Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Role of Art in the Late Anglo-Saxon Church

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Role of Art in the Late Anglo-Saxon Church

Article excerpt

Richard Gameson, The Role of Art in the Late Anglo-Saxon Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995). xiii + 312 pp.; 32 plates. ISBN o-Icg-82o54I-4. 40-00.oo.

The aim of Richard Gameson's book on Anglo-Saxon art is `to elucidate the uses to which art was put, the ways in which it functioned, and the resources it had for doing so'. The main emphasis is on manuscript art, though there are some references to ivories and stone carvings and to documentary evidence. The book opens with a long chapter on different methods of book illustration, subdivided into sections on different types of illustration and different relationships between text and picture. Later chapters discuss inscriptions and their functions, decorated frames and initials, and details of composition. There are thirty-two black-and-white plates, a bibliography and three indexes (art objects, manuscripts, and people and places).

The main strength of the book lies in the large number of manuscripts discussed, in the thorough documentation and in the frequent pointers to additional material outside the Anglo-Saxon field. The most interesting chapter is that on composition, where Gameson discusses the relationship between picture and frame and the ways in which Anglo-Saxon artists abandoned any attempt to depict recessive space with its landscape and architectural elements, choosing instead to emphasize the flatness of the manuscript page. …

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