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Tales of the Middle Ages
True stories, fables and anecdotes from the Middle Ages

Religious Art

Christ the Saviour in the Tree of Life

Page from Gospel Book, early 11th century, Staatsbibliothek, Munich.

In 962, Otto I was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and the German art which flourished under the following Ottonian & Salien rulers was highly influenced by Roman & Byzantine associations. In 972 the marriage of Otto II with the Byzantine princess Theophanu was accompanied by an exchange of works of art. This Gospel Book demonstrates the diversity of style which flourished under the patronage of the Ottonian Emperors; through their contacts with Italy and the East, new artistic influences reached northern Europe.

The Agony in the Garden

c. 1200, from the Psalter of Queen Ingeborg, MS 1695 Musee Conde, Chantilly.

Until not long before the 1200's the graphic arts were either two-dimensional or else conceived in low relief. They consisted entirely of the application of color or a little modeling to preliminary drawings, and the drawing styles in question were still derived from the great continuous tradition of Medieval drawing going back to late antiquity, which is most fully represented in early manuscript illumination. By the end of the 12th century, however, emphasis had shifted in an entirely different direction. If painters still shared a common drawing style in 1200, this was now dereived from another source altogether, namely the drapery conventions of classical sculpture - as though painters used drawings intended for the preparation of sculpture. This is very clearly seen in the Ingeborg Psalter.

Christ in Majesty

by The Master of the Majesty of Christ, 1093-7. From the Stavelot Bible in the British Museum, MS Add. 28106-7.

The Master of The Majesty of Christ was one of the decisive contributors to the formation of the Mosan style, which emerged in the period about 1100 at Liege and the group of important abbeys in the vicinity. The plasticity at which the miniaturist aims has a close analogy with metalwork. This new drawing style used lines in much the same way as a glass-painter or an enameller would - to indicate precisely and clearly the boundaries of colors, not to hint vaguely at the impression of movement, or to convey the agitation of feeling.

Illustrations & text excerpts from: The Medieval World by Peter Kidson. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1967.


Tales of the Middle Ages

© 1007-2004 James L. Matterer

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