Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art

By Walter Oakeshott | Go to book overview

V
THE TWELFTH CENTURY RENAISSANCE (I)

SINCE HASKINS produced his book on the 12th century, the association between that epoch and the idea of a classical renaissance has become a commonplace. And in the history of philosophical, mathematical and scientific studies, the facts are so striking that his general thesis cannot be controverted and the question becomes a narrower one: granted the revival, what were its effects and what were its limitations? It was, of course, primarily a revival of learning, rather than of interest in classical literature as such. A large number of Greek texts became available, in Latin translation, in Western Europe: texts of the mathematicians ( Euclid Elements was one of the first of the new translations), of the astronomers and physicists -- texts such as Ptolemy Almagest and Optica, Aristotle Physica and Meteorologica, and Euclid Catoptrica -- and of Aristotle logical and ethical treatises. At the same time works by Arab scientists, in which Greek scientific ideas had been digested, were also translated into Latin. But the books of Greek literature and Greek history remained closed, for three more centuries, to the scholars of Western Europe. And though interest in Latin classical literature grew rapidly, it was not till the 13th and 14th centuries, in the bourgeois city states of Italy, that there developed the passionate devotion to Cicero, the bourgeois par excellence, which became so important in the history of the renaissance proper, and of that 'humanism' which is always considered one of its characteristics. And as the range of the movement in the late 12th century was limited, partly by the fact that it was difficult to find a teacher of Greek in Western Europe for three hundred years after Adelard of Bath's translation of Euclid was made, so were also its effects. 'There was not,' writes Dr. Bolgar, 'a single clear-cut line of growth; there was only a series of false starts.' The context is a general discussion of this 12th century renaissance at the opening of his chapter on the pre-scholastic age. Our task in these last two lectures is to consider how far his generalisation applies to the history of art in this period. The number of 'facts' which might be taken into account is bewilderingly large. Classical influence proves

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Classical Inspiration in Medieval Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • I - Classical Origins 1
  • II - The Northumbrian Renaissance And Its Background 22
  • III - The Carolingian Renaissance 41
  • IV - The Ottonian Renaissance And the Evolution 59
  • V - The Twelfth Century Renaissance (i) 76
  • VI - The Twelfth Century Renaissance Ii 96
  • List of Illustration 113
  • Acknowledgements *
  • Plates *
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