Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Jennifer  Christie

Link to Jennifer Christie's Senior Art Thesis

Medieval Cloisters and Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Adolescent Search for Self in the Works of Han Nolan

Han  Nolan

Han Nolanís novels focus on the adolescent search for identity. She explores this through challenging her characters with difficult situations, such as losing a loved one, which forces the character to grow. She gives her readers a sense of hope when searching for identity by developing support characters who encourage the struggling protagonist to find the answers. Archie, the protagonist from When We Were Saints, is guided by his new friend, Clare, after the death of his grandfather. While Archie struggles with his internal conflict, feeling responsible for the death, Clare helps him regain his strength and sense of self. Relationships like this reflect Nolanís message that with the support of others everyone will eventually find his way.

In the novel When We Were Saints, the two main characters, Archie and Clare, travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in search of their identity. The actual administrators of the museum had searched for many years for the pieces of art that would complete their exhibit and give it the special Medieval identity that is seen through the eyes of its visitors. The Cloisters exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art included monastery-like structures, all of which contained courtyards and beautiful gardens. Within the exhibit there were many types of art. The final pieces of the exhibit, added to the museum in 1938, were a set of late fifteenth century tapestries depicting the Hunt of the Unicorn. The tapestries were used as wall hangings by their first owners, but during the French Revolution they were stolen from the house in which they were placed. They were not found for many years after, until the ownerís son and his wife went on a search to restore them. They eventually were found in a villagerís harvesting area, covering vegetables. These historical pieces of art survived with little restoration needed. They were later bought by John D. Rockefeller at an auction, and installed at his house in New York. When Rockefeller consulted with the museum, both agreed that the tapestries were exactly what they were looking for. In 1938, the museum opened its Cloisters exhibit to the public with the complete set of the unicorn tapestries included.

Major Works Consulted:

Cavallo, Adolfo Salvatore. Medieval Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993.
---. The Unicorn Tapestries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
Nolan, Han. A Summer of Kings. New York: Harcourt, 2006.
---. When We Were Saints. New York: Harcourt, 2005.
Photo Credit: Nolan, Han. A Summer of Kings. New York: Harcourt, 2006.


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