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Medieval Art

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Medieval Art

  1. 1. EARLY MEDIEVAL ART Time Period: 450-1050 (aka: 5th – 11th century)
  2. 2. There are a few civilizations going on in Medieval times… • HIBERNO-SAXON ART: 6th – 8th centuries in the British Isles • VIKING ART: 8th – 11th centuries in Scandinavia • CAROLINGIAN ART: 8th – 9th centuries in France and Germany • OTTONIAN ART: 10th – early 11th centuries in Germany
  3. 3. Some main points about Early Medieval art: • Many portable works of art done in the “animal style”, especially during the migration period of the Early Middle Ages • Horror vacui and interlacing patterns are common characteristics of the art • Charlemagne in power = the first of MANY western European revivals of ancient Rome • Ottonian art revives large scale sculpture and architecture
  4. 4. History Lesson: • In the year 600, everything that was known was……well……old •All those cool technological breakthroughs from the Romans?? LOST! Lost to history, or beyond the capabilities of the migratory people of the 7th century. •THIS was the age of mass migrations across Europe
  5. 5. • ATILLA THE HUN – 5th century king whose hordes of subjects were famous for plundering everything in their path • Then the Vikings sailed across the North Sea and invaded the British Isles and colonized parts of France. • The Vandals were also really rude. They destroyed the remains of Roman civilization! Jerks!
  6. 6. • Historians call this time “The Dark Ages”, which is in reference to our knowledge of the times (we’re “in the dark” about a lot of it) FINALLY, at the end of the 8th century, there was stability in Europe – A bunch of Frankish kings (including Charlemagne) built an impressive empire. The capital was centered in Aachen, Germany.
  7. 7. • THEN, in the 10th century, a dynasty of three German kings (all named, Otto, strangely enough), established the Ottonian Empire and reunited central Europe
  8. 8. PATRONAGE/ARTISTS • Where does a person learn in the Early Middle Ages? At a monastery! But most people weren’t very educated. Even Charlemagne couldn’t write more than his name (though, he could read!). • Therefore, artists who could draw AND write were hot stuff. They were honored for creating manuscripts.
  9. 9. • Originality and new ideas? Not happening in art. This notion was unknown in the Middle Ages. • Scribes copied great works of ancient literature (the Bible, medical essays, etc.). They did not record modern literature or folk tales  • Scribes kept the original wording of the texts • Illustrators painted important scenes (used traditional approaches in style along with individual creativity • Text of a manuscript = exact copy of original • Illustration of a manuscript = some freedom of expression
  10. 10. •Manuscript books are called CODICES (more user- friendly and resilient than ancient scrolls) Made of tough calf hide (VELLUM) or sheep or goat hide (PARCHMENT). Hides were cut in sheets, soaked in lime, dried, and chalked to whiten the surface. Artisans scrape the skin with a sharp knife to get an even thickness. Then they rubbed it smooth to remove impurities. The hides were folded into small books of 8 pages called QUIRES.
  11. 11. • Parchment is highly valued (they use it even after paper became standard) • Illustrations done mostly by monks and nuns • Wrote in rooms called SCRIPTORIA (“writing places”) with no heat or candlelight (to prevent fires). Sounds lovely! • Vow of silence to limit mistakes (no backspace!) • Often a team of scribes and illustrators would work on one book • The books had a sacred quality – the word of God is in there! • Books covered with bindings of wood or leather • Decorated with gold leaf and precious gems, ooooo.
  12. 12. Time for some SAXON art… • Objects done in CLOISONNE dominate (enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin bands of metal, usually old or bronze) • HORROR VACUI designs (Latin meaning “fear of empty spaces”): entire surface is filled with objects, people, designs, and ornaments in a congested way • ANIMAL STYLE decoration: animals depicted in a stylized and complicated pattern- usually fighting • Interlacing patterns are common • Elaborate symmetry with alternating animals and geometric designs. • Most objects are portable
  13. 13. Purse Cover from Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, 600-650 (7th century), gold, garnet, enamels
  14. 14. •Sutton Hoo was the scene of a ship burial, possibly for King Raedwald of East Anglia •Purse cover designs survived, but backing of ivory and bone disintegrated (don’t buy ivory!) •Leather bag also bit the dust •ANIMAL STYLE! Hawks attacking ducks •Animals bite heads off the men they flank •Interlacing patterns of ornamental designs, intertwined arms and legs •CLOISONNE technique
  15. 15. HIBERNO-SAXON ART (6th-8th centuries) • Art of the British Isles • Hibernia is the ancient name for Ireland • Main art = illuminated manuscripts • Complicated interlacing patterns, horror vacui • Pages with borders of animals in combat patterns (ANIMAL STYLE) • Each section of text opens with huge initials that are richly decorated • Irish artists were skilled with color and form- polychrome techniques
  16. 16. Saint Matthew from the Book of Lindisfarne, 700 (8th century), tempera on vellum •St. Matthew is on cushioned bench, book on his lap, writing his book in the Bible •Man behind curtain might be “inspiration” from God, or maybe Moses or Christ •Matthew’s symbol is above him (an angel) •Latin words “image of a man”
  17. 17. •Byzantine influence: -Greek words “St. Matthew” in Latin characters -Angel’s hand covered •Flattened, linear elements •Crisp lines in drapery (no modeling) •Called the Book of Lindisfarne because the book was painted by Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne
  18. 18. Cross Pages from the Lindisfarne Gospels, 700 (8th century), tempera on vellum (more ahead…) These pages are called “carpet pages” and are at the beginning of the four Gospels
  19. 19. •Huge range of pigment •Colors from animal, vegetable, and mineral sources (some imported) •Egg whites and fish glue to bind pigment •Celtic style- spiral style and “knot work” •Animal style- extensive use of interlaced animal and bird patterns – birds might have been from artist’s observations of wildlife in Lindisfarne
  20. 20. •Geometrical ornamentation (Germanic influence) •Resemblance to Islamic prayer rugs (Coptic influence – Christian Egyptian) •Prayer rugs help worshippers in prayer = these pages prepare the reader before the Gospel message
  21. 21. •Crosses are equal- armed with one square unit added to the foot •Complex maze of interlacing patterns •In this one, there is a border of stylized birds •Finials at each corner with dog heads- ears and necks form interlace patterns
  22. 22. Chi-Rho-Iota Page from the Book of Matthew in the Book of Kells, 800 (9th century), ink of vellum •Lavish, richly illustrated book with complex designs •Interlacing patterns galore! •Heads and figures of people appear in elaborate patterns •Initials are dominant motifs •CHI and RHO are first two letters of Christ’s name in Greek (Christos) – a monogram in Christian art
  23. 23. Chi-Rho-Iota Page from the Book of Matthew in the Book of Kells, 800 (9th century), ink of vellum •Created by monks in one of those cozy scriptoriums •Painted on vellum
  24. 24. And just a few more images from the Book of Kells just for kicks…
  25. 25. • And just a fun fact: Traditional Irish dancing dresses are decorated with designs from the Book of Kells (check out the Animal Style!).
  26. 26. VIKING ART (8th – 11th centuries in Scandinavia) •Population explosion in Scandinavia = expansion of Viking culture through northern Europe •Viking artists liked animals and spirals in elaborate interlacing patterns. •Viking art is characterized by “applied art”- art that decorates functional objects •More ANIMAL STYLE and HORROR VACUI
  27. 27. Animal Head Post from the Osenberg Ship Burial, 834 (9th century), wood
  28. 28. • Part of a ship burial for two highly placed women in the Viking court • Snarling mouth • Flaring nostrils • Wild, staring eyes • Head with interlacing animal patterns • Purpose of head post is unknown – may have been used in a procession or on the prow of a boat • Discovered in Norway, well preserved because it was buried
  29. 29. CAROLINGIAN ART (8th – 9th centuries in Germany and France) • This is the time of Charlemagne • The first revival of Classical art beyond the ancient world • Charlemagne wanted a “new Rome”- planned bath houses, theaters, and a forum in the capital, Aachen • Roman imagery revived on everything – coins to architecture
  30. 30. • Carolingian churches have elaborate WESTWORKS: a centralized entrance beneath a second story chapel, flanked by impressive towers •Churches often had an attached monastic building for monks or nuns. They ate, slept, and worked around an open-air courtyard called a CLOISTER – placed adjacent to the church
  31. 31. •Plan of St. Gall Monastery (9th century) •More about this place later…….. Cloister
  32. 32. • Some Carolingian murals and mosaics were made, but they were not in the Frankish taste. • Instead, they continued the medieval tradition of manuscript painting – inspired by Roman sources and Byzantine iconography • Let’s look at some Carolingian art…..
  33. 33. Lorsch Gatehouse 760 (8th century), Lorsch, Germany
  34. 34. Constantine? Three arched openings divided by engaged columns
  35. 35. • Fluted pilasters on second story • Carolingian pattern motifs cover walls • Chapel on upper story – maybe it was a reception room for guests? • Was placed before the entrance to a monastery, in the atrium • The turrets have stairwells Lorsch Gatehouse 760 (8th century), Lorsch, Germany
  36. 36. Equestrian Statue of a Carolingian Ruler 9th century, bronze (It’s at the Louvre in Paris!) • Ruler is holding the orb (symbol of the world)- imperial imagery • Rider is way too big for the horse he’s on (poor horse!) • Sits bolt upright, little natural movement of horse • Maybe this guy represents Charlemagne or Charles the Bald?
  37. 37. Influenced by Roman equestrian statues like Marcus Aurelius
  38. 38. Utrecht Psalter, 820-832 (9th century), ink on vellum, The Netherlands • Richly illustrated ink drawings of the psalms of the Bible – 166 illustrations (one for each psalm and other texts in the manuscript) • Monochromatic (cheap and quick) • Very neat writing- highly legible • Rich imagery • Overly-literal interpretation of the text • Figures display a lot of gestures- appear agitated and violent, • Perhaps used by several monks at the same time to read while singing • Perhaps used by young monks as a learning tool (to memorize the psalms, the visuals help)
  39. 39. Example of LITERAL images: PSALM 27 illustration • Text says they “go down into the pit” • We see winged figures poke the workers with spears • A king king stands before a temple, Christ and angles above • Umbrella over king – maybe illustrated by a foreigner (not an Anglo-Saxon artist)?
  40. 40. Odo of Metz, Palatine Chapel, 792-805 (late 8th/ early 9th cen.) Aachen Germany
  41. 41. •Centrally planned chapel built for Charlemagne Strange that the largest arches are on the second floor, not the first. The columns that fill the arches do not support the arch. They just fill the space.
  42. 42. San Vitale vs. Palatine Chapel by Odo of Metz
  43. 43. • Charlemagne imported capitals and columns from Revenna • Charlemagne’s throne is in the gallery (halfway between heaven and earth)
  44. 44. • The dome is composed of spherical triangles • The Palatine Chapel was part of Charlemagne’s palace, but is now part of Aachen Cathedral (palace gone) • Holds Charlemagne’s remains
  45. 45. Plan of St. Gall, 820 (9th cen.), ink on parchment, Switzerland
  46. 46. • The original is a little hard to see… • Plan of an ideal self-sufficient monastic community of about 3000 people • Church is in the center- symbolically and literally • Cloistered monks only leave to go into the fields. • Daily activities surround the cloister (sleeping, eating) • Workshops for making leather and pottery • Houses made of timber, serfs live with their animals • Carolingian church plan typical of the time- two apses and an elaborate westwork • The plans were never used- nothing built.
  47. 47. Crucifixion with Angels and Mourning Figures, Linsau Gospels 870-880 (9th century) Gold, pearls, sapphires, garnets, and emeralds •Magnificent cover of an illuminated manuscript •Covers like this were frequently reused or stolen because of their value
  48. 48. •Made in one of the monastic workshops of Charlemagne’s grandson, Charles the Bald •Cross and Crucifixion were common thems for medieval book covers •Gold with figures in REPOUSSE (remember what that is???) •Heavily jeweled
  49. 49. •Jewels are raised up from the gold ground- allows reflected light to enter the gemstones from beneath- creates a lustrous glow •The gems are meant to represent the jeweled walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem
  50. 50. •Angels hover above arms of cross •Figures representing sun and moon above Christ’s head – hiding their faces •Mourners have graceful, expressive poses – float below arms of cross (Mary, John, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Cleophas)
  51. 51. The figures have the same expressive style of the UTRECHT PSALTER
  52. 52. •Jesus is different than the other figures- he is rounded and naturalistic (Classical sculpture?) •Erect posture and simple drapery – in contrast to emotional expressiveness of figures •Arms outstretched, upright and alert – announces triumph over death and welcomes his followers
  53. 53. Page with Matthew the Evangelist, Ebbo Gospels 9th century. Ink, gold, and colors on vellum •Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious made his friend Ebbo the archbishop of Reims – became a patron of the arts – had this gospel book made for him •Unique style associated with Reims
  54. 54. •Modeling used on his face, hands, feet, drapery- illusion of a 3-D figure •Illusion of space- foreground, middle ground, and background- created by landscape backdrop and protruding foot rest •Horizon line, stylized landscape elements •Check out the architecture in the background •Colors are more like the natural world- more like Roman painting than Byzantine or Christian art
  55. 55. •Frantic and intense •Face, drapery, and landscape is swirling, expressive, and colorful •Tiny angel in upper right = inspiration •Everything seems windblown – artist used paintbrush like a pen
  56. 56. •Less attention on Matthew’s appearance, more on his inner spiritual excitement as he transcribes the Word of God coming to him from that tiny angel (his symbol)
  57. 57. •Head and neck jut out, hunched shoulders, twisted brow, prominent eyebrows, intense gaze, very theatrical •Gold highlights in hair, robe, furniture, and landscape – text that goes with it is also in gold (not shown)
  58. 58. •Desk, bench, and footstool tilt in different directions (not in perspective), but who cares when you’re so swept away while writing the Gospel!
  59. 59. OTTONIAN ART (10th – early 11th centuries in Germany) • Influenced by Roman and Early Christian past • Shows commitment to imperial imagery seen in Carolingian art • Large stone churches = Ottonian architecture • Bronze doors • Interior arches and windows don’t line up one on top of the other • Interior walls are flat and undecorated; little interruption in the large expanses of blank space • Arches are usually red and cream colored alternating stones
  60. 60. Abbey Church of St. Michael’s 1001-1033 (11th century), Hildeshiem, Germany • Windows in clerestory do not line up with arches below- ten windows over nine arches
  61. 61. 2 transepts, each with 2 crossing towers and 2 stair turrets
  62. 62. • Entrances through side aisles • Exterior side aisles as narthexes or lobbies to the building • Columns and square piers alternate along nave
  63. 63. Red and cream colored stones on arches
  64. 64. Bishop Bernward Doors 1015 (11th century), St. Michael’s Hildesheim, Germany • Two 15-foot tall bronze doors • Left: the Fall of Man • Right: the Redemption of Man • Scenes separated into rectangular panels with few figures, bare landscapes, emphasis on lively gestures
  65. 65. • Left door narrative runs top to bottom- tells Old Testament stories of Creation and the Fall of Man in the upper four panels and the Expulsion from the Garden to the Cursing of Cain in the lower four • Right door narrative runs bottom to top- lower four panels tell story of infancy of Christ to the Annunciation to the Presentation at the Temple, upper four tell parts of the Passion and after the Resurrection (out of chron. order) • The narrative makes a U shape
  66. 66. Here are a few scenes from the left door…
  67. 67. Creation of Eve (left door) Figures on these doors have vitality and liveliness
  68. 68. Presentation of Eve to Adam (left door)
  69. 69. • God accusing Adam and Eve (left door) • Bony figures • Emphasis on hands, feet, and heads
  70. 70. Cain murders his brother Abel (Adam and Eve’s sons) – God curses him for this Cain was jealous of Abel and kills him- first act of violence recorded in the Bible
  71. 71. Here are some scenes from the right door…
  72. 72. Adoration of the Magi And if you want to know more about the doors, visit
  73. 73. Presentation in the Temple - Simeon and Anna prophesied over Jesus
  74. 74. Christ’s Crucifiction
  75. 75. Gero Crucifix, 970 (10th century), wood, Cologne Cathedral (Smo cam)
  76. 76. • Return of large monumental sculpture! • Christ is life size • Jesus is hanging from a cross for the first time- shows human emotion and suffering • Commissioned by Archbishop Gero for the cathedral in Cologne, Germany.
  77. 77. • Slumped head, twisted body, hair spread over shoulders, knees bent sideways – a pose not seen before • THIS becomes the standard depiction of the crucifixion (you’ll see…)
  78. 78. VOCABULARY to help you study: •ANIMAL STYLE: a medieval art form in which animals are depicted in a stylized and often complicated pattern, usually seen fighting with one another •CLOISSONE: enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin bands of metal, usually gold or bronze •CLOISTER: a rectangular open-air monastery courtyard with a covered arcade surrounding it •CODEX (codices): a manuscript book •COLOPHONE: an inscription at the end of a manuscript containing relevant information on its publication
  79. 79. •GOSPELS: the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible that chronicle the life of Jesus Christ •HORROR VACUI: a type of artwork in which the entire surface is filled with objects, people, designs, and ornaments in a crowded, sometimes congested way •PSALTER: a book containing the Psalms, or sacred sung poems, of the Bible •SCRIPTORIUM (scriptoria): a place in a monastery where monks wrote manuscripts •WESTWORK: a monumental entrance to a Carolingian church in which two towers flank a lower central entrance.
  80. 80. Let's learn more about illuminated manuscripts from the BBC! 30 min movie This is the link if you want to watch it at home: