2. Haute Couture in Roman Catholic Imagination, 2018 : The Cloisters, NY


Heavenly Bodies

Fashion and The Catholic Imagination  at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY which ended in October 2018


The Met’s Cloisters was the setting also of its haute couture exhibition whose theme was Roman Catholic imagination.

Sitting on the edge of a park, on a high bluff on the Hudson River, this site contains – in four separate cloisters and a number of chapels and thematic rooms – a collection of European religious art and architecture from the Western Middle Ages.


Sumptuous the combination of early summer light in the trees and plants of the Cloisters,

light through stained glass,

the patina of old stone, marble and wood,

and the colours and sheen of the textiles on display.




Two Masterpieces of Western Medieval Art at the Cloisters



The Merode Altarpiece 


016018020021Annunciation Triptch (Merode Altarpiece), oil on oak, 1427-1435.  Workshop of Robert Campin (c. 1375-1444), Tournai.  Cloisters Collection



The Unicorn Tapestries, South Netherlandish, 1495-1505

The meaning of these tapestries is not known.


It is the most intriguingly lovely thing in the world to have a series of tapestries which fits no known pattern of Western storytelling, either secular or religious. 




Detail of the Unicorn Purifying Water, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread


The Hunters Enter the Woods, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread





The Unicorn Attacked, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread




The Unicorn Defends Itself, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread



The Capture of the Unicorn,  wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread




The Unicorn in Captivity, wool, silk, silver and gilded-silver-wrapped thread






Haute Couture in Roman Catholic Inspiration




HeavenlyBodies 040

Virgin and Child Reliquary, walnut with paint, on a lead white ground, and linen. French, Auvergne, carved c. 1175-1200




DSC03463035037Ensemble 2018 from a design dating to autumn/winter 1999/2000 haute couture; gray jute plain weave, embroidered clear and iridescent crystals.  Viktor and Rolf, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY






DSC03195Wedding dress, Spring 1967, ivory silk gazar and organza.  Cristobal Balenciaga, Spanish 1895-1972. Loaned to the Metropolitan Museum, NY in 2018 by the Balenciaga archives, Paris




DSC03181Wedding Dress, autumn/winter 1990/91 haute couture; ivory silk satin and crepe de chine.  Loaned by Chanel Patrimoine Collection



DSC03191DSC03192Dress, autumn/winter 1998/99; white cotton poplin. A.V. Vandevorst, Belgian founded 1997.  Loaned by the designer




DSC03197Three Clerics, limestone, Champagne or Ile de France, c. 1160-80.  The Cloisters Collection




DSC03201DSC03199‘Hymene’ wedding dress, 2018; original design spring/summer 1961 haute couture; white silk organza, white silk chiffon.  Loaned by the Dior Heritage Collection, Paris





Saint Fiacre, alabaster.  British (Nottingham) or French (Meaux), 15th century.  The Cloisters Collection 

Patron saint of gardeners and originator of a hospice and hermitage for the poor in Meaux



003005Dress, spring/summer 1986; pale pink cotton muslin.  John Galliano, British born Gibraltar 1960.  Loaned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London




The Cuxa Cloister


The Cuxa Cloister is one of four cloisters within this museum.

All elements of this cloister were taken from the Catalan Benedictine Monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, 1100-1130,  near Peripignan, France


Vitrines were set in the covered passageway which encloses the interior of the Cuxa Cloister.


DSC03224 Vitrines displaying mannequins were set in two of the three passageways of this cloister



DSC03840Allium in bloom in the Cuxa Cloister 





Brown silk velvet.  Valentino S.p.A.  Italian founded 1959. Loaned by the designer.

This design is based on the habits of Benedictine monks depicted in the paintings of Francisco de Zurbaran



DSC03233The Cuxa Cloister 


DSC03232A visitor viewing a part of the exhibition in the a passageway of the Cuxa Cloister



On the left wedding ensemble, 1941.    Townley Frocks; ivory wool and rabbit’s-hair jersey. American founded 1929.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Wedding ensemble on the right; beige and brown wool jersey; 1975. Madame Grès (Alix Barton),1903–1993, French. Metropolitan Museum of Art


DSC03835 Four crabapple trees are planted; one in each corner of the Cuxa Cloister


DSC03255DSC03247DSC03246Autumn/winter 2015/16; black wool melton, cotton plain weave, cotton jersey, nylon plain weave, and suede.  Rick Owen, American born 1961.  Loaned by the designer





DSC03217Evening Dress, 1969; light brown silk paper taffeta.  Madam Gres (Alix Barron), 1903-1993, French.  Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY



DSC03835A crabapple tree in the Cuxa Cloister Garden



DSC03256Evening ensemble, autumn/winter 2017/18 haute couture.  Ivory wool-silk satin and black cashmere.  Valentino S.p.A.  Italian founded 1959.  Loaned by the designer.

This is known to be based on the habits of Benedictine monks depicted in the paintings of Francisco de Zurbaran




DSC03842A David Austin English rose bush growing in the Cuxa Cloister garden


DSC03274In the front, ensemble autumn/winter 2015/16; light brown wool melton, cotton jersey and nylon canvas.  Rick Owen, American born 1961.  Loaned by the designer




DSC03294DSC03288DSC03293‘Guadalupe’ evening ensemble, spring/summer 2007 haute couture; light blue silk jersey and red silk mousseline, embroidered red bugle beads, paillettes, and crystals with silver metal.   Jean Paul Gaultier, French born 1952.  Loaned by the designer




027‘Lumiere’, evening wear spring/summer 2007 haute couture; polychrome printed silk chiffon and black silk chiffon.  The material is printed with Jean Fouquet’s Virgin and Child, c. 1452, as if stained glass.  Jean Paul Gaultier, French born 1952.  Loaned by the Rohkssa Museum, Sweden




DSC03318Ensemble autumn/winter 2017/18; beige quilted jute canvas polychome embroidered with acrylic thread.  Craig Green, British born 1986.  Loaned by the designer



DSC03330DSC03326DSC03332Ensemble autumn/winter 2011/12; black wool twill, black leather, gold metal zipper.  Gareth Pugh, British born 1981.  Loaned by the designer




DSC03862DSC03343Ensemble autumn/winter 2006/07 haute couture; black silk crepe, bronze-plaited metal, black paillettes, clear crystals, gilt metal.  House of Dior, John Galliano, British born Gibraltar 1960.  Loaned by the House of Dior Heritage Collection




DSC03344DSC03345DSC03347Evening dress spring/summer 1999; black silk taffeta moire, silver metal hook-and-eye closures.  Loaned by Olivier Theyskens



One long room has windows of clear stained glass inset with roundels of clear glass and silver stain made in Germany in the 1530s.  In the center of the room, a row of citrus trees.







Evening dress, spring/summer 2014 haute couture;  gray silk net, embroidered polychrome silk and metal thread, brown and black feathers, gold pailettes.  Valentino S.p.A. gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

The inspiration for this spectacular dress is the painting, Adam and Eve of 1526 by Lucas Cranach the Elder






DSC03362DSC03363Evening dress, autumn/winter 2015/16; polychrome printed silk faille, embroidered pink crystals.  House of Dior, Raf Simons, Belgian born 1968.  Loaned by the Dior Heritage Collection, Paris.

This is an abstract interpretation of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch





DSC03881DSC03382Ensembles, sping/summer 2015; polychrome printed cotton twill and silk-linen sateen, black cotton sateen, brown silk-linen sateen and black cowhide leather.  Undercover, Jun Takahashi, Japanese born 1969.

These are printed with scenes from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch




DSC03374DSC03377DSC03379DSC03375DSC03384DSC03378Evening dress, autumn/winter 2015/16 haute couture; gold and white silk tulle, embroidered gold-painted feathers and silk cotton plain weave.  Valentino S.p.A.  Loaned by the designer







From this green and gold room, you step into the Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden


The basis of this garden is a list of 89 species specified by Charlemagne, 742-814 ACE, to be grown on his estates. 

To this were added plants and herbs known to have been used for food, medicine, magic and poison in the Middle Ages in Europe.


DSC03887Quince trees in the the Bonnefont Cloister Herb Garden


DSC03886An Apothecary Rose in the Bonnefont Herb Garden


DSC03906Dittany of Crete in the Bonnefont Herb Garden



When you re-enter the museum building, you are in front of magnificent woodwork set off by red cotton twill




DSC03386House of Dior, ensemble spring/summer 2006 haute couture; red and black rubber-coated cotton twill embroidered with black silk thread and seed beads, black silk chiffon, and metal grommets.   Loaned by Dior Heritage Collection, Paris.

The mannequin stands inside a staircase enclosure made of oak in Picardy in the late 15th and early 16th century




DSC03945Man of Sorrows and Mourning Virgin; pot-metal and colorless glass, silver stain, and vitreous paint. Germany (present-day France), Upper Rhineland, Strasbourg, about 1480.  The Cloisters, NY



HeavenlyBodies 008‘Angelico’ embroidery sample, autumn/winter 1938/39; pale grey silk georgette, embroidered gold metal and silk thread, gold beads, black paillettes and blue crystal. Elsa Schiaparelli, 1890-1973, Maison Lesage, French founded 1924.  Loaned by the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris




DSC03848DSC03857‘Regina Maris’ evening ensemble, summer 2007 haute couture; blue silk satin polychrome crystals and stone.  Jean Paul Gaultier, French born 1952.  Loaned by Gaultier, Paris





DSC03417House of Chanel, cocktail dress spring/summer 1960; ivory cotton lace with embroidered gold and silver metal thread.  Loaned by the Chanel Patrimoine Collection



DSC03420Behind the 3 female busts, detail of an altar and socle made of alabaster for a the chapel of a Spanish archbishop at Saragossa, 1456-58.  Franci Gomez, active c.1443-c.1493, Spanish. 

Two hats of natural straw made by Philip Treacy,  British born 1967.  Loaned by Selina Blow


DSC03938Reliquary Busts of Female Saints, oak with paint and gilding.  South Netherlandish, Brabant, possibly Brussels, 1520-30.   Cloisters Collection





DSC03421‘Madonna Rides Again’ hats of natural straw.  Philip Treacy, British born 1967.  Loaned by Selina Blow.

All 3 hats, an interpretation of the white cornette of the Daughters of Charity, are posed in front of the Burg Weiler Altarpiece.  This depicts the coronation of the Virgin



DSC03427DSC03428DSC03429DSC03430DSC03447Wedding Ensemble, spring/summer 2018; white silk organza, white nylon tulle, embroidered white silk thread, gold bullion, pearls, crystals, clear glass, mother of pearl, white mink.  Thom Browne, American born 1965.  Loaned by the designer




013014Dress, spring/summer 2015; red silk velvet.  Valentino S.p.A., Italian.  Loaned by the designers



DSC03459DSC03460DSC03461‘Penelope’ wedding ensemble, spring/summer 2013 alta moda; gold, silk and metal macrame lace, grosgrained-covered whalebone, gold metal filigree with polychrome crystals, gold silk tulle with gold lurex.  Dolce and Gabanna, Italian.  Loaned by the designers




Saint Guilhelm Cloister

This was taken from the site of a Benedictine monastery of Saint-Guilem-le-Desert, is much smaller than the original cloister; and dates from 804 to 1660 ACE. 

In it, two austere Valentino outfits way above our heads.




062066 Two evening ensembles designed and made of black silk and further embellished by Valentino S.p.A, for the winter/spring season of 2015-16