Styles & Periods

Styles & Periods

Celtic Art/ Early Medieval Art

In the Middle Ages, the Irish cultivated a truly distinct artistic identity. The Romans never conquered Ireland, so when Christianity made its way to the island, the manifestations of religious art were uniquely unaffected by Mediterranean civilization. From 600 to 800 A.D. monasteries in Ireland began to produce copies of the Bible in relative volume. These centers of learning and the arts were responsible for the swift conversions of France, the Netherlands and Germany to Christianity. The task of reproducing the scriptures was not taken lightly by the scriptoria, and an entire art of illuminated book pages prevailed. The Book of Kells is considered one of the masterpieces of Medieval Art, featuring a complexity of color and composition that is unrivaled by other Insular texts. Following intricate rules for decorative embellishment, the monks created pages of intense geometric pattern. Besides monograms, four figurative images were often depicted by illuminators. The man, the lion, the eagle and the ox all correspond to the four evangelists, and were included in pages of the Gospels written by scribes. The work of the artists of Ireland paved the way for the work of Charlemagne and Carolingian Art.


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