French Architecture in New York City
Edith Wharton traveled widely in Europe from the time she was a child and was fluent in French and Italian. Her travel books about Italy and France display her thorough knowledge of the architecture of European cathedrals, abbeys, fortresses, and villas. Though she never gave up her American citizenship, she eventually settled in France, purchased two homes there, and was buried in Versailles.
On our tour of "Edith Wharton's New York City" in May, we will visit a unique institution that embodies the architecture and culture Wharton knew so well: the Cloisters Museum and Gardens. The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art of medieval Europe. The building, which is constructed of Romanesque and Gothic elements from French abbeys, houses a collection of paintings, sculpture, and tapestries from the Middle Ages. Among its treasures are "The Unicorn Tapestries", seven world-famous hangings from the late 15th century depicting the hunt for the unicorn.
We are lucky that our visit to the Cloisters will coincide with a special exhibit of six stained glass windows from England's Canterbury Cathedral. The windows have never left the cathedral precincts since their creation in the late 12th century. The month of May will also be a perfect time to see the three gardens of the Cloisters, which cultivate medieval herbs and plants as well as flowers and trees that appear in the Unicorn Tapestries. For a few hours we will feel that we are in Edith Wharton's Europe, transported from the busy metropolis outside.