December 06, 2007

Artworks from the European Middle Ages, including Gothic Art and Panel Painting.

Medieval art dates roughly from the period 500-1500 AD.

European medieval art is generally centered around the architecture and icons of the Roman Catholic Church. As the Church grew, the art and architecture in Europe reflected the economic, political, and religious influences that swirled about the continent as Europe emerged from the ruins of the Holy Roman Empire. Typically, Medieval Art and Architecture is seen through two lens: the Romanesque and the Gothic.


The Romanesque period was from approximately 800 A.D. to 1100 A.D. The term Romanesque was first given to this type of architecture in the 19th Century due to similarities between the barrel vault and the Roman arch. Church buildings, art, and sculpture were used for the purpose to spread the Christian Gospel.

Common characteristics of Romanesque architecture are: thick, stone walls and large, exterior buttresses to support them, rounded arches, and tunnel vaults. The windows in these structures are usually small due to the restraints of using such large stone. Stylistic choices in architecture were limited due to the loss of the recipe for cement.


Gothic architecture originated in southern France, around 1140, beginning with the innovative construction of the choir of Saint-Denis. Several characteristics mark Gothic architecture including the use of flying buttresses, elaborate stained-glass windows, ribbed vaults, pointed arches, and a distinct emphasis on verticality.

'Several of these characteristics are exemplified in specific cathedrals:

'Flying buttresses: Notre Dame de Paris
Stained Glass: Chartres Cathedral
Distinct Verticality: Amiens Cathedral'

In contrast to the dark, claustrophobic Romanesque churches, Gothic cathedrals present a light, airy atmosphere due mainly to their ribbed vaults and flying buttresses which are able to support thinner walls, higher ceilings, and large, light filled windows.

East Asian art, 500-1500

South Asian art, 500-1500

Islamic art to 1500

From c. 670 to 1500, Islam expanded from its roots in modern-day Saudi Arabia to an empire stretching from Morocco to India. The spread of Islam throughout Eurasia was accompanied by the development of an artistic style which was closely related to Islam and its interpretation by regional dynasties. Islamic arts and architecture vary widely according to region but have a few unifying features. The Qur'an forbids depictions of the Prophet Muhammed and depictions of any person in religious art; therefore, Islamic artistic decoration is characterized by abstract floral and vegetal motifs rather than figural representation. Also, the Qu'ran discourages the construction of any building that would outlive its architect unless it serves Islam or the community in some way; therefore, surviving works, particularly works of architecture, tend to be public buildings like mosques, gardens and markets. (Palaces also frequently survive, although this could easily be because of the desire to preserve works of that quality of construction and decoration). Finally, the Arabic language, as the language of the Qur'an, is deeply embedded in Islamic artistic tradition; text is often featured as meaningful decoration in works of art and architecture.

African art, 500-1500

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