Sunday, June 3, 2012

Carolingian Manuscript Art - Part Two

So began models or “schools” of images in religious art (like “schools of thought”).  The styles of art were used for different purposes, mostly for manuscripts such as The Gospels, prayer books, Psalters, book covers, etc.; however this art can also be found on coronation thrones, alters, and other decorative details revolving around religion.  Following are the main five schools of adornment.

The Ada School:
Dedicated to Charlemagne’s sister Ada, these manuscripts were illuminated, which means the incorporation of ornamental borders; elaborately adorned capital letters,  on initial pages (like a chapter marks a page) for the Gospel of Matthew; and showy illustrations of Evangelists portraits.  These were written on vellum in the Carolingian minuscule style (see post on Carolingian Art – Paleography dated 5/26/12).  Following are the three styles in the Ada school.

 Ada Gospels, c. 800, The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
This is a page from a Gospel Lectionary.  A lectionary is a list or book of only portions of the Bible chosen to be read at a church service.  Coloring has become more important.  There will now be the addition of the color purple, as well as gold and silver leaf; colors have meaning. Notice the addition of capitals or columns on both sides of the portrait.  Notice the symbol above the portrait.  Are you able to identify who this is?  (Charlemagne died about 14 years after the Gospel Lectionary, and his descendents came to power, in 814 AD.)

Maître de la nouvelle école de la Cour de Charlemagne, Évangéliaire de Saint-Médard de Soissons. Saint Jean l'Évangéliste, Beginning of 9th century, parchment paper, The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License
This is a page from the Gospel of St. Médard of Soissons.  The details are more vivid, more precise.  Additionally, there are pictorial images of stories near the top corners.  

Virgin enthroned and Child with St John on the left and Zacharias on the right, front cover of the so-called Lorsch Gospels, Carolingian AD, elephant ivory on wood, source: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2012), Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
Above is an elephant ivory carving on wood book cover from the Lorsch Gospels.  It is based on the Gospel story portrayed from carvings on the Throne of Maximianus in Ravenna, Italy. From the linear segments, it almost appears to be three dimensional instead of being flat.

 The Palace School:
It is from Charlemagne’s palace school in Aachen, thus the name Palace School

Aachen Gospels, c. 820, The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. Wikimedia Commons
We’ve looked at this portrait of The Four Evangelists previously.   Look at it differently this time.  The artwork has its roots in the classical art style—perhaps Classical Greek, after all, they are all wearing togas!  Something else to notice is a rational light source which gives the bodies more depth instead of being flat forms.  This is new to the “art scene.” 

The Rheims School:
The archbishop of Rheims (Ebbo or Ebo) was also the librarian and councilor of Louis the Pious.  Louis was the king of Aquitaine and one of Charlemagne’s sons.  (It’ about who you know—connections, connections!) Louis the Pias and Ebbo had quite a history, of which you can research.  The archbishop helped the spread of Christianity in the north of Europe. 

This illustration of Saint Matthew, from the 9th century Ebbo Gospels in the Municipal Library, Épernay, France, depicts him writing a Gospel. Giraudon/Art Resource, NY. , Wikimedia Commons
This image (above) from the Ebbo Gospels was also shown previously, but not in this context. The Ebbo style of painting was painted swiftly with vibrant brush strokes.  This evokes an inspiration and energy unknown in classical Mediterranean portrait forms. The predominance of green paint is a departure from the norm.

Utrecht Psalter. en:Carolingian art from the 8th century, Original uploader was Stbalbach at en.wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons
The Ultrect Psalter, also Book of Psalms, is another Rheims School manuscript.  The naturalistic and energetic figure line drawings were entirely new, and were to become the most influential innovation of Carolinian art in later periods.   Note that it is drawn in brown ink and not painted.  It appears to be rapidly drawn, almost sketch-like.  There is only a hint of landscape in the background, but it’s understood.  Also, there is movement of figures in the drawing, they aren’t stiff and static.

The end of the Rheims school ended with the Treaty of Verdun in 843 AD.  This treaty divided Charlemagne’s original Frankish empire and laid the groundwork for the independent states of France and Germany.  When there is a treaty, there was a war(s) preceding it.  And, that’s exactly what happened. Brother against brother for power.

The School of Metz :
The time period for the Metz school is ca. 850-875.  Charles the Bald was the youngest son of Louis the Pius of the Rheims School.  A side note is that the word ‘bald’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to his landlessness, not to a hairless head!   Charles the Bald had a son named Lothair, who became Abbot of St. Germain, a Benedictine Abbey located in southern France.  This abbey was home of the School of Metz, which is known for “other” types of manuscript art.  It was where the Gregorian chant had its beginnings which followed the  Rule of St. Benedict.  

This intaglio is made of rock crystal.  It is 4 ½” in diameter and is engraved with eight episodes from the Story of Susanna. It is shown against a red background so the images can be seen easier.  The engraved side of the crystal is slightly convex and the smooth side is flat.  The edges are beveled and it is encased in a round metal frame.

Ca. 869 AD. BnF, Manuscrits, Latin 1152 fol. 3v, École du Palais de Charles le Chauve, Wikipedia Commons
The image above is "Charles the Bald Enthroned."  Preserved in its original state, this Psalter combines the elegance of the copy and luxury paints an exceptional binding. The recipient, Charles the Bald, is seated on a throne and holding  a scepter and a globe, symbols of his office. The color purple, signifying royalty, with gold leaf highlights "attaching" his position to the strength and rule of the church.

Sacramentary of Drogo, Initial C adorned with the Ascension of Christ, ca. 845-855 AD.  Wikipedia Commons

The School of Tours:

The Abbey of St. Martin at Tours is where the School of Tours originated.  Remember the name Alcuin who was the leading scholar at Charlemagne’s Aachen Palace from part one? After his tenure with Charlemagne, he was made Abbot at St. Martin’s at Tours in 796 AD, where he remained until his death.  It was said by Einhard, Charlemagne’s biographer, that Alcuin was “The most learned man anywhere to be found.”  He is also considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian period and his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the era. 

Out of the School of Tours came the large Bibles with illustrations based on Late Antique Bible illustrations.  The best example is called the Vivian Bible.  It was the first Bible hand made specifically for Charles the Bald ca. 845/846AD.  It was commissioned by Count Vivien, the lay abbot of St. Martin, and presented to Charles the Bald in 846 AD on a visit to the church.
Illustration from the 'Vivian Bible' presented Charles the Bald surrounded by his courtiers. Roberts J. M., The Age of Diverging Traditions, s. 144. (polish translation), Author: Saint-Martin Monks of Tours, Wikipedia Commons
The library at Saint Martin was destroyed by a Viking Raid in 853 AD.  Only one manuscript survived and that was the Vivian Bible.

Denis Abbey housed elaborate metalwork from the School of Tours.  Because church interiors were very elaborate, the metal of choice was gold.  As seen in the 15th century painting below, the Denis Abbey was home to a very ostentatious alter piece.  Not only was it gold, it was embedded with precious stones.
The mass of St. Giles (La Messe de saint Gilles),  ca. 1500 AD, The National Gallery, London, Wikimedia Commons.
Why show this painting instead of an image of the real alter?  That’s all there is to show that it actually existed because Denis Abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution  in 1789-1799 AD.  Another battle/war between the haves-and-haves-not. In this instance, it was the Roman Catholic churches apparently on the “haves” side. From this plainting one can see how important adornment was to church interiors; it became their symbol of high regard, worship, adoration and respect. 

Art is starting to depict what is happening (St. Giles saying mass above).  This sounds flippant, but there were no cameras to capture moments in time.  Historical context is a way to view art.  It still is.  (Okay, I’m really starting to sound a little like Sister Wendy―in a didactic sort of way. Eeeikes!)

Mary B.

P.S.  I was thinking about symbols while driving my car this morning.  We are overloaded with them!  The golden arches are probably the most in-your-face symbol.  If one looks, you will see they are still very much being used, and we are considered a literate.  Another I noticed was directional arrow on a sign. Those symbols, ha, they will always have their place in our lives―imagery without words!

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