Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art

Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art

Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art

Word and Image: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art

Synopsis

This up-to-date, reliable introductory account and interpretation of early medieval art combines art, history, and ideas from around 600 to 1050. Diebold describes diversity and complexity of early medieval art by examining the relationship of word and image. The concept of word and image is broad enough to encompass the Anglo-Saxon art and oral culture of the Sutton Hoo treasure, as well as the literate art of the Carolingian and Ottonian courts. Diebold describes and explains the stunning variety of early medieval objects--illustrated manuscripts, rich metal work, ivories, textiles, statuary, jewels, painting and architecture produced north of the Alps beginning with Pope Gregory's Christianization of England and his justification of images, and ending with the spectacular gold reliquary statue of Ste. Foy at Conques, which separates Early Medieval art from the Romanesque. Diebold also discusses the function of (and audience for) medieval art; he shows why, how, and for whom it was made. Diebold outlines the role of artists and patrons in medieval society, and he explains art's institutional and social status. He defines basic historical and art-historical terms and concepts as they are encountered, and illustrations, a map, a glossary, notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index are included.

Excerpt

In a letter written in the year 600, Pope Gregory the Great declared, "[W]hat writing offers to those who read, a picture offers to those who look; in it they read who do not know letters." Gregory's text marks the chronological beginning of this book, an essay on the nature of visual art in Europe north of the Alps from 600 to 1050. More important, Gregory's letter also provides the book's conceptual foundation, the relationship between word and image in early medieval art. That theme is a telling entrée to my subject because, in the early Middle Ages, writing and pictures were inextricably linked. The understanding of the word/image relationship was continually shifting, and it will take the entire book to explore it in a nuanced way.

For now, I simply want to warn the reader that this book's very premise may seem strange; the modern tendency is to separate the verbal and the visual rather than to link them (many people today, for example, believe that the visual arts come from a hemisphere of the brain entirely distinct from that responsible for words and thoughts). In many ways I hope that this book's subject seems unfamiliar, for as much as early medieval art has resonated and continues to resonate with important currents in twentieth-century artistic production, much about it is odd, even bizarre, for the modern viewer; this is much of its appeal. The early medieval conception of art was strange, as were its forms. By the end of this book I will have given that . . .

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