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Fibula  

Niamh Whitfield

[Lat.: ‘brooch’]

Metal dress-pin that not only was used as a clothes’ fastener, but also acted as a sign of an individual’s allegiance, wealth, and status (see fig.). Brooches are common finds in pre-Christian graves of the Germanic peoples and Vikings, enabling inferences to be drawn about their uses, the garments to which they were attached, and migration patterns. For the later Middle Ages, comparable information can be gleaned not only from the objects but also figural representations, wills, and inventories.

Many brooches from the early Middle Ages descend from Roman fibulae of different types. These include the penannular brooches from Ireland and Britain, fastened by a pin slotted through a gap in a ring; disc-brooches, fastened by a pin on the back, and worn especially by Germanic women; and the various elongated Germanic bow brooches, which seem to be adaptations of the cross-bow fibulae worn by Roman officials in Late Antiquity (...

Article

Carola Hicks

Term used to describe the art produced by the Ostrogoths, barbarian peoples whose invasion of the declining Roman Empire helped to transform Late Antique into medieval art. They occupied Italy in ad 488, and they were followers of Arianism. Their king Theodoric the Great (reg 489–526) had been brought up at the Byzantine court of Constantinople (now Istanbul); the arts that he promoted reflected his desire to be seen as a Roman emperor. At his capital Ravenna he restored historic buildings and commissioned new ones in the Byzantine style. His mausoleum combines Roman and Germanic elements; it is built of stone, in two storeys, with an arcaded base supporting a circular domed gallery, the roof of which is a single slab weighing 470 tons. The only decoration is a simple carved frieze. One of his churches, S Apollinare Nuovo, contains mosaics that celebrate the Ostrogothic kingdom. Other works include palaces at Ravenna and Verona and the refortification of many city walls. Theodoric also imitated the imperial coinage; on the gold ...

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....