Early Medieval Art

The lecture
Theme: TV Networks—HCO
T = Tribes
V = Vikings
H = Hiberno Saxons
C = Carolingians
O = Ottonians
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“Dark Ages” is incorrect- the term is Middle
Ages and Medieval
Art historians note the blend of this era of
Christian iconography
Greco-roman heritage
Celtic/Germanic style
These combinations continued to thrive and
change resulting the wide diversity of European
nations today.
There was continuous friction between church
and state in the West, unlike Islam and
Byzantine lands
Various “Barbarian” groups invaded the Roman
Empire In two waves 300-500 and 500-700 CE
Huns, Vandals, Goths, Visigoths, Franks, Lombards,
Angles, Saxons and Jutes among others.
Art historical record is slim at best during this
Migration Period
What has survived is usually small, and utilitarian
They rejected the classical idea of representing
things naturally or realistically.
The original art of the Germanic people was
abstract, decorative, and geometric. It as
confined to small portable items like weapons,
jewelry, and belt buckles.
Fibulas (shoulder pins) were often decorated
with precious metals and inlaid stones. The
entire surface is covered in decorative patterns,
reflecting horror vacui or need to fill the entire
space. The patterns reflect the shape and
surface of the object they adorn, which helps
emphasize the form of the piece.
Fibula (a decorative pin, used
by the Romans and Etruscans)
Fibulae were symbols of
prestige- note Justinian’s is
richer than the other guy’s.
Richly decorated
Zoomorphic forms were
characteristic of this culture.
(Art that creates patterns
using animal imagery, or
animal style)
Cloisonné = a process of
enameling using cloisons- a cell
that holds enamel or other
decorative materials.
Sutton Hoo is one of Britain's most important archaeological
sites, ranking in significance with Stonehenge in Wiltshire.
The burial ground of the Anglo-Saxon pagan kings of East
Anglia, Sutton Hoo is the site of one of the most spectacular
archaeological discoveries ever made in England.
In 1939 archaeologists unearthed an astonishing Anglo-Saxon
ship burial in Woodbridge, Suffolk; astonishing both for
the state of preservation of the objects within the tomb,
but also astonishing for the sheer rich quality of the
The burial goods from Sutton Hoo are remarkable - gold
weapons and armor, inlaid ornaments, silver and tableware.
-Abstract portrayal of the
human and animal figure
-Lined by linear patterns
-Animals were a favorite
subject among artists in
the Middle Ages.
-Functional-was the lid to
a purse or bag
-Retrieved from the
Sutton Hoo shipwreck
The importance of Sutton Hoo cannot be overstated. From the grave goods we can learn a lot
about the pattern of life in this darkest part of the “Dark Ages” in Britain. Even the style of the
craftsmanship lets us draw conclusions about how strong were Saxon connections with rest of
Produced in the post-Roman history of the British Isles.
The term derives from insula, the Latin term for
"island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a
largely common style different from that of the rest of
Art historians usually group insular art as Early
Medieval Western art
Most Insular art originates from the Irish monasticism
of Celtic Christianity, or metalwork for the secular elite,
and the period begins around 600 AD with the
combining of 'Celtic' styles and Anglo-Saxon (English)
The Lindisfarne Gospels was
created in the early eighth century
CE for ceremonial use at the
monastery of Lindisfarne in the
northeast of England.
The manuscript's main text, which
was written out by a single scribe.
The Gospels contains 15 elaborate
fully decorated pages, featuring
ornament of extraordinary
Astoundingly complex patterns are
plaited and knotted across these
pages and intertwined with fanciful
birds and animals.
At the start of each of the Gospels
is an illustration of its author with
his symbol, and throughout the text
pages of the manuscript are
numerous decorated initials.
Ornamental page from the Book of Lindisfarne,
from Northumberland, England, 700 CE.
-St. Mathew is seated on a
cushioned bench, book in his lap
writing his Book of the NT
-Man behind the curtain may be an
inspiration from God, or Christ or
-Matthew’s symbolic angel is above
him with the words “image of a
- Byzantine influence
Greek words
Angles hands are covered
-flattened soft linear elements
-hard lined drapery
contains the four gospels of Mark, Mathew,
Luke and John
its age and its design, although damaged,
allow us a glorious glimpse into the art and
style of ancient Ireland.
The book is considered a crowning glory of
the Celtic art form, and possibly one of the
most important treasures of Western
Begun on island of Iona, moved to Kells
Monastery, County Meath, Ireland in 9th
Over the years, approximately 30 of its
pages have been lost, the remaining 340
contains the four gospels, a list of Hebrew
names, among other things.
Took a team of artists working for 30 years
to complete.
The best pages open the four chapters with
illustrations of the saints along with
individual pages that depict events in the
life of Christ.
-Was considered to be so beautiful
that people thought angels had
made it
-There are faces of angels and Christ
interlaced throughout the design.
-The letters X, P, and I are woven
into the design because they are the
Greek letters representing Christ's
-one can become lost in the infinity
of God, thus removing oneself form
-monks made these as a devotional,
cold, intense work=a recreation of
the pains of Christ
Monastery is the building, or complex of buildings, comprising the domestic quarters
and workplace(s) of monks or nuns. The monastery generally includes a place
reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church or temple
The life of prayer and communal living was one of rigorous schedules and selfsacrifice.
Prayer was their work, and the Office prayers took up much of a monk's waking
In between prayers, monks were allowed to sit in the cloister and work on their
projects of writing, copying, or decorating books.
These would have been assigned based on a monk's abilities and interests. The nonscholastic types were assigned to physical labor of varying degrees.
Monasteries were important contributors to the surrounding community. They were
centers of intellectual progression and education. They welcomed aspiring priests to
come study and learn.
Since monasteries offered respite for weary pilgrim travelers, monks were obligated
also to care for their injuries or emotional needs.
Over time, lay people started to make pilgrimages to monasteries instead of just
using them as a stop over. By this time, they had sizeable libraries that attracted
tourist. Families would donate a son in return for blessings.
Known as a Celtic Cross
Found all over Ireland,
these were "markers" of
Christian territory .
Early crosses used
interlace designs.
Later examples such as
this tell Christian stories
in a flat, airless style, or
are covered with all-over
David and Goiliath
Moses smites water
Small portable
Zoomorphic/animal style
Horror Vacui
Christian and
Celtic/Germanic traditions
Illuminated manuscripts
• Intricate
• Full pages devoted
to pure
– Carpet pages
Resemble textiles
Abstract and
zoomorphic form
• Evangelist symbols
• Embellished words
Norse art is a blanket term for the artistic styles in Scandinavia during the
early Medieval period.
Viking art has many elements in common with Celtic Art, Romanesque art
and East-European.
Vikings terrorized Europe from 793 to the mid-11th century.
Known as the pre-Christian traders and pirates of Scandinavian descents,
they began to destroy the Christian monastic communities.
The Vikings used their great ships to invade Europeans coasts, harbors and
river settlements on a seasonal basis. Their voyages included heading east
from Ireland to Russia, west to Iceland and Greenland and they reached
Newfoundland before Christopher Columbus discovered the "New World".
They created fast and seaworthy longships. The Vikings had a tailored way of
succeeding all their attacks. They did not just hit and run, they colonized all
the lands they occupied. This allowed them to grow and govern large areas of
Ireland, England, France, Baltic regions and Russia.
-Ship burial was for two highly
placed woman in the Viking
-Snarling mouth, eyes wildly
-Head filled with interlaced
animal patterns
-Nostrils flaring
-Unknown purpose of the
head post, may have been
used in a procession of on the
prow of a boat
-knotting on the head
By the 11th century, most of
Scandinavia had converted to
Much of the church is slightly
newer (12th Century)
Animal forms interlace with
The culmination of Viking art
Animal style
until the
11th Century
Franks settled in France during/after the fall of Rome.
In 768 CE Charles I was crowned king of the Franks
He removed the Lombards from Italy & united most of Western
Europe for the first time since Rome fell.
In 800 CE, was crowned Emperor of Rome by the Pope and
claimed to revive the Roman Empire
Called Charles the Great or Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus)
His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art,
religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic
Carolingian Art is the art produced during his reign
Stresses imperial imagery of
holding the orb, a symbol of the
world in the rider’s hands
-Influenced by Roman equestrian
-Rider much larger then the horse
he sits on
-Sits bolt upright, with little
attention to the natural
movement of the horse
- ref (Marcus Aurelius)
Goes along with the
Carolingian Renaissance
Roman toga
Natural-ish setting
Depiction of realistic space
Shows body underneath the
folds in drapery
Calm, serene
-Named for the bishop for whom
the book was transcribed
-Saint Matthew is portrayed as
being in a hurry and is accentuated
with the large brush strokes
signifying movement.
-Landscape is starting to appear in
artwork again.
-There is a sense of anxiety in the
saint's face-naturalism
-The border surrounding the image
proves it is painted by a Northern
European artist.
-very expressive brushwork
Covers for Bibles and Psalters were RICHLY
(books were only for the wealthy)
Made of gold, jewels and ivory
Made for Charles the Baldgrandson of Charlemange
Youthful Christ
Figures of Mary and John
below and angels above are
-Built after the manner of the
Roman and Byzantine Empires
- Reference Santa Costanza
and San Vitale
-Was a political symbol telling
his empire that he had divine
right to rule Western Europe
-Central-plan church
-Roman arches
-Combines the glory of Rome
with the beauty and splendor
of the Byzantine Empire
It was designed by Odo of Metz, who modeled it after the Byzantine-style church of San Vitale
(consecrated 547) in Ravenna, Italy. The most important surviving examples of Carolingian
architecture are exhibited in the chapel. Its octagonal, domed central area (the Octagon) is
surrounded by a tall (two-story), 16-sided ambulatory. Adjacent to the Octagon is the West Hall, with
its formerly open-air atrium. Also notable are the imperial box on the upper floor and the winding
staircases that lead up to the twin towers. The cupola crowning the chapel's dome rises to a height of
101.5 feet (30.9 metres). For centuries the chapel had the highest vaulted interior in northern
Key piece
-A more typical Carolingian church
than the Palatine Chapel
-Basilica church- was a Benedictine
-The new "westwork" was createdthe towers were integrated into the
west facade as one flush edifice.
-still patterned after old St. Peters of
-There is an imperial throne on the
2nd story so that if Charlemagne
chose to visit the church he would
overlook all of the priests and altar.
(He is the head of the church.)
-Axial planed church
A westwork is the monumental, west-facing
entrance section of a Carolingian, Ottonian,
or Romanesque church. The exterior consists
of multiple stories between two towers.
-Three arched openings are
divided by engaged columns
ref “Arch of Constantine”
-fluted pilasters on the second
-Carolingian patterning motifs
cover the walls
-Chapel on the upper story,
originally, perhaps a reception
room for guests
-Building stood in an atrium
-Turrets on left and right
house stairwells
• Charles the Great (Charlemagne)
crowned by Pope Leo III on
Christmas day 800
• First Holy (Christian) Roman
• His name given to era (Carolus
Magnus) = Carolingian
•Regain glory of Roman
•Based on San vital
•Commissions many
New wave of “barbarian” invasions brought
chaos back to Europe- Vikings, Magyars,
Saracen pirates
Carolingian Empire crumbles 30 years after the
death of Charlemagne.
the Holy Roman Empire (or sometimes the
Ottonian Empire) is formed in Germany after
the breakup of the Carolingian Empire.
Founded by Otto I in 962
(Sidenote- the Holy Roman Empire exists in
Germany until 1806)
-Ottonian architecture
-Designed by the tutor to Otto III,
Bishop Bernward
-Double transept
Two apses – east and west sides
-The entrances to the building are
on the side.
-Axial planed church
Rhythmic interior- heavy and light
supports; dark and light decor
-Two 15-feet-tall bronze doors
-Imperial overtones: Pantheon had
bronze doors, now gone; Aachen
has bronze doors, but with no
-Subject: Fall of Man, Redemption
of Man
Left door- stories from Genesis
Right door- stories from Christ’s life
-Rectangular panels with few
figures, bare landscapes, emphasis
on lively gestures
-Bony figures, vitality and liveliness
Emphasis on extremities --- hands,
feet, heads
-first large bronze since Classical
Lost wax casting
Stood within the church
of Saint Michael’s
Tells the story of Jesus'
life in 24 scenes
(It only includes scenes
not included on the
Recalls the column of
Huge- 6 feet tall
Carved in oak, painted and gilded
Commissioned by Archbishop Gero
for the Cologne Cathedral
Statue and reliquary
Meant to show the pain of the
human Christ
-Return of large monumental
-Life-size wooden work
-Suffering of Christ becomes
important. This is a MAJOR shift for
the Catholic church
-Rounded forms
-Hanging from a cross for the first
Created in the
Tempera on Vellum
Holds instruments of his
Similar to Justinian and
his Attendants
Byzantine influenceflat
• Patron of
Ottonian art
and architecture
Tutor of Otto III
• Bronze caster
Much Ottonian art reflected the dynasty's
desire to establish visually a link to the Christian
rulers of Late Antiquity, such as Constantine,
Theodoric, and Justinian as well as to their
Carolingian predecessors, particularly
So there isn’t a vast difference between the two
Monastic reforms
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