Tag Archives: Gothic

Gargoyles

I’ve been interested in them ever since I first saw the Disney show of the same name. I hardly remember any specifics about the cartoon, but I did think it was amazing. The main reason I chose gargoyles to search was because I originally intended for this to be an art blog, though within its first month or so chance ended up with me unwittingly taking a very different route with it. That’s for the better I think, because all the art history posts I did were cut and pasted from homework essays of an art history class I took and I found myself with very little time or energy to produce anything new. I still have quite a few that I never posted on here, and I don’t care to get around to it. I like what my blog ended up being.

Anyway, here is the eleventh result for “gargoyle:”

I like gargoyles because they are a vividly diverse lot. The first ten results were fairly conventional with wings and or horns, but this one is rather unusual. He appears to be just a man, granted one who is either very horrified at something or in a lot of pain. Proper gargoyles act as waterspouts to divert rain off the buildings to protect from erosion, it doesn’t look like this one has this function and it certainly doesn’t look like it would do the secondary job of scaring off evil spirits very well. The picture comes from a good Huffington Post article with several other unusual testimonies to gargoyle diversity: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/17/spooky-church-gargoyles_n_5315933.html

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Inferno: A Review

I have finished reading Inferno. No not the Dan Brown novel, I read the original poem by Dante Alighieri. It is easily the most rewarding thing I have read in quite some time. Reading it is part of a school course as I did is probably the best way to read such a work, that way the full meaning (interpretation anyway) of the text is dissected. That is necessary because of The Divine Comedy is a culmination of roughly five hundred years of Catholic thought. It was written during the hight of the Gothic era, though many view Dante’s work as the first step towards the Renaissance. Of course, eras are divided much later after the fact and when one starts and ends is a matter of opinion and not fact.

Much is made of the elaborate layout of Hell in the poem. While that is rather fascinating I find the language of the poetry to be what makes it so amazing. Every canto and tercet is meticulously written, and the lines are worded brilliantly. No wonder Dante’s output of writing became the basis for modern Italian and made Florence and Tuscany the center of Italian culture.

As much as I hated getting to the end it was comforting to know that the next item on the course was Purgatorio, the second part of the Comedy. We have read the first three cantos and so far so good. Hardly anyone has read Purtatorio, let alone Paradiso (the last part); which I think is a shame because Inferno is merely the first part of the sequence. It would be akin to read the Fellowship of the Ring and giving it praise and meticulous attention without bothering with The Two Towers and Return of the King.

If you decide to read it, make sure you pick up an annotated copy; you probably won’t know the names of 90% of the individuals appearing in it or alluded to. The edition I read was Mark Musa’s translation for Penguin Classics, although apparently they now have a more recent one.

Geryon barque Minotaur

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Illuminating Manuscripts and Staining Glass

For many people two art forms define medieval art, illuminated manuscripts and stained glass windows. The former was a product of the Dark Ages, while the latter appeared in the Romanesque period. Around the 13th century the European art scene began to shift from Romanesque to Gothic. Like it’s predecessor, this new style built upon previous art forms to create works unique to this time. By this time bookmaking was as prosperous as ever, and books were increasingly diverse. History began to flourish again as bookmakers were not merely copying primary sources, they were writing secondary sources. Like with the Bibles and Psalters, these history books were decorated with full color illustration that could tell the story to those who couldn’t read (or know Latin). Non-fiction in general became commonplace, providing invaluable information on how people saw the world. Bestiaries provide information about all manner of animals, most of which are none existent while others real but with misinformation. Though prose fiction as we know it today hadn’t really developed yet, poetry was widespread and many manuscripts are filled with new poems. So much secular literature hadn’t been common since Roman times and they show that while the Middle Ages were very religious, it was also an earthy time when people had a raw sense of humor.

Chron unicorn serpent wife

Though stained glass begun during the Romanesque era, the art matured in the Gothic era and that is when we start to see some very notable work. Unlike illuminated manuscripts, stained glass was still confined largely to the cathedrals so the content remained primarily religious. All (or almost all ) of the Gothic cathedrals utilize stained glass, so it is easy to see how the windows swiftly became so sophisticated. The primary goal of the windows was to tell Biblical stories to the illiterate; the “Poor Man’s Bible” I discussed last week. Abstraction also became common, sometimes embellishing scenes and other times dominating an entire window. These abstract designs make stained glass an interesting parallel with illuminated manuscripts. Perhaps one reason we find stained glass so captivating is because we use windows to see outside and let light in, not to decorate the interior of a room.

window window2 window3It is often said the art is a reflection of the time and place it was created in. I think for the Middle Ages that is especially true. While books were produced it is important to note that they are one of the few available media forms. The number of books made is miniscule by later standards. Many later books and resources have been written about the time, but they are often filled with errors. This leaves art as vital voice for Medieval beliefs. Yes books were filled with art, but not everyone knows Latin. However, anyone can look at art; and scholars and art historians have made understanding it fairly easy.

References:

http://www.architecturecourses.org/architecture-styles/gothic-architecture

http://www.artcyclopedia.com/history/gothic.html

http://www.all-art.org/history194_gothic_contents.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_art

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