The Visual Arts in Medieval Society
Artistic works produced in the era we now call the "Middle Ages" are astonishing for their variety and magnificence. This lecture course offers an introduction to medieval art and architecture of northern Europe and the Mediterranean region over the course of a millennium. Architectural history will provide the core: students will come to know significant buildings ranging from early Christian basilicas decorated with marble and mosaics to the great Gothic cathedrals, with their complex sculptural programs and splendid stained glass windows. Precious works of exquisite artistry will be studied: pieces in gold and silver, enamel and ivory, studded with gemstones, including great reliquaries made to encase the sacred remains of saints, visited on pilgrimage. This is the era when books were written and illuminated by hand, and we will see how manuscripts became a site for the play of artistic fantasy and imagination. All along we will follow the emergence of new artistic media, types of art, and strategies of making and viewing, discussing works against the background of often dramatic political change. Issues of cross-cultural exchange will come into play – connections between the Latin West and the Byzantine Greek East, and between Christian and Muslim cultures – notably in the era of the Crusades. Emphasis will be placed throughout on methods of interpreting works of art and architecture, especially in relation to evolving social practices and developing cultural and religious values.
Estimated cost of materials: less than $50.
HISTART Categories for Concentration Distributions: D. Europe and the United States, 2. Medieval