is named for the sculptural elements from five medieval cloisters that are incorporated into the modern building. A cloister is formed by an open courtyard surrounded by covered passageways that provide access to other spaces in a monastery. The Saint-Guilhem Cloister contains elements from the now-destroyed upper level of the cloister from the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert (near Montpellier).
Carved from limestone in the late 12th or early 13th century, the delicate nature of the stone needs to be protected from harsh weather conditions, which was recognized when the Museum was designed. A skylight provides natural daylight to the gallery (along with supplemental lighting), and the changing pattern of light throughout the day enhances the deeply-carved sculptural elements. Many of the capitals, columns, pilasters, and abaci are carved with a variety of plant forms, some of which were influenced by antique Roman types. A selection of the plants represented in the sculpture is displayed in the central courtyard of the gallery or elsewhere in the gardens. Nature was clearly a source of creativity for the sculptors.
Among the plant forms that can be identified are: acanthus, palms, ivy, and hops. Our collection of date and fan palms displayed in this gallery was the subject of an earlier post. The second image in this post shows the distinctive layered, rough texture of a palm trunk portrayed in one of the Saint-Guilhem column shafts. is the most commonly represented plant form in the cloister. The curled, textured leaves are deeply carved with drilled accents, and used to create highly decorative patterns.
Saint-Guilhem Cloister, late 12th-early 13th century, France. Limestone. 25.120.1-.134.
[image descriptions, in order: Saint-Guilhem Cloister lit by the large skylight with art objects visible in the surrounding walkway. Two pale gray columns in the St-Guilhem Cloister; one of the columns imitates a palm tree while the other has a tiered, acanthus-leaf pattern capital. A pilaster (rectangular, decorative column projecting from a wall) with an acanthus motif. A potted Acanthus mollis.]