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Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....


Charles Buchanan

Type of large-format Bible, usually found in pandect (single-volume) form, produced in central Italy and Tuscany from around 1060 to the middle of the 12th century. They came out of the efforts of a reformist papacy intent on wresting control over ecclesiastical investiture from the Holy Roman Emperor. The Giant Bibles were produced in reformed canonries and monasteries and then exported to the same, not only in Italy but throughout Europe.

The term ‘Atlantic’ (from the mythological giant Atlas) is derived from their impressive size; dimensions range from 550 to 600 mms by 300 to 400 mms. Their script, derived from Caroline minuscule, is placed in two columns of around fifty-five lines. The texts are decorated with two initial types, which Edward B. Garrison designated as ‘geometrical’ and ‘full shaft’, both of which are derived from Carolingian and Ottonian exemplars, respectively. The iconography consists of full-length prophets, patriarchs, kings and saints as well as narrative scenes. The last are at times found as full-page cyclical illuminations and preface important textual divisions, especially Genesis. The iconography of the Giant Bibles is a specific Roman iconographical recension with its sources based in part on Early Christian pictorial cycles, such as the wall paintings of Old St Peter’s in Rome. These came from an era considered by the reformers to have been uncorrupted by the abuses that afflicted the Church when these Bibles were being made. While the Giant Bibles were promulgated by the Church of Rome as a symbol of its supreme authority, they also allowed the clergy to perform the liturgy, and the Divine Office in particular, properly....


Carmela Vircillo Franklin

(b Berlin, Aug 18, 1911; d Cambridge, MA, Sept 6, 2006).

German historian of antiquity and the Middle Ages, active also in Italy and America. Bloch was trained at the University of Berlin under the historian of ancient Greece Werner Jaeger, art historian Gerhart Rodenwaldt and medievalist Erich Caspar from 1930 until 1933, when the rise of National Socialism convinced him to move to Rome. There he received his tesi di laurea in ancient history in 1935 and his diploma di perfezionamento in 1937. He then participated in the excavations at Ostia, Rome’s ancient port, which was an important site in the revival of Italian archaeology under Fascism. At the outbreak of World War II, he immigrated to the USA, and began his teaching career in 1941 at Harvard University’s Department of Classics, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. His experience of totalitarianism shaped both his personal and professional beliefs.

Bloch applied a deep knowledge of epigraphy, history and material culture, art history, literary and archival sources to his research and he had a propensity for uncovering the significance of new or neglected evidence. One such area was Roman history. His first publications, on ancient Rome’s brick stamps (many of which he discovered ...


In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...


Stephen T. Driscoll

Scottish royal centre in Perthshire, which reached its zenith in the late Pictish period (8th–9th centuries ad) and is the source of an assemblage of high quality ecclesiastical sculpture. Occupying the fertile heart of Strathearn, Forteviot has been more or less in continuous use as a ceremonial centre since the 3rd millennium bc and is the focus of élite burials from the Early Bronze Age (c. 1900 bc) through to the Pictish era. Cinead mac Alpín (Kenneth mac Alpine), the king traditionally identified with the foundation of the Gaelic kingdom of the Scots, died at the palacium (palace) of Forteviot in ad 858. It was eclipsed as a royal centre by Scone in ad 906, but remained a significant royal estate until the 13th century.

The only surviving fabric of the palace is a unique monolithic arch, presumably a chancel arch, carved with three moustached Picts in classical dress flanking a crucifix (now in the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh). Fragments of at least four additional sandstone crosses indicate the presence of a major church, perhaps a monastery. The celebrated Dupplin Cross (now in Dunning Church) originally overlooked Forteviot from the north. This monolithic, free-standing cross (2.5 m tall) bears a Latin inscription naming Constantine son of Fergus, King of the Picts (...


Chinese, 11th century, male.


Art theorist.

Guo Ruoxu was the author of the most important work on the history of art of the Northern Song period, the Tu Hua Jian Wen zhi (1074), which saw itself as the continuation of the monumental treatise by Zhang Yanyuan, the ...


Alison Stones

Legends and myths in medieval art are often symbolic rather than narrative, appearing as isolated representations on monuments and portable objects and following the tradition of Greek vase painting where individual subjects are depicted and rely on prior knowledge of the stories for recognition and understanding. World histories celebrated great heroes of the past, starting with Creation and biblical history, then the ancient and medieval world with the exploits of the Trojan heroes, Alexander the Great, King Arthur and the campaigns of Charlemagne and his nephew Roland. Northern gods such as Thor were depicted in cult statues (c. 1000; Reykjavík, N. Mus.) or through such ornamental hammers as those from north Jutland in the Copenhagen Nationalmuseum, and Freya, head of the Valkyries, was painted riding a cat on the walls of Schleswig Cathedral.

The Fall of Troy is most celebrated in the early 13th-century copy of Heinrich von Veldecke’s ...


Olimpia Theodoli

[Leone Marsicano; Leone Ostiense; Leone di Montecassino]

(b ?1046; d ?1115).

Italian illuminator and chronicler. Born into the noble family of de’ Marsi, he joined the abbey of Montecassino (see Montecassino, §2, (i)) at the age of 14 and gained the trust and protection of the abbot Desiderius (later Pope Victor III). Montecassino excelled under Desiderius, who promoted artistic, religious and political splendour. Leo is one of the earliest recorded illuminators in Italy as well as one of the most accomplished. Among his works is the Lives of SS Benedict, Maurus, and Scholastica (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS. Vat. lat. 1202); its opening page shows Desiderius donating buildings and books to St Benedict. A book of Homilies (Montecassino Abbey, Lib., MS. 99), signed and dated 1072, shows Leo kneeling in front of St Benedict with the abbots Giovanni (914–43) and Desiderius standing on the bishop’s right. Abbot Oderisius (1087–1105) commissioned him to write the life of Desiderius, which was enlarged into the ...


Chinese, 11th century, male.

Born 1007, in Luling (Jiangxi); died 1072.

Art theorist.

Ouyang Xiu was a famous statesman, known as a man of letters and an aesthetician. As with many men of letters, his writings turn to art criticism when dealing with the many inscriptions he selected for the ...


Weihe Chen

[Kuo Jo-hsu]

(b Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, fl. 11th century).

Chinese art historian and connoisseur. He was a grandnephew of Empress Guo, wife of the Emperor Zhenzong (reg 998–1023), and the son-in-law of King Xiang, brother to Emperor Renzong (reg 1023–1063). He was a minor court official at Bianliang (now Kaifeng), capital of the Northern Song dynasty, but was demoted after accompanying a diplomatic mission to Liao from which a member deserted. His father and grandfather were both ardent art lovers and had a large collection of paintings, but after it was dispersed Guo struggled to regain more than ten of the most famous pictures.

Guo read extensively and was well informed and knowledgeable. Realizing there was no history of painting since Zhang Yanyuan’s Lidai ming hua ji (“Records of famous painters of all periods”; 847 ce), he wrote Tuhua jianwen zhi (“Experiences in painting”) based on his family’s collection, discussions with his scholarly friends, and his own observations. In ...


Chinese, 11th century, male.

Born 1031; died 1095.

Art lover, art critic.

After a brilliant career as an official, diplomat and soldier, Shen Gua wrote a monumental work of scholarship, the Address of the Stream of Dreams ( Mengqi Bitan), a veritable Summa of human knowledge encompassing fields as varied as history, politics, music, astrology and astronomy, arts and letters, mathematics, technology and archaeology. This work of genius is not merely a compilation of the works of others but the fruit of original creative thought by an observer, inventor and philosopher. Book 17 is devoted to painting and calligraphy and contains a famous passage in which Sheng Gua comes to the defence of pictorial creation as an autonomous art free from all vulgar concerns of likeness or verisimilitude. ‘The wonderful parts (or the mystery) of calligraphy and painting must be realised by the soul; they can hardly be discovered in mere forms,’ says Sirén. ‘Those who look at paintings are always able to point out faults of form, of likeness, of design and colouring, but I have seldom found people who have penetrated into the mysterious reason and depth of creative activity.... This is because his (the artist Wang Wei’s) creative activity and his reason resided in the spiritual part of his nature and because he grasped to the highest degree the idea (inspiration of Heaven). But this is hard to explain to common people.’...


Su Shi  

Roderick Whitfield

[Su Shihzi Zizhanhao Dongpo jushi]

(b Meishan, Sichuan Province, 1036; d Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, 1101).

Chinese painter, calligrapher, poet, essayist, and scholar–official. In the West he is best known as Su Dongpo (Su Tung-p’o).

As protégé of Ouyang Xiu, in 1057 Su Shi took the national civil service examination to become a jinshi and passed with flying colors, attaining instant celebrity. His brilliant essays combined morality with pragmatism in the analysis of contemporary problems. His outspokenness brought him into disagreement with both conservatives and reformers, the latter headed by Wang Anshi (1021–86), who introduced a program of New Laws under Emperor Shenzong (reg 1068–1086). Consequently, Su Shi was exiled several times, initially in 1080 to Huangzhou in Hubei Province, where he built his study on the Eastern Slope (Dongpo). During this first period of exile he wrote masterpieces of poetry such as the Chibi fu (“Ode on the Red Cliff”), which established him as the foremost literary figure of his time. Summoned back to the capital in ...


In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....


Su Shi  

Chinese, 11th century, male.

Born 1036, in Meishan (Sichuan); died 1101.

Calligrapher, poet, painter.

Be it literature, politics, poetry, calligraphy or painting, the name of Su Shi was linked with every area of cultural activity of his day. This prestigious figure was one of the most human and appealing in Chinese humanism. A scholar, he was also a politician who shared the struggles of his contemporaries; a high official, but also a refined aesthete who cultivated all the arts, conversed with scholars, monks and courtesans and enjoyed music, all types of literature, calligraphy and painting, of which he was a master....


Shen Fu

[Huang T’ing-chienzi Luzhihao Shangu Laoren]

(b Fenning [modern Xiushui], Jiangxi Province, 1045; d Fenning, 1105).

Chinese calligrapher, poet, and scholar–official. He is regarded as the avant-garde figure of the Four Great Calligraphers of the Northern Song (960–1127), who emphasized individual expression in their work; the others are Cai Xiang, Su Shi, and Mi Fu (see Mi family, §1; see also China, People’s Republic of §IV 2., (iv)). Huang was a calligraphy critic and an early theorist of literati painting (wenren hua; see China, People’s Republic of §V 4., (ii)) and is also acknowledged as the founder of the Jiangxi school of poetry. A member of an exceptionally cultured family of well-known poets, he became associated with individuals such as Su Shi, who at court opposed the reforms of the Chief Councillor, Wang Anshi (1021–1086). As a result of political struggles between conservatives and reformers, Huang was exiled in 1094 to Fuzhou in Sichuan Province and only after this produced his most impressive calligraphy....


Guo Xi  

Mary S. Lawton

[Kuo Hsizi Shunfu]

(b Wen xian, Henan Province, c. 1020; d c. 1090).

Chinese painter and theorist. He is considered one of the most important of the late 11th-century masters. Guo Ruoxu (fl. 11th century), a minor official at the court of Bianliang (modern Kaifeng), in the Tuhua jianwen zhi (“Experiences in painting”; 1075) described Guo as supreme among the landscape painters of his generation. Other contemporary critics acclaimed his creativity, the spontaneity of his composition, and the dexterity and versatility of his brushwork. Guo’s ideas on the principles of landscape painting, as recorded by his son Guo Si (fl. c. 1070–1123), are also important.

Very few details of Guo’s life are known. In 1068 he was summoned to paint a screen for the imperial palace. He received special recognition from the emperor Shenzong (reg 1068–1085) for his introduction of an innovative way of painting. He also served other emperors but was not equally honored. Nevertheless, he remained at court, becoming an assistant teacher (...


Julia K. Murray

[Ts’ai Hsiangzi Junmo]

(b Xianyou County, Fujian Province, 1012; d Xianyou County, 1067).

Chinese calligrapher, scholar–official, and poet. From an undistinguished provincial family, he rose to prominence as an official after passing the national civil-service examination to become a jinshi in 1030. He attained his highest posts at the courts of the emperors Renzong (reg 1023–1063) and Yingzong (reg 1064–1067) during the ascendency of the reform faction led by Fan Zhongyan (989–1052) and Ouyang Xiu. Cai is traditionally designated one of the Four Great Calligraphers of the Northern Song (960–1127), along with Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, and Mi Fu (see China §IV, 2(iv)(a)). The oldest of the four, Cai played an important role in setting the direction for the development of Song (960–1279) calligraphy and was praised by Su Shi as the greatest calligrapher of the period.

As a calligrapher, Cai achieved distinction in several established scripts: regular script (kaishu), running script (...


Amy McNair

[Ou-yang Hsiu]

(b Mianzhou [now Mianyang], Sichuan Province, 1007; d Yingzhou [now Fuyang], Anhui Province, 1072).

Chinese official, literary master, historian, and epigraphist. A brilliant writer of poetry and prose, he came from a provincial background but parlayed his talent for literature into an outstanding career as a government official. He was a leader in the struggle of the early Northern Song (960–1127) Confucian literati to assert their own standards against those of the throne. Politically, they advocated the Confucian model of government, in which officials served as outspoken advisers to a humane and accessible ruler. Culturally, they promoted the didactic expression of Confucian morality, rejecting what they saw as the empty aestheticism of court-sponsored styles in literature and art. Ouyang Xiu triumphed in 1057 by instituting ancient prose as the required style for the national examinations.

Ouyang Xiu was influential in the development of Chinese calligraphy and is generally considered to have begun the study of epigraphy in China: between 1045 and 1062...