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Article

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....

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Adam S. Cohen

Oldest extant complete Vulgate Bible (505×340 mm; Florence, Bib. Medicea–Laurenziana, MS. Amiatinus 1), produced in Monkwearmouth–Jarrow, Northumbria, around ad 700 at the behest of Abbot Ceolfrid. The Codex Amiatinus is notable for its immense dimensions and size; its 1030 folios likely required over 1500 calves to produce enough parchment. More remarkably, there were three such pandects (single-volume Bibles), one each for the monasteries at Monkwearmouth and Jarrow (only fragments survive), while the Codex Amiatinus was destined for the papacy in Rome (Ceolfrid died on the journey in 716). The script imitates Italian uncial and was based on an exemplar of the 6th century. Bede reports that Benedict Biscop, founder of the double monastery, and Ceolfrid travelled to Italy and returned with books; one was almost certainly Cassiodorus’s Codex Grandior, a 6th-century pandect from Vivarium, now lost. The relationship of the illustrations in the Codex Amiatinus to the Codex Grandior has long been debated. Some of the contents and certainly the style of illustration in the Codex Amiatinus, above all the portrait of ...

Article

A. Wallert

Medieval treatise containing a collection of chemical recipes, with descriptions on the preparation and application of pigments and dyes. It is a parchment codex written by different hands in the late 8th or early 9th century. The manuscript (Lucca, Bib. Capitolare, Cod. 490) is sometimes called the ‘Lucca manuscript’ but is better known as Compositiones ad tingenda, from the title of its first publication by Muratori, or Compositiones variae. The Compositiones is not a systematically organized treatise. It contains instructions for different craft practices in 157 recipes. Its subjects include the coloration of artificial stone for making mosaics; dyeing of skins, textiles, and other materials; the making of various chemical substances; and metallurgical operations.

The Compositiones has descriptions that make it of extreme interest for the history of painting techniques. It contains recipes for the preparation of mineral pigments and organic colorants and for gilding and gold inks. It has the first description of the making of ...

Article

One of the few surviving, early medieval, Latin technical treatises. Its attribution, localization, and dating rest largely on internal evidence variously interpreted and inconclusive. The treatise now comprises three books: it is generally agreed that Books I and II, written in verse by one hand at some time between the 7th and 12th centuries, constitute the original text; Book III, written in prose, was added piecemeal during the 12th and 13th centuries. The treatise is commonly attributed to (H)Eraclius, who is cited as the author in Books I and III but probably wrote only Books I and II. It is not known whether he was a native of Italy or a northerner promoting his knowledge of Roman techniques, and accordingly De coloribus has been located to either Italy or northern Europe.

Relatively complete versions of the text survive in two manuscripts, both accompanied by Theophilus’s treatise De diversis artibus (extracts of the text within compilations of technical material are more common): the first (ex-Trinity Coll., Cambridge, MS. R. 15 5; London, BL, Egerton MS. 840 A) is German and dated ...

Article

Chiara Stefani

[the Great]

(b Rome, c. 540; elected 590; d March 12, 604; fd 3 Sept).

Italian saint, pope, and writer. Born into a noble family, he received a broad cultural education that was later enriched by biblical and patristic studies. His activities as pope also indicate that he had a good grounding in law. After serving as Prefect of Rome (573), he retired from the world, devoting his wealth to the relief of poverty and the foundation of monasteries, one of which, St Andrew’s in Rome, he entered as a monk; but c. 578 Pelagius II sent him to Constantinople as nuncio to Emperor Tiberios II (reg 578–82). After his return, six years later, he served as abbot at St Andrew’s until his election to the papacy.

As pope he fervently believed in his mission to support the Church and devoted himself to improving the secular and religious situation in Rome, as well as throughout Europe. He made peace with the Lombards (592–3) and converted them from Arianism. He was unswerving in his aim of eliminating abuses and violence within the Church. He defended the Jews’ right to worship and in 597 sent St Augustine, later first Archbishop of Canterbury (...

Article

May Vieillard-Troïekouroff

(b Clermont-Ferrand, 30 Nov ad 538; d Tours, Nov 17, 594; fd 17 Nov).

Gallo-Roman saint, bishop, and writer. He was appointed Bishop of Tours in ad 573. He came from a distinguished family that played a pre-eminent role in Gaul. His writings, the History of the Franks and books of miracles of the saints, provide reliable evidence of 6th-century buildings and monuments, documenting, for example, the existence of 408 sanctuaries. A sanctuary would be built over the tomb of a saint at the same time that a bishop, in an attempt to institute a cult in that saint’s honour, commissioned a life of the saint. As Gregory often had to decide questions concerning the construction or decoration of churches he must have looked closely at the buildings he visited. His accounts of Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral, St Martin, Tours, and Old St Peter’s, Rome, with their measurements and details of the number of columns and windows, recall the dry listings of the Liber pontificalis and differ markedly from the poetic descriptions of his friend Venantius Fortunatus. The sanctuaries Gregory mentioned, including St Symphorien, Autun, and the cathedrals of Lyon and Chalon-sur-Saône, must have been comparable to the contemporary Roman basilicas of S Maria Maggiore and S Sabina, with their colonnades, inlaid marbles, and mosaics or paintings representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments. There were also sanctuaries with centralized plans, as at La Daurade, Toulouse, and with oval plans as at St Gereon, Cologne, where ‘admirable mosaic work makes it shine as if it were truly made of gold, so that the residents have called it the House of the Golden Saints’. The Christian monuments of his day seemed to Gregory grander and more beautiful than those they replaced....

Article

Roger Goepper

[Sun Kuo-t’ing; zi Qianli]

(fl c. ad 687).

Chinese calligrapher, theorist and scholar–official. The only reliable source about his life is a memorial text by his friend, the poet Chen Zi’ang (ad 656–95), which reports that Sun lived in poor circumstances and died young. It is known that he served in minor positions at the court of the Tang empress Wu (reg ad 684–705). His Treatise on Calligraphy (Shupu) was the first systematic text on the art of Chinese calligraphy. Its preface survives as a copy, probably executed hastily by Sun from his original, consisting of 351 lines of cursive script (caoshu) in handscroll format (ad 687; Taipei, N. Pal. Mus.). The preface establishes grades of artistic rank to which calligraphers are appointed and places Wang Xizhi (see Wang family, §1) at the peak of a tradition originating in the 4th century ad. Sun treats the relationship between artistic form and expressive content, emphasizing the personality of the artist and establishing calligraphy as a creative activity. He discusses the advantages of different calligraphic styles and makes critical remarks about famous works. He also formulates four basic technical modes of calligraphy (...

Article

Xie He  

Keith Pratt

[ Hsieh Ho ]

( fl c. 500–535 ad ).

Chinese painter and writer . A portrait painter at the court of the Southern Qi dynasty in Nanjing, he is renowned as the author of the earliest extant Chinese text on the theory of painting and one of the most influential. His work Gu huapin lu (‘Classification of painters’) comprises an essay on the principles of art and a classification of 27 earlier painters into six categories. The former contains his famous ‘Six Laws’ (...

Article

Constanze M. Schummer

(b Pavia, c. ad 920; d c. 970–73). Frankish historian, diplomat and Bishop of Cremona. His two unusually informative accounts of missions to Constantinople are of great art-historical interest. The Antapodosis (Book of Revenge) enthusiastically describes the union of art, culture and ceremonial he observed on a visit to the court of Constantine VII in 949, introducing Western readers to Byzantine self-representation. The Legatio (Embassy) chronicled his failed mission for Emperor Otto I to Nicephorus II Phocas in 968, and mirrored the diplomatic difficulties between the two emperors as well as depicting the more sober atmosphere of Nicephoran Constantinople. In this work Liudprand fiercely attacked anything Byzantine, repeating old prejudices against the ‘treacherous and effeminate’ Greeks and emphasizing religious differences.

Although emotional and egocentric, these two accounts use accurately observed detail to justify their contradictory verdicts upon Byzantine culture. Antapodosis VI.5 is famous for its description of the mechanized artefacts of the imperial ...

Article

Kate Wilson

Lineage of Chinese landscape painting defined in the late 16th century and early 17th by the critics and theorists Dong Qichang, Chen Jiru and Mo Shilong (c.1538–87). The Northern school is seen as opposed to the Southern school. Dong Qichang and his contemporaries sought to rejuvenate painting by studying correct ancient models and identified the two schools as the main painting traditions, positioning major artists of the past within one or the other. The terms Northern and Southern relate not to geographical areas but to a division in Chan (Jap. Zen) Buddhism. Thus artists of the Northern school are associated with the Northern division of Chan, which holds that enlightenment is gradual and achieved through diligent application. This is not to suggest that Northern school artists were necessarily followers of Chan Buddhism; rather, their approach to painting was, in the opinion of the theorists, analogous with the courtly, instructional teaching of Northern Chan. The analogy applies both to the artists’ manner of working and to their style of painting....

Article

Grover Zinn

(fl c. ad 600).

Syrian monk and writer. Four treatises and eight letters, originally written in Greek, circulated in the medieval period under the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite, the 1st-century Athenian convert of Paul the Apostle. The Dionysian corpus covered mystical, theological, and liturgical topics, along with the place of material symbols of spiritual realities, all within a Neo-platonic framework. The Byzantine Emperor Michael II (reg 820–29) sent a Greek manuscript of these works to Emperor Louis the Pious (reg 813–40) in 827 and then Hilduin, Abbot of Saint-Denis (reg 814–40), made a Latin translation and wrote a vita of St Denis (St Denys) for liturgical use. The medieval figure of St Denis was a conflation of at least three persons: Paul’s Athenian convert; the pseudonymous author; and the 3rd-century missionary bishop to France, St Denis, martyred at Montmartre (?AD 258), whose relics were at Saint-Denis Abbey. The writings of Pseudo-Dionysius were influential in Latin Christianity in the 12th century and following. Eriugena produced a translation and commentary in the 9th century but only with the commentary on the ...

Article

Ravello  

Antonio Milone

Italian cathedral city in the province of Salerno, Campania. Ravello has been documented as an urban centre since the 10th century and as a bishopric since 1087. The centre, near the Toro quarter, is high up between the two rivers that separate the city from Scala and Minori. The city’s fortifications were damaged and the city itself was sacked by a Pisan assault in 1135 and in 1137. At the end of the 14th century, its inhabitants also clashed with the neighbouring city of Scala. In the 13th century a mercantile oligarchy with power throughout all of Sicily and close relations to the Crown took control of the city, celebrated in Boccaccio’s Decameron (II.4), and enriched it with numerous monuments and artworks.

The cathedral, dedicated to S Pantaleone, dates to 1087 but was extensively altered in the late 18th century. The cathedral has three naves and the façade has three portals—the central one has a bronze door (...

Article

Scala  

Antonio Milone

Italian cathedral city in the province of Salerno, Campania. According to the 10th-century Chronicon Salernitanum, where it is referred to as Cama, Scala is the oldest centre along the entire Amalfi coast and has its origins in Late Antiquity. However, documentary proof that the city existed is only available from the beginning of the 10th century. Throughout history it has been home to a commercial aristocracy with commercial and political power throughout the entire Kingdom of Sicily. The Sasso and d’Afflitto families stood out from others in this group. Monasteries have been recorded in the city from the 10th century and it was under the control of the Duchy of Amalfi for the entire medieval period.

The settlement is characterized by numerous villages, such as Pontone and Minuta, which are found high up in the mountains behind Amalfi as well as in front of Ravello . Although the city is defended by a series of fortifications, it was damaged and sacked by a Pisan assault in ...

Article

Kate Wilson

Lineage of Chinese landscape painting defined in the late 16th century and the early 17th by the critics and theorists Dong Qichang, Chen Jiru and Mo Shilong (c. 1538–87). The Southern school is seen as opposed to the Northern school. Dong Qichang and his contemporaries positioned major artists of the past within one or the other school. The artists of the Southern school are associated with the Southern Chan (Jap. Zen) Buddhist concept of the individual self as the key to sudden and intuitive enlightenment. This is not to suggest that Southern school artists were necessarily followers of Chan Buddhism, but that their approach to the creative process of painting and the styles they adopted were in keeping with the Southern Chan emphasis on direct personal experience. Dong Qichang advocated the Southern school as the ‘correct line of transmission’ in painting, and this view has acted as a filter for subsequent Chinese art history. In the Qing period (...

Article

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....

Article

Robert E. Harrist jr

[T’ai-tsung] [Li Shimin]

(b ad 600; reg 626–49; d 649). Chinese emperor, patron and art collector. He was the second emperor of the Tang dynasty (ad 618–907), not to be confused with Emperor Taizong (reg 976–97) of the Song period (960–1279). He staged a coup d’état to gain power, assassinating his elder brother, the rightful heir, and forcing his father, Emperor Gaozu (reg 618–26), to retire. Taizong’s reign was marked by superb civil and military administration, a strong economy and an expansion of Chinese power and prestige across Asia, into Mongolia, Turkestan and elsewhere. Later historians considered Taizong a model Confucian ruler who, at least during the early years of his reign, was unusually open to advice from the brilliant ministers he assembled at his court.

From his youth, Taizong had a deep interest in calligraphy and was himself an accomplished calligrapher, as well as the author of several treatises on calligraphy. His passion for this art form was most evident, however, in his career as a collector and patron. By the early 630s Taizong had amassed a collection of ...

Article

Keith Pratt

[ Chang Yen-yuan ; zi Aibing ]

( fl c. 815–c. 875ad ).

Chinese art historian . He is known as the compiler of the Fa shu yaolu (‘Essential records of Chinese calligraphers’), a compendium of earlier writings on calligraphy, and the author of Lidai minghua ji (‘Record of famous painters of all periods’). The latter, based on Xie He ’s Gu huapin lu (‘Classification of painters’), was the most thorough survey yet made of painting theory and history. It contains data up to the year ad 841 and its preface is dated ad 847.

Zhang follows the categories of art already known to Gu Kaizhi , those of figures, landscapes, animals and buildings, and adds to them flowers-and-birds and demons-and-spirits. He provides information on 322 painters from earliest times to the mid-Tang, and on imperial and monastic picture collections. The 15 sections of the ‘Introduction’ cover not only the principles of painting but also practical matters such as seals, mountings and prices. Zhang followed one of his own sources, Zong Bing (...

Article

Chinese, 9th century, male.

Born c. 810; died c. 880.

Art critic, art historian, collector.

The scion of an illustrious line of officials, Zhang Yanyuan probably took his first steps as an art historian in his family’s own rich collections. He wrote a monumental work of art history, the ...