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Middle Ages Art

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Middle Ages Art
Art during the Middle Ages saw many changes and the emergence of the early Renaissance period. Byzantine Art was the name given to the style of art used in very early Middle Ages Art. This period was also known as the Dark Ages ( 410 AD - 1066 AD ). The Dark Ages were followed by the Medieval era of the Middle Ages (1066 - 1485) and changes in Middle Ages Art which saw the emergence of the early Renaissance Art.

To appreciate the full extent of the changes in Middle Ages Art and the Early Renaissance it is helpful to understand its fore-runner - Byzantium Art and its effects on art during the Middle Ages.

Effects on Middle Ages Art - Byzantine Art
The capitol of the Roman Empire was Byzantium, renamed Constantinople. The Roman Empire was spit into two sections - the Eastern and Western part of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire fell when the German Visigoths, led by Alaric, sacked Rome. The Western part of the Empire disintegrated but the Eastern, or Byzantium Empire, stayed in tact. The Catholic religion became divided in the Great Schism. Early Middle Ages Art reflect the differences between the development of the Catholic religion in the west and the Byzantium Empire. Dark Ages or early Middle Ages Art was created largely for the Eastern Orthodox Church. The early Middle Ages art style was referred to as Byzantine Art. The style of Byzantium Art was characterised by:

  • Pietistic painting (religious art)
  • Artists were members of religious houses such as monasteries
  • There were no sculptures as these were looked upon as a form of idolatry
  • Sombre tones
  • Byzantine Art was totally flat - one dimensional. There was no perspective
  • There were no shadows
  • Figures in Byzantine Art were generally depicted front-facing
  • Byzantine Art featured long, narrow and solemn faces
  • There was no attempt to portray realism in sombre Byzantine Art

Early Middle Ages Art in what was the Western Empire - Romanesque Art
The Western Empire (Europe) was dominated by warring factions and their quest for conquest and power . Early Middle Ages Art was initially restricted to the production of Pietistic painting (religious art) in the form of illuminated manuscripts, mosaics and fresco paintings in churches. There were no portrait paintings. The colors were generally muted.

Medieval Gothic Art - Advances of Art in the Middle Ages
The Later Middle Ages saw the emergence of Gothic Art and the advances of art in the Middle Ages. Refer to:

Middle Ages Artists
Middle Ages Women Artists

During this period artists broke away from the influences of the Byzantium and Romanesque art style. It developed into Gothic and Middle Ages visual art. The artists and painters were founders of the movement towards greater realism which culminated in the Renaissance art style. Middle Ages art saw changes which included:

  • Brighter colors
  • Sculptures
  • Metal work in the form of bronze art
  • Middle Ages art in the form of stained glass windows
  • Move towards realism
  • The development of perspective and proportion in Middle Ages art
  • The use of shadows and light
  • New ideals of naturalism
  • Creation of a sense of pictorial space
  • The use of symmetry in Middle Ages art
  • Changes in subject matter including the depiction of animals and mythological scenes

Advances of Art in the Middle Ages - the Artists
The advances of art in the Middle Ages was due to the changes in more liberal religious beliefs and the efforts and the pioneering art styles developed by the artists, sculptors and painters of the Medieval period of the Middle Ages. The most important and famous artists and scultors of Middle Ages art  included Donatello, Giotto, Leon Battista Alberti, Cimabue, Filippo Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico and Lorenzo Ghiberti. A short biography and timeline of these artists can be accessed from the following links:  

Leon Battista Alberti
Filippo Brunelleschi
Fra Angelico
Lorenzo Ghiberti

Middle Ages Art by Type
Middle Ages art increased from the type of art depicted in Pietistic painting (religious art) in the form of illuminated manuscripts, mosaics and fresco paintings in churches. Middle Ages art included the following art by type:

  • Ceramic art
  • Mosaic
  • Tessera
  • Sculpture
  • Engraving
  • Stained Glass art
  • Heraldry
  • Illuminated manuscript
  • Metalwork especially bronze art
  • Silversmith and Goldsmith and new forms of jewelry
  • Painting
  • Fresco
  • Panel painting
  • Embroidery and tapestry art such as the Bayeux Tapestry
Middle Ages History
Middle Ages Index

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