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A window onto everyday life

As a complement to the presentation “Treasures”, team of curators at the Cluny museum wished to shine a spotlight on another aspect of medieval artistic production: objects from everyday life.Organised around several themes – medieval households, art of the table, religious devotion, care of the body, toys and games, measuring instruments, and reading and writing – these objects offer glimpses into how people in medieval society spent their hours and days.

Be they luxury items conceived for an aristocratic elite or common objects destined for more modest folk, their functions seem surprisingly close to ours, responding as they do to material and human needs that transcend the centuries. Nevertheless, it is worth digging a little deeper. A distinguishing feature of medieval furniture is that it was easily transportable, for the wealthiest classes were often on the move. Plates and forks were missing from medieval tableware, which often consisted of ceremonial pieces in affluent households.

The games and toys on display serve as a reminder that entertainment was an important part of medieval society, while books and writing instruments were the preserve of a small privileged class. Clocks and watches, astrolabes and weights bear witness to units of measure that were different from those we use today, and a relationship to time that was not yet standardised. Lastly, carefully-crafted toiletries reveal the importance of hygiene in the Middle Ages and indicate that these objects were preciously guarded for use over a lifetime.

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Embroidery in the Middle Ages

October 24, 2019 - January 20, 2020

Embroidery in silk, gold and silver thread was one of the most highly valued and prestigious arts of the Middle Ages. And yet, today, these works are not at all well known. From 24 October 2019 to 20 January 2020, the Musée de Cluny, the National Museum of the Middle Ages, shines a light on the range of work produced in Europe in its "Embroidery in the Middle Ages" exhibition.

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Mysterious caskets. Prints at the time of the Lady and the unicorn

September 18, 2019 – January 6, 2020

The musée de Cluny – National Museum of the Middle Ages, continues its series of exhibitions around its iconic tapestries, following from a first part devoted to the unicorn, and a second, to the five senses. From September 18, 2019, to January 6, 2020, the exhibition, “Mysterious Caskets. Prints at the time of the Lady and the Unicorn” will take visitors on the footsteps of Jean d’Ypres, the painter behind preliminary drawings for the famous tapestries, inspiring prints for numerous engravings, some of which decorate intriguing caskets. 

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Magical unicorns

July 14, 2018 – February 25, 2019

The mysterious, ambivalent unicorn has throughout history engendered myriad myths and fantasies. In the 1500’s as well as in the contemporary period, it has been the subject of a veritable infatuation. From 14 July 2018 to 25 February 2019, the “Magical Unicorns” exhibition at the Musée de Cluny – National Museum of the Middle Ages illustrates the manner in which artists have represented this legendary creature via illuminated manuscripts and engraved works, sculptures and tapestries, as well as photographs and videos.

Read here the press release.


Birth of Gothic Sculpture. Saint-Denis, Paris, Chartres. 1135-1150

October 10, 2018 to January 21, 2019

No longer truly Romanesque, without yet being fully Gothic, the style that developed in Île-de-France and beyond between 1135 and 1150 is something of a puzzle. Grasping the imperceptible wind of change and following the tracks of the notebooks of designs that circulated between one construction site and another: this was the challenge of presenting “Birth of Gothic Sculpture. Saint-Denis, Paris, Chartres. 1135-1150”, an exhibition at Musée de Cluny - National Museum of the Middle Ages, from 10 October to 21 January 2019

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