Archive for December, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Boxwood

Boxwood Shrub Boxwood-covered Arch Rosary bead

Above, from left to right: Boxwood shrub growing in Bonnefont Garden; fresh boxwood installed on the Main Hall arches for the holidays; detail view of a minutely carved boxwood rosary bead in The Cloisters collection. See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) is most familiar to us as a foundation planting, or as a low edging for garden beds, a practice that became common in the sixteenth century and continues today. Boxwood has also been a popular subject for topiary work since Roman times. There are many varieties of box, including dwarf forms and forms with variegated foliage. (For more about B. sempervirens and other ornamental species, visit the website of The American Boxwood Society.) Read more »

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Hallowed Yew

Yew Tree in Bonnefont Garden Fruit of the Yew Tree

Above, from left to right: A large yew tree (Taxus baccata) growing near the portcullis on the lower drive of The Cloisters; a detail of the yew in fruit in mid-November. The gelatinous red flesh surrounding the seeds is as sweet as it looks, and is innocuous, but the seed itself is very toxic, as are the leaves.

There is here above the brotherhood
A bright tall glossy yew;
The melodious bell sends out a keen clear note
In St. Columba’s church.

—Fragment of an Irish poem, ca. 800–1000

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Friday, December 4, 2009

The Death of the Boar

December calendar page from the Belles Heures thumbnail December activity thumbnail The Zodiacal Sign of Capricorn thumbnail

Above, from left to right: Calendar page for December from the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry, 1405–1408/1409. Pol, Jean, and Herman de Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France, by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1); detail of the activity for the month; detail of the zodiacal symbol Capricorn. See the Collection Database to learn more about this work of art.

A boar, wild or domesticated, is an uncastrated adult male pig. Swine were domesticated earlier than any animal other than the dog, and all domesticated hogs descend from a single wild species, Sus scrofa, although numerous subspecies are recognized and many breeds have been developed. Read more »