Early Medieval Art

Early Medieval Art
Who, When, and Where
6th-8th C.
8th-11th C.
8th-9th C.
10th-Early 11th C.
British Isles
France, Germany
Key Ideas
The Migration period in the Early Middle Ages featured portable
works that were done in the animal style.
Characteristics of Early Medieval Art include horror vacui and
interlacing patterns
Art at the court of Charlemagne begins the first of many western
European revivals of ancient Rome
Ottonian art revives large scale sculpture and architecture
Animal Style- a medieval art
form in which animals are
depicted in a stylized and
often complicated pattern,
usually seen fighting one
Cloisonné- enamelwork in
which colored areas are
separated by thin bands of
metal, usually gold or
Cloister- a rectangular
open-air monastery
courtyard with a covered
arcade surrounding it
Codex- a manuscript book
Colophon- an inscription at
the end of a manuscript
containing relevant
information about its
Gospels- the first 4 books
of the New Testament
(chronicle the life of Jesus
Horror Vacui- type of
artwork in which the entire
surface is filled with
objects, people, designs,
and ornaments in a
crowded congested way
Psalter- book of
Psalms (sacred sung
poems), of the Bible
Scriptorium- place in
a monastery where
monks wrote
Westwork- a
entrance to a
Carolingian church in
which two towers
flank a lower central
Illuminated Manuscripts:
Illuminated Manuscripts
Anglo Saxon Hoard Found
Characteristics of Saxon Art:
Medieval Britain- 6th – 8Th C.
The discovery of a hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silverwork
in 2009 changed the historical perspective/knowledge of the
Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Medieval Britain
Sutton Hoo ship burial (1939) revealed some of the richest
works from this period.
Artistic styles include:
Horror vacui
Animal style
Interlacing patterns
Portable objects
Elaborate symmetry with animals and geometric designs
Saxon Art: Purse Cover from Sutton
Hoo Ship Burial, 600-650
Ship burial, possibly for King Raedwald of East Anglia
Purse cover- the metal was backed by ivory or bone, which
desintigrated along with the leather portions of the bag
Animal style (hawks attacking ducks)
Animals bite the heads of the men they flank
Interlacing patterns, ornamental design
Legs and arms intertwined
Cloisonne technique
Characteristics of Hiberno-Saxon Art:
Hibernia = ancient name for Ireland
Hiberno-Saxon – Art of the British Isles, 6th – 8th C.
Main artistic expression is ILLUMINATED
Artistic Styles/Themes include:
Interlacing patterns
horror vacui
Harbor animals in combat patterns (??)
Animal style
Illuminated texts:
Open with huge initials, highly decorated
Bright colors, painted by highly skilled artists
Hiberno-Saxon Art: Saint Matthew from
the Book of Lindisfarne, 700
Illuminated Manuscript Gospel Book
Saint Matthew seated on a cushioned
bench writing his book of the Bible
Man behind curtain- God? Moses?
Matthew’s symbolic angel behind him
Words= “Image of a Man”
Byzantine influence:
Greek words “Saint Matthew” in
Angel’s hand covered
Flattened linear elements
Colophon: the gospels were painted
and inscribed by Bishop Eadfrith of
Hiberno-Saxon Art: Chi-Rho-Iota Page from the
Book of Matthew in the Book of Kells, 800
Lavish, richly decorated book
Very complex designs
Interlacing patterns
The initials are the dominant motif
Chi and Rho = the first two letters of
Christ’s name in Greek (Christos);
often represented as a monogram in
Christian art
Created by monks in a Scriptorium
Painted on vellum
Very expensive material
Characteristics of Viking Art:
Population growth in Scandinavia resulted in
Viking invasions throughout Europe.
Viking artists emphasized animals and spirals
and elaborate interlacing patterns
Mostly applied art, ie FUNCTIONAL
Sword hilts, belts, buckles, etc.
Art/symbols/designs were engraved on functional
Animal style with horror vacui
Viking Art: Animal Head Post from
the Oseberg Ship Burial, 834
Part of a ship burial
for two high ranking
women in the Viking
Snarling mouth, wild
staring eyes, flaring
Head- filled with
interlacing animal
Purpose = unknown;
possibly prow of a
boat or used in a
Characteristics of Carolingian Art:
Carolingian Art = the art of Charlemagne (and
the time period, of course)
France and Germany, 8-9th C.
First revival of classical art from the ancient
world (this will be a theme throughout
European art from now on…yay?)
Wanted to be the emperor of a “New Rome”….so he
copied all Rome’s stuff. Like…
Bath houses, theatres, forum
Roman imagery was used on coins and in architecture
(and everything in between)
Characteristics of Carolingian Art:
Carolingian Churches
Elaborate westworks (entrance, chapel, two towers)
Monastic buildings housing…ahem…monks/nuns. (in
entirely self sufficient communities- we don’t want these
guys and gals being tempted with sin by interacting with
“the public”)
Cloisters- open air courtyards in monasteries
All these churchey buildings were usually placed
together…near the church.
Some murals and mosaics were created, but nobody
really liked them. Let’s focus on the manuscripts and
paintings! (blending Byzantine and Roman styles, of
Carolingian Art: Lorsch Gatehouse, 760,
Lorsch Germany
Part of the Lorsch Abbey
Placed before the
entrance to the
3 arched openings
divided by engaged
columns (Roman)
Fluted pilasters (fake
columns) on second
Chapel on upper story
Turrets (tower) on left
and right stairwell
Carolingian patterns
with brick
Carolingian Art: Equestrian Statue of
a Carolingian Ruler, 9th C.
Imperial imagery- holding an
orb (symbol of the world)
Influenced by Roman
equestrian statutes (did you
guess Marcus Aurelius??)
Larger than horse
No natural movement
Charlemagne? Charles the
Carolingian Art: Utrecht Psalter, 820-832
A Map of Middle Earth
I mean…a book of
Highly detailed
drawings of the
psalms from the Bible
Monochrome (brown
and white)
Literal translation of
the psalms
Stylized charactersdisplays agitation,
violence, etc.
Carolingian Art: Palatine Chapel, 792-805,
Aachen, Germany
Carolingian Art: Odo of Metz, Palatine
Chapel, 792-805, Aachen, Germany
Architect- Odo of Metz
Was originally part of Charlemagne’s Palace of Aachen
Sort of modeled after San Vitale
Capitals and columns are Roman spolia from Ravenna
Dome composed of spherical triangles
Charlemagne’s throne is in the gallery “halfway
between heaven and earth” (high opinion of himself,
Largest arches are on second floor, not the first
Columns that fill the arches don’t support it- they just
fill the space
Carolingian Art: Plan of St. Gall, 820
Medieval architectural
drawing of a monastic
Ideal, self-sufficient monastic
community of 3000 people
Church in the center (literal and
Cloistered monks only leave to
work in the fields
Daily activities revolve around
the cloister- sleep, eat, etc.
Workshops for making leather,
pottery, etc.
Houses made of timber, serfs
live with their animals
Typical Carolingian church- 2
apses, elaborate westwork
No evidence that these plans
were ever made into an actual
Characteristics of Ottonian Art:
Germany, 10-early 11th C.
Influenced by Roman and Early Christian art
Large stone churches, bronze doors
Common themes include:
Interior arches and windows that do not line up atop
each other
Flat, undecorated walls
Large black spaces
Arches with red and cream alternating stones
Ottonian Art: Abbey Church of St. Michael’s,
Hildesheim, Germany, 1001-1033
Church with 2 transepts, each with crossing
towers and 2 stair turrets
Lateral entrances through side aisles
External side aisles act as narthexes (lobbies) to
the building
Support of nave arcade alternates pairs of
columns and square piers
Windows in clerestory do not line up with
arches (10 windows/9 arches)
Transept arch is subdivided by 2 tower round
arches & 4 smaller second story arches
Ottonian Art: Bishop Bernward Doors, Saint
Michael’s, 1015, Hildesheim, Germany
Two 15-feet tall bronze doors
“Imperial” overtones- Pantheon originally had
bronze doors (they are gone) and Aachen has
plain bronze doors (Charlemagne's chapel)
Left Door: Fall of Man
Right Door: Redemption of Man
Rectangular panels, few human figures, bare
landscapes, emphasis is placed on lively
Bony figures with emphasis placed on their
hands, feet, and heads
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
Ottonian Art: Gero Crucifix, 970,
Cologne Cathedral
Return of large, monumental
Life-sized, wooden; painted
and partially gilded
Rounded human form
Human suffering crucifixion;
earliest example of art
depicting the Crucifixion with
a dead Christ
Commissioned by
Archbishop Gero fro the
cathedral in Cologne,
Considered “Late Ottonian”
or “Early Romanesque”

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