For Immediate Release

NOTE: High-resolution images available

Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”, ”
Emily Harper: 615.744.3331, ”


Exquisite Ivories, Jewels, Illuminated Manuscripts and More on View

NASHVILLE, TENN.—(Jan. 23, 2009)—The Frist Center for the Visual Arts will open Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art Friday, Feb. 13, 2009. The traveling exhibition provides an extraordinary opportunity to see more than 100 rare works of art from the Middle Ages. The wide array of objects includes ivories, enamels, metalwork, jewelry, sculptures, paintings and illuminated manuscripts produced in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio) possesses one of the finest collections of Early Christian, Byzantine, and European Medieval art in the United States. Medieval Treasures will be on view through Sunday, June 7, 2009.

“Every object in Medieval Treasures is exquisite and is indicative of the extraordinary quality of the collection assembled by the Cleveland Museum of Art throughout the course of the past century,” says Trinita Kennedy, associate curator at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. “The exhibition takes us back to a time and place when religious faith inspired artists to create objects of awe-inspiring beauty.”

Early Christian and Byzantine Treasures: Art and Empire

The exhibition begins with a group of rare early Christian sculptures. Marble statuettes of Christ as the Good Shepherd and the Old Testament prophet Jonah most likely date to 280–90, that is, several decades before Constantine the Great declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 330. These sculptures eloquently express Christian beliefs in salvation and resurrection. Visitors will also see the Octagonal Pendant, one of the finest pieces of gold jewelry to survive from the reign of Constantine. Its center is mounted with a double solidus (gold coin) representing Constantine crowned as emperor. Important examples of Byzantine art will be on view, such as The Icon of the Virgin and Child (second half of the 10th or early 11th century), one of the most superb ivories to survive the Middle Byzantine period.

The exhibition features an entire gallery dedicated to the personal and portable art of the Migration period (approximately 300 to 900). In addition to silver, gold and bronze jewelry studded with garnets and pearls, there is a rare Celtic head made of sandstone intended for ritual veneration.

Early Medieval Treasures: Splendor and Devotion

During the 9th century, the Christianization of Celtic and Germanic tribes resulted in an increased demand for churches, monasteries, liturgical objects and illuminated manuscripts throughout Europe, but especially in Germany.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is renowned for its objects from the Guelph Treasure, one of the most important church treasuries to have survived from medieval Germany. The museum acquired these sacred objects in 1930. Included in the exhibition is one of the earliest and most sumptuous works from the treasure, the Portable Altar of Countess Gertrude, ca. 1045. Made of gold, cloisonné enamel, gems, pearls, oak and other materials, the altar is a masterpiece of early medieval goldsmith work.

High Gothic Treasures: Court and Cloister

Throughout the 11th and 12th centuries, powerful and wealthy monasteries emerged as Europe’s preeminent centers of artistic production and display. A selection of reliquaries, crosses, and large-scale sculptures in the exhibition were made for monasteries located in France and Germany. Major monasteries formed workshops of their own and created lavish manuscripts and illuminations using gold and other fine materials.

Late Medieval Treasures: Toward a New Expression

The exhibition concludes with four galleries filled with exquisite works from late medieval France, Burgundy, Italy, and Germany. French artisans (ca. 1130–1300) created illuminated books of hours, ivory reliefs and metalwork suited to the royal court’s need for extraordinarily refined luxury goods.

The dukes of Burgundy (1364–1477) sought to enhance their status with displays of wealth and taste, and became brilliant patrons of art. The exhibition features three alabaster sculptures of mourners, made between 1406 and 1410, for the tomb of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy—one of the most celebrated funerary monuments of the Middle Ages. Also on view is a magnificent Table Fountain (ca. 1320–40), an object of great ingenuity intended to entertain the dinner guests of the Burgundian dukes.

The great mercantile centers of medieval Italy—namely, Siena, Florence, Bologna and Venice—were home to brilliant craftsmen who produced gold ground panel paintings and sculpted reliefs of the Madonna and Child and the saints. Most extraordinary is a large altarpiece from a Franciscan church that survives intact—one of only a few now in the United States.

The sculptors of late medieval Germany brought woodcarving to a high degree of sophistication, and the Cleveland Museum of Art possesses one of the largest collections of their work outside Europe. Examples in the exhibition range from a nearly life-sized Saint John Resting on the Bosom of Christ of polychrome oak by an anonymous artist to a small-scale mourning Virgin made of pear wood by Viet Stoss.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts 2009 Exhibition Sponsors

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts gratefully acknowledges the following exhibition sponsors:
• 2009 Ingram Gallery Platinum Sponsor: HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA and the
TriStar Family of Hospitals
• 2009 Ingram Gallery Gold Sponsor: First Tennessee
• Design Sponsor:


Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art was organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Related Programs

A complete list of programs is available on the Frist Center’s Web site:”>http://

Friday, February 13 Curator’s Perspective: “Reflections of the Medieval
6:30 p.m. World: Masterpieces from the Cleveland Museum of Art”

Join Stephen N. Fliegel, curator of medieval art at the Cleveland Museum of Art, for a presentation of 1,000 years of aesthetic culture, from the austere spirituality of the Byzantines to the exalted frivolity of French Gothic secular art. Fliegel will examine sublime sculptures, painted altarpieces and illuminated manuscripts created in the service of faith and devotion. The lecture will include an overview of the Cleveland Museum’s medieval collection, which is internationally recognized as one of the world’s finest.

Thursday, February 19 Off the Wall Lecture Series:
6:30 p.m. “ ‘The Lord opened his mouth’: The Wettinger
Auditorium Gradual’s Feast of St Augustine”

Dr. Cynthia J. Cyrus, associate dean of Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, will present the first lecture in this series in conjunction with the Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art exhibition. Dr. Cyrus explores the experience of worship in early 14th century Cologne, focusing on the first folio for the Feast of St. Augustine from the Wettinger Gradual.

Thursday, February 26 Gallery Talk: Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland
7 p.m. Museum of Art
Meet at the Information Desk
Free with the purchase of gallery admission

Join Trinita Kennedy, associate curator at the Frist Center, for a tour of this exhibition.

Saturdays in March Frist Center Kids Club: Shields of Heraldry
(March 7, 14, 21, 28)
1–2:30 p.m.
Meet in the Upper-Level Foyer
Call 615.744.3357 to reserve a space.

Featured activity

Inspired by Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art, Kids Club members will devise a heraldry symbol to represent their family and a shield on which to proclaim it. Designed for 5–10 year olds, the Frist Center Kids Club offers exciting opportunities for children to discover, explore and create art. Free membership includes a Kids Club card, rewards for participation and a variety of hands-on activities in the art studios and the Martin ArtQuest Gallery. Kids Club is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, the Pruett Financial Group.

Sunday, March 8 Nashville Early Music Ensemble: “Music of the Court
2 p.m. and Chapel Before 1600”

The Nashville Early Music Ensemble will perform music from the medieval times in conjunction with Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Thursday, March 12 Off the Wall Lecture Series: “Jonah and the Shepherd:
6:30 p.m. Early Christian Symbols of a Blessed Afterlife”

Dr. Robin Jensen, Luce Chancellor’s professor of the history of Christian worship and art at Vanderbilt University, will present the second lecture in this series in conjunction with the Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art exhibition. Most surviving early Christian art comes from a funerary context—paintings on the walls and ceilings of catacomb chambers and stone reliefs on private tombs. This lecture will consider the enigmatic Jonah and Good Shepherd statuettes from the Cleveland Museum of Art by exploring their possible origins and intended functions.

Friday, March 20 ARTini: Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland
7 p.m. Museum of Art
Meet at the Information Desk
Free with purchase of gallery admission

Join Anne Taylor, curator of interpretation at the Frist Center, as she leads an informal conversation on one or two works of art in this exhibition. Complete your evening with music in the Grand Lobby, martinis at the cash bar and visiting with friends.

Saturday, March 21 Adult Workshop: Illuminated Manuscripts
10 a.m.–4 p.m.;
Sunday, March 22
1 p.m.–4 p.m.
Frist Center Studios
$50 members; $60 non-members
Call 615.744.3247 to register

Michele Herbert, artist and co-owner of Shimai Pottery, will lead participants in a workshop in which they will create their own illuminated manuscripts similar to the ones seen in the exhibition Medieval Treasures from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Sunday, March 29 Family Day
1–5:30 p.m.

Enjoy a fun-filled day of excitement with friends and family including special art-making activities, live music and dance performances.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., is an art exhibition center dedicated to presenting the finest visual art from local, regional, U.S. and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features more than 30 interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and military and $6.50 for college students with ID (college students are free Thursday and Friday evenings). Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3246. The Frist Center is open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting our Web site at

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