This was not the case for the many generations of people, who experienced their life as part of the magnificent whole – at once beautiful, powerful and dangerous.

December 4th will mark the opening of an exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art titled Art and Nature in the Middle Ages. Spanning the 12th to early 16th centuries, the presentation explores the human connection with nature through diverse modes of expression and various representations of the subject in European medieval art. Organized by the Musee de Cluny and Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris, the collection will be presented in the United States exclusively at the Dallas Museum of Art, and will showcase more than 100 large and small objets d’art, some never before seen in North America.

The exhibition explores the styles, techniques and iconography that were prominent during this period, and emphasizes the fundamental bond between humans and nature, as well as nature’s preeminent role in the social and spiritual life of the medieval communities. Presented works of art range from large stained glass windows and tapestries to illuminated manuscripts, jewelry and statuettes – all depicting plant and animal subjects in various interpretations. Sacred and profane, real and imagined, the objects of the exhibition convey the multifaceted relationship of men and women of the Middle Ages with their surroundings, and highlight the continuities and the changes of this relationship that transpired through the years.

Curated by Nicole R. Myers, The Lillian and James H. Clark Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture, the collection provides an incredible opportunity to have a glimpse of life so different from our own. Rich and colorful, full of fears and exultations, it seems emotionally deeper and considerably more intense – not a fairytale or a horror story, but a vibrant expression of Human Spirit.

Stained glass panel with white rose decoration Rhine Valley (Colmar?), Alsace (present-day France) c. 1330 Colored glass and grisaille 25 3/8 x 14 5/8 in. (64.3 x 37 cm) Musée de Cluny, musée national du Moyen Âge, Paris, CL 13747 k

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Photography by: © RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi