The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

Excerpt

Since the first and second editions of this consideration of The Book of Kells were written, some important publications have made their appearance the contents of which would seem to call for something more than a passing notice. Chief, and most recently published, amongst them, is Dr J. Bröndsted Early English Ornaments, London and Copenhagen, 1924. Mr Reginald A. Smith, of the British Museum, in his Preface to the translated edition, expresses, in generous terms, his opinion of the value of the work in view of the close relationship between all branches of the Teutonic world during the period treated of. The work purports to be an attempt, not hitherto made, 'to give a comprehensive account of the origin and development of art in England in the 400 years which lie between the introduction of Christianity and the Conquest, with this limitation, however, that two domains of the art practice of the period, the figure art and interlaced designs, are left out.'

Anyone can readily understand the reason for these particular omissions who has had an opportunity of making himself acquainted with the monumental work of Professor Baldwin Brown, The Arts in Early England, London, 1903-1921, a series of volumes which completely cover all that need be said or illustrated in the domain of interlaced art. I shall refer later on to some extremely interesting observations arising from a new comparison between the art of the Book of Kells and that of its great rival, the Book of Lindisfarne, which forms part of the concluding volume of the series.

Dr Bröndsted's work, in so far as it relates to the vine-pattern design, its origin, development and general adoption in the British Isles, whether in monumental carvings or in illuminated manuscripts, is undoubtedly the result of extended research and close observation. If anything, it is possibly overdone so far as that particular form of embellishment became a feature of manuscript illumination -- for, although it undoubtedly held a prominent position as a decorative distinction on the crosses of this country, it was by no means equally prominent in the illuminations of manuscripts. For instance, Bröndsted is found to say (page 85): 'Finally, in Irish art regions, we find the vine of north England both with and without . . .

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