Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art

Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art

Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art

Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art

Excerpt

The lectures here printed were given in Edinburgh in the autumn of 1956. They were planned as lectures, and though extensively revised for printing, have not been recast into the form they would have taken if designed originally as a book. I began to work on them some six years ago, and since then my vacations have been largely planned with their theme in view. Thus most of the works of art discussed I now know at first-hand, and I owe a debt to which it is impossible to do justice here to the curators of churches, museums, libraries and cathedral and monastic treasuries in which the surviving riches of the so-called dark ages are today stored. The literature concerned with many of these objects is already extensive. But second-hand knowledge, through reproductions, is often so misleading that I have preferred to spend the time available in looking at the objects themselves rather than in studying books and articles about them. I am particularly conscious of the exceptions: the Madrid Codex Aureus; the Stockholm Codex Aureus; the leaf of an ivory diptych in Monza Cathedral Treasury; an early Christian ivory pyxis in Berlin, and so on. Whenever I examine photographs or casts of these objects, I become aware afresh of the need to examine the originals, and when that is possible I have no doubt that my conclusions about them will be modified.

My interest in the classical tradition as it reappears in medieval art is of long standing, and I owe it in the first instance, as I owe so much else, to Fritz Saxl. The quality of these lectures would have been transformed if it had been possible to discuss them with him. M. Adhémar's book, published by the Warburg Institute before the Second World War, provided a valuable starting point. Of the host of books and articles apart from that, to which I am indebted, it may be fair to single out for special mention M. Deschamps' book on French Romanesque Sculpture (and still more his museum of casts, which is surely one of the most remarkable collections of casts, and one of the most imaginatively displayed, anywhere to be found) and Professor Tschan's three volumes on Bernward of Hildesheim, a book with which I often found myself disagreeing but which nevertheless was invaluable in making . . .

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