Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 

 


CHAPTER TWO
 

ROMANESQUE ART
 

ARCHITECTURE-I
ARCHITECTURE-II
ARCHITECTURE-III
ARCHITECTURE-IV
SCULPTURE-I
SCULPTURE-II
METALWORK AND PAINTING-I
METALWORK AND PAINTING-II
METALWORK AND PAINTING-III
 
 

METALWORK AND PAINTING

Unlike architecture and sculpture, Romanesque painting shows no sudden revolutionary developments that set it apart immediately from Carolingian or Ottonian. Nor does it look more "Roman" than Carolingian or Ottonian painting. This does not mean, however, that in the eleventh and twelfth centuries painting was any less important than it had been during the earlier Middle Ages. It merely emphasizes the greater continuity of the pictorial tradition, especially in manuscript illumination.
France
 

GOSPEL BOOK, CORBIE.

Nevertheless, soon after the year 1000 we find the beginnings of a painting style that corresponds to—and often anticipates—the monumental qualities of Romanesque sculpture. The new attitude is clearly evident in the St. Mark (fig. 434), from a Gospel Book probably done toward 1050 at the monastery of Corbie in northern France. The twisting and turning movement of the lines, which pervades not only the figure of the evangelist but the winged lion, the scroll, and the curtain, recalls Carolingian miniatures of the Reims School such as the Ebbo Gospels (see fig. 388).

This very resemblance helps us see the differences between the two works. In the Corbie manuscript, every trace of classical illusionism has disappeared. The fluid modeling of the Reims School, with its suggestion of light and space, has been replaced by firmly drawn contours filled in with bright, solid colors, so that the three-dimensional aspects of the picture are reduced to overlapped planes. Even Ottoman painting (see figs. 398 and 399) seems illusionistic in comparison. Yet by sacrificing the last remnants of modeling in terms of light and shade, the Romanesque artist has endowed his work with an abstract clarity and precision that had not been possible in Carolingian or Ottonian times. Only now can we truly say that the representational, the symbolic, and the decorative elements of the design are knit together into a single, unified structure.

This style of rhythmic lines and planes eschews all effects that might be termed specifically pictorial, including not only tonal values but the rendering of textures and highlights such as we still find in Ottonian painting. For that very reason, however, it gains a new universality of scale. The evangelists of the Ebbo Gospels, the drawings of the Utrecht Psalter, and the miniatures in the Gospel Book, of Otto III are made up of open, spontaneous flicks and dashes of brush or pen that have an intimate, handwritten flavor. They would certainly look strange if copied on a larger scale or in another medium. The Corbie miniature, on the contrary, might be translated into a mural, a stained-glass window, a tapestry, or a relief panel without losing any of its essential qualities.

434. St. Mark, from a Gospel Book produced at Corbie, ń. 1050.
Bibliotheque Municipale, Amiens



BAYEUX TAPESTRY.


see also
collection: The Bayeux Tapestry  "Propaganda on cloth"




435. The Battle of Hastings. Detail of the Bayeux Tapestry. ń. 1073-83. Wool embroidery on linen, height 20" (50.7 cm).
Centre Guillaume le Conquerant, Bayeux, France


This monumentality is much the same as in the Vezelay tympanum (fig. 427), where similar pleated drapery patterns are rendered in sculptural terms. It is found again in the so-called Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered frieze 230 feet long illustrating William the Conqueror's invasion of England. In our detail (fig. 435), portraying the Battle of Hastings, the designer has integrated narrative and ornament with consummate ease. The main scene is enclosed by two border strips that perform a framing function. The upper tier with birds and animals is purely decorative but the lower strip is full of dead warriors and horses and thus forms part of the story. Devoid of nearly all the pictorial refinements of classical painting (see fig. 220), it nevertheless manages to give us an astonishingly vivid and detailed account of warfare in the eleventh century. The massed discipline of the Graeco-Roman scene is gone, but this is due not so much to the artist's ineptitude at foreshortening and overlapping as to a new kind of individualism that makes of each combatant a potential hero, whether by dint of force or cunning. (Observe how the soldier who has fallen from the horse that is somersaulting with its hind legs in the air is, in turn, toppling his adversary by yanking at the saddle girth of his mount.) The stylistic kinship with the Corbie manuscript is apparent in the lively somersaults of the falling horses, so strikingly like the pose of the lion in the miniature.




ST.-SAVIN-SUR-GARTEMPE.

Firm outlines and a strong sense of pattern are equally characteristic of Romanesque wall painting. The Building of the Tower of Babel (fig. 436) is taken from the most impressive surviving cycle, on the nave vault of the church at St.-Savin-sur-Gartempe (compare fig. 405). It is an intensely dramatic design, crowded with strenuous action. The Lord Himself, on the far left, participates directly in the narrative as He addresses the builders of the colossal structure. He is counterbalanced, on the right, by the giant Nim-rod, the leader of the enterprise, who frantically hands blocks of stone to the masons atop the tower, so that the entire scene becomes a great test of strength between God and man. The heavy dark contours and the emphatic play of gestures make the composition eminently readable from a distance. Yet, as we shall see, the same qualities occur in the illuminated manuscripts of the region, which can be equally monumental despite their small scale.


436. The Building of the Tower of Babel.
Detail of painting on the nave vault, St.-Savin-sur-Gartempe. Early 12th century

Where did the idea come from to cover such a vast area with murals? Surely not from France itself, which had no tradition of monumental painting, but from Byzantium, where it was practiced during the Second Golden Age (see fig. 347)—probably by way of Italy, which had strong ties to the East. Toward the end of the eleventh century, Greek artists decorated the newly constructed basilican church of the Benedictine monastery at Montecassino with mosaics at the invitation of Abbot Desiderius (later Pope Victor III). Although they no longer survive, their impact can be seen in the frescoes painted a short time later in the church of S. Angelo in Formis near Capua, also built by Desiderius. The Arrest of Christ, along the nave (fig. 437), is a counterpart to the mosaics and murals that line the arcades of Early Christian basilicas, whose splendor Desiderius sought to recapture (compare fig. 302). The painting shows its Byzantine heritage, but it has been adapted to Fatin liturgical requirements and taste. What it lacks in sophistication this monumental style more than makes up for in expressive power. That very quality appealed to Western artists, as it was in keeping with the vigorous art that emerged at the same time in the Bayeux Tapestry.


437. The Arrest of Christ, ń. 1085. Fresco. S. Angelo in Formis, Capua

By the middle of the twelfth century Byzantine influences were in evidence everywhere, from Italy and Spain in the south to France, Germany, and England in the north. How were they disseminated? The principal conduit was most likely the Benedictine order, then at the height of its power. A Byzantine style must have been an important feature of the decorations in the abbey church at Cluny, the seat of Benedictine monasticism in France and the largest one ever built in Romanesque Europe. Unfortunately, the great church was almost completely destroyed after the French Revolution, but the Cluniac style is echoed in the early twelfth-century frescoes at nearby Berze-la-Ville; these have distinct Byzantine overtones that relate them directly to the paintings at S. Angelo in Formis.




The Channel Region

While Romanesque painting, like architecture and sculpture, developed a wide variety of regional styles throughout western Europe, its greatest achievements emerged from the monastic scriptoria of northern France, Belgium, and southern England. The works from this area are so closely related in style that it is impossible at times to be sure on which side of the English Channel a given manuscript was produced.



GOSPEL BOOK OF ABBOT WEDRICUS.

Thus the style of the wonderful miniature of St. John (fig. 438) has been linked with both Cambrai and Canterbury. Here the abstract linear draftsmanship of the Corbie manuscript (fig. 434) has been influenced by Byzantine style (note the ropelike loops of drapery, whose origin can be traced back to such works as the ivory leaf in fig. 317), but without losing its energetic rhythm. It is the precisely controlled dynamics of every contour, both in the main figure and in the frame, that unite the varied elements of the composition into a coherent whole. This quality of line still betrays its ultimate source, the Celtic-Germanic heritage. If we compare our miniature with one from the Lindisfarne Gospels (fig. 373), we see how much the interlacing patterns of the Dark Ages have contributed to the design of the St. John page. The drapery folds and the clusters of floral ornament have an impulsive yet disciplined aliveness that echoes the intertwined snakelike monsters of the animal style, even though the foliage is derived from the classical acanthus and the human figures are based on Carolingian and Byzantine models. The unity of the entire page, however, is conveyed not only by the forms but by the content as well. The evangelist "inhabits" the frame in such a way that we could not remove him from it without cutting off his ink supply (offered by the donor of the manuscript, Abbot Wedricus), his source of inspiration (the dove of the Holy Spirit in the hand of God), or his identifying symbol (the eagle). The other medallions, less directly linked with the main figure, show scenes from the life of St. John.


PORTRAIT OF A PHYSICIAN.

Soon after the middle of the twelfth century, however, an important change began to make itself felt in Romanesque manuscript painting on either side of the English Channel. The Portrait of a Physician (fig. 439), from a medical manuscript of about 1160, is surprisingly different from the St. John miniature, although it was produced in the same region. Instead of abstract patterns, we suddenly lind lines ihat have regained the ability to describe three-dimensional shapes. The drapery folds no longer lead an ornamental lile of their own but suggest the rounded volume of the body underneath. There is even a renewed interest in foreshortening. At last, then, we see an appreciation for the achievements of antiquity missing in the murals at S. Angelo in Formis, as it is in those at St.-Savin-sur-Gartempe. Here again, the lead was taken by Cluny, which was an important center of manuscript production. This style, too, stemmed from Byzantine art, which saw a revival of classicism during the Second Golden Age, but it was perhaps transmitted through Germany where, as we have seen, Byzantine elements had long been present in manuscript painting (compare figs. 386 and 398). The physician, seated in the pose of Christ as philosopher (compare fig. 315), will remind us of David from the Paris Psalter (see fig. 340), but he has been utterly transformed. The sharp, deliberate lines look as if they had been engraved in metal, rather than drawn with pen or brush. Thus our miniature is the pictorial counterpart of the classicism we saw earlier in the baptismal font of Renier of Huy at Liege (see fig. 431). In fact, it was probably done at Liege, too.


438. St. John the Evangelist, from the Gospel Book of Abbot Wedncus. Shortly before 1147.
Societe Archeologique et Historique, Avesnes-sur-Helpe, France

439. Portrait of a Physician, from a medical treatise, ń. 1160. British Museum. London




NICHOLAS OF VERDUN.
 

 


Nicholas Of Verdun

Nicholas Of Verdun, (flourished c. 1150–1210, Flanders), the greatest enamelist and goldsmith of his day and an important figure in the transition from late Romanesque to early Gothic style. He was an itinerant craftsman who travelled to the site of his commission; therefore most of what is known of his life is inferred from his works.

The altarpiece (1181) of the Abbey Church of Klosterneuburg, Austria, is his best known work and reveals his absolute mastery of metalworking and the technique of champlevé enamelling, in which compartments hollowed out from a metal base are filled with vitreous enamel. The program of scenes on the altar is the most ambitious of its kind in the 12th century and is often considered the most important surviving medieval enamel work. The earlier scenes are done in a mature Romanesque style, but later scenes become progressively more bold and classical.

The reliquary (1205) of SS. Piatus and Nicasius in the Cathedral of Tournai, Belgium, subordinates enamel work to beaten metalwork. Though much-damaged by restoration, it remains a masterful work of early Gothic sculpture, with its slender figures and supple drapery.

The Shrine of the Three Kings in the treasury of Cologne Cathedral is the most important of the Cologne reliquaries attributed to Nicholas. Much of the reliquary is the work of assistants, but the general design and the figures of the prophets are by Nicholas. Powerful and expressive, the prophets have been called the most important metal sculptures of the late 12th century. Two reliquaries attributed to Nicholas, the shrines of St. Anne in Siegburg and of St. Albanus in Saint-Pantaleon, Cologne, have suffered so much by restoration that they no longer reveal the hand of Nicholas except in the overall design.

Encyclopædia Britannica



Nicholas Of Verdun.
Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral

 



That a new way of painting should have originated in metalwork is perhaps less strange than it might seem at first, for the style's essential qualities are sculptural rather than pictorial. Moreover, metalwork (which includes not only cast or embossed sculpture but also engraving, enameling, and goldsmithing) had been a highly developed art in the Meuse Valley area since Carolingian times. Its greatest practitioner after Renier of Huy was Nicholas of Verdun, in whose work the classicizing, three-dimensional style of draftsmanship reaches full maturity.

The Klosterneuburg Altar, which he completed in 1181, consists of numerous engraved and enameled plaques originally in the form of a pulpit but later rearranged as a triptych (fig. 440, fig. 441).


440. NICHOLAS OF VERDUN. Klosterneuburg Altar. 1181.
Gold and enamel, height ń. 28" (71.1
cm). Klosterneuburg Abbey, Austria

 

Laid out side by side like a series of manuscript illuminations from the Old and New Testaments to form a complex program, they have a sumptuousness that recalls, on a miniature scale, the glittering play of light across mosaics (compare fig. 342). Our detail of The Crossing of the Red Sea clearly belongs to the same tradition as the Liege miniature, but the figures, clothed in rippling, "wet" draperies familiar to us from countless classical statues, have achieved so high a degree of organic body structure and freedom of movement that we tend to think of them as harbingers of Gothic art rather than as the final phase of the Romanesque. Whatever we choose to call it, the style of the Klosterneuburg Altar was to have a profound impact upon both painting and sculpture during the next 50 years (see figs. 488 and 489).


Equally revolutionary is a new expressiveness that unites all the figures, and even the little dog perched on the bag carried by one of the men, through the exchange of glances and gestures within the tightly knit composition. Not since late Roman times have we seen such concentrated drama, though its intensity is uniquely medieval. The astonishing humanity of Nicholas of Verdun's art must be understood against the background of a general reawakening of interest in man and the natural world throughout northwestern Europe. This attitude could express itself in various ways: as a new regard for classical literature and mythology, an appreciation of the beauty of ancient works of art, or simply as a greater readiness to acknowledge the enjoyment of sensuous experience.


441.  NICHOLAS OF VERDUN.

Klosterneuburg Altar.

1181.
(details)
 

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba Baptism of Christ The Annunciation
     
The Adoration of the Magi The Resurrection of Christ Twelve Beasts of the Apocalypse
     
 
 

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