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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....

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

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 (...

Article

Carola Hicks

Term used to describe the art of the Picts, who were the inhabitants of northern and eastern Scotland in the years between the Roman occupation of Britain (mid-1st century ad) and the 9th century. Their use of tattooing probably inspired the Roman name of Picti, or painted people. Pictish art is best known through sculpture, although there are also examples of silverwork. Several hundred carved stones provide evidence of a remarkable tradition whose style, technique, and range of ornament are without exact comparison in the rest of the British Isles.

The stones have been divided into three main groups that overlap chronologically. Class I consists of simple undressed stones decorated with a precise range of incised designs known as symbols. Class II is represented by more carefully shaped slabs; the decoration is in relief and is marked by a cross and other scenes on the face, with the symbols relegated to the back. On Class III monuments the symbols are no longer present, but there is a wider selection of ornament and narrative iconography. There is some difference in distribution: Class I is evenly spread through the eastern mainland, Class II has a greater concentration in the south of the Pictish kingdom, and Class III has some outliers in the west and north....

Article

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Early Christian carved stone Sarcophagus (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro) of Roman city prefect Junius Bassus who, according to an inscription on the sarcophagus, was ‘neofitus’ (newly baptized) at his death in 359. It was originally placed near the tomb of St Peter and discovered in 1597.

This double-register, columnar sarcophagus of white marble (2.4×1.4×1.0 m) is carved with ten intercolumnar façade scenes of biblical characters in the ‘fine style’ and five spandrel scenes of biblical characters personified by lambs, with shallowly carved double-register harvest and season scenes on the two ends. The now-fragmented lid contains the remains of a verse inscription and two scenes, the most complete of which represents a funerary meal. Thus the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, one of only two extant double-register columnar Early Christian sarcophagi, presents a distinctive combination of carving styles and both Christian and Roman iconography.

The façade scenes on the upper register (under a level entablature) are: ...

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....