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Middle Ages Art

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Medieval symbolism (colours, bestiary, etc..)

Middle Ages Images (how to read them, by Chiara Frugoni)

Christian Symbols

Medieval painting

Medieval drawing

Medieval artists

Medieval Women Artists



The Middle Ages art is the art of the spirit and the symbolism. The art of Christianity, you want it or not, this is what it is,(notwithstanding the hard to believe effort by European burocrats to eradicate this simple fact from the European constitution and to deny our past...


medieval art painting, Nrado di Cione, three saintsThe Middle Ages are not "dark ages".

In my opinion, if they would look at us they would be horrified and shocked by the way we live,

However, yes, the would certainly envy us for the wealth and easy living conditions that we experience in our daily life and the nice food we eat in our modern kitchen....

Medieval art is an art of symbolism, we said. Objects ARE symbols and we must bare this in mind. Animals do have symbolic meanings: for instance the eagle is Christ , the Pelican with blood is the symbol of the sacrifice of Christ. Colours have meanings, too.

The spirit is more important than the body.

This is what Eugene delacroix (1 ) wrote in 1847 in his Journal

    "The middle ages compared to the 19th century: "Action [then] was directed solely to elevating the soul above matter. In our age, just the reverse is the case .... material happiness is the only one for the modern."

There are for instance three levels of beauty in the medieval esthetics: body-mind-spirit, spirit being the highest level.Vanity and passions are seen negatively.

So Middle Ages art is rooted in Christianity and the Gospels (not just the "Bible", Gospels are the most important part of the Bible for a Christian, funny I have to stress this evidence in our society today) and art has the scope to educate the "ignorantes", and be an "illustrated cathechism". It must show the life of the Saints and be narrative.

Moreover,the artist is not considered important and works are rarely signed.

medieval art is a narrative of the gospel messages
Miniature painting, Koninklijke Bibliotheek National Library of the Netherlands.
The devil and an angel fighting for the soul of a dead person



Do you speak of the Middle Ages as a dark period again?

This frame of mind changes in the 15-16th century when, as I see it, people started to detach from God and "individualism" begun to set in (remember that the end of the Middle Ages is generally associated with the discovery of the "New World" by Columbus,in 1492, so the" Venere" of Botticelli is still "middle ages", albeit fully Renaissance. In reality this is wrong. In art, Renaissance and medieval art are totally different periods, and there is the tendency to put the begin of the new Renaissance era about a 100 years earlier, in 1401 when in Florence there was the public competition for the brass door of the baptistery. So "..the Renaissance spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Florence in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe.", from wiki)

People would not "see" anymore what you don't see: the invisible. Art became more realistic and society started very slowly to loose its connection with God while figurative painting begun to look like...real life, probably with the help of lenses and mirrors in the drawing stage..

Botticelli's Birth of Venus is still medieval art


Did you know? The Italian artist Giotto was the first artist to become a "star" .


Related Pages

Giotto paintings from the Scrovegni Chapel and the Assisi Basilic

Giotto colour palette



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