Saturday, April 19, 2008
Benton, Janetta Rebold, Art of the Middle Ages, New York, N.Y. : Thames & Hudson, 2002.
Calkins, Robert G., Monuments of Medieval Art. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, [1985?], c1979.
Focillon, Henri, (trans. Donald King). The Art of the West in the Middle Ages, 2 Volumes. London, New York, Phaidon, 1969.
Kessler, Herbert L, Seeing Medieval Art, Peterborough, Ont. ; Orchard Park, NY : Broadview Press, c2004.
Lacroix, Paul. Arts In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. New York, F. Ungar Pub. Co. 
Lethaby, William Richard, Medieval Art From the Peace of the Church to the Eve of the Renaissance, 312-1350., London, Duckworth and co., New York, C. Scribner’s sons, 1904.
Luttikhuizen, Henry and Dorothy Verkerk, eds., Snyder's Medieval Art, Second Edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 2006.
Morey Charles Rufus, Mediaeval Art New York, W. W. Norton & company, inc. 
Reber, Franz von, History of Mediaeval Art, New York, Harper & brothers, 1887.
Sekules, Veronica, Medieval Art, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2001.
Snyder, James; Medieval Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture 4th-14th Century; New York : H.N. Abrams, 1989; Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 2006.
Stokstad, Marilyn, Medieval Art, 2nd ed., Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, c2004.
Zarnecki, George, Art of the Medieval World, Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, the Sacred Arts, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, 1975.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
On this blog, I intend to discuss not only manuscripts, but the whole range of medieval art. I reserve the right to define "medieval" and "art" however the hell I wish. I also hope to be able to point to other resources on medieval art. On the name, Monstrous Beauty, it comes from Bernard of Clairvaux, who when discussing (and denouncing) the Romanesque art that decorated the churches of his day railed against the "beautiful monstrosities and monstrous beauties" he found. I like Romanesque art, and the term "Monstrous Beauty" is indeed a great description of it.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Manuscript illumination, in the broadest sense, covers the decoration or illustration of any written text. The practice started with the Egyptians, who would illustrate portions of The Book of the Dead that would be buried with mummies. One can assume that they illustrated other texts, but so few of those survive it is hard to tell. They certainly would have had to have illustrations in geometry texts. The oldest surviving illustrated text is in fact not from The Book of the Dead, but of a play written to celebrate the accession of Pharaoh Senusret I. It dates to about 1980 BC. Surely other illustrated texts existed.
The Greeks seemed to have learned the practice from the Egyptians. It is significant that there is no evidence of the Greeks illustrating texts before the conquests of Alexander. The Greeks used what Kurt Weitzmann called the "papyrus style", which the Egyptians also used. Since the texts were written on scrolls, heavy paint could not be applied, like it can be to flat pages, as the repeated rolling would cause it to flake off. Instead quick pen and ink drawings were inserted into the columns of text. Pictured here is a papyrus fragment known as the Heracles Papyrus (Oxford, Sackler Library, Oxyrhynchus Pap. 2331) . It tells a portion of the tale of the Twelve Labors of Heracles (or Hercules, if you're feeling Roman), specifically that of the Nemean Lion. Three simple drawings of are inserted into the text columns illustrating the story. Perhaps the drawings were inserted to help a reader quickly find his place in the text, or perhaps because people like pictures. This fragment dates to 3rd century AD, and is one of the few fragments from the classical period illustrating a literary text. Because so few fragments survive, it is impossible to tell if scrolls existed with a higher quality of illustration.
The manuscript names comes form its position in the Cotton Library. Robert Cotton was a 17th century bibliophile. He kept his manuscripts in case above which were busts of Roman emperors and Ladies. These busts were used to Catalog the manuscripts. This manuscripts shelfmark, Caligula A XIV meant that the manuscript was in the case under the bust Caligula, on the first shelf, and 14th book from the left. When the Cotton Library became one of the foundational collections of the British Library, its shelfmarks were retained.
The Fuller Brooch is a large disc made of hammered sheet silver inlaid with black niello and with a diameter of 11.4 cm. Its center roundel is decorated with personifications of the five senses. In the center is Sight with large staring oval eyes, surrounded by the other four senses, each in his own compartment. Taste has a hand in his mouth. Smell's hands are behind his back, and he stands between two tall plants. Touch rubs his hands together. Hearing holds his hand to his ear. This is the earliest known representation of the five senses. In the outer border are human, bird, animal and plant motifs.
This manuscript dates from the 10th century. It has 151 surviving folios with 52 surviving miniatures. It was probably produced at the monastery at San Millán de la Cogolla. It is now in the Escorial.
This is a page from the Quedlinburg Itala fragment. The Quedlinburg Itala fragment was found in the binding of some books from the town of Quedlinburg. It is the oldest surviving Biblical illustrations and is thought to date to the 5th century. The style of the illustrations are similiar to the those found in late Roman manuscripts, notably the Vatican Virgil. The illustrations are heavily damaged. Beneath the illustrations are instructions to the artists on what to paint, giving insight into the working methods of book production during late antiquity.