Art and Architecture
example of the art of
style is illustrated better by royal finger rings and by the ornaments from Trewhiddle.
The chief feature is that the design is broken up into panels, each
containing its own motif, such as a patinette, an animal, or some
The style is not strong, but may symbolize the
In commonly accepted usage, the term “Celtic art” is applied both to the art produced between the fifth century BC and the first century AD by Iron Age peoples who are usually labeled “Celts,” and the art produced in Britain and Ireland between the fifth and the twelfth centuries AD, outside the areas of Anglo-Saxon settlement. There is not, and never has been, such a thing as a Celtic “race,” or a Celtic “nation.” Celtic art has borrowed or adapted elements from classical Greek, Oriental, Roman and Viking art at various times.
Celtic art differs from classical art, and therefore most Western art, in that it is not concerned either with the imitation of nature or with an ideal of beauty. The Celtic artist avoided straight lines, and only occasionally showed a concern for symmetry. The art appears to be mainly ornamental, but contained in the patterns are examples of symbolism which can be very complex. Celtic artists knew of the uses of “white space” and restraint in the selection of areas to be ornamented. It is also true that Celtic art enjoyed filling in spaces with ornamental details. The Celtic artist could produce larger works of art, but he excelled in decorating metalwork and manuscripts where limited space called for small detailed work. In curvilinear forms, intertwining lines, and in ornament which is often ambiguous Celtic art abound. Similar motifs–triskeles, trumpets, scrolls and palmettes–were commonly used.
of Celtic art flourished in
The conversion of the Celts to Christianity was the beginning of a new phase of Celtic art, and from then, most of this artwork had Christian function or meaning. The relationship between Anglo-Saxon and Celtic art as the two cultures mixed during the fifth to eighth centuries was highly complex, and was tied to the spread of Christianity to both peoples. Both economic recovery and Christianity were factors which led to an enormous increase in markets for the artist. Metalwork became amazingly intricate, both in terms of execution and its creativity. Manuscript illumination offered new opportunities for reinterpreting classical or Christian art. Because of the increased production they experienced, a wealth of art has survived from the period. By the time the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were well established at the eighth century, Celtic artistry was both challenged and stimulated by the arrival of the Vikings who made their own contribution to the Celtic arts.
The Anglo-Saxon world was the provider of new metalworking techniques, such as filigree and granular work in gold and cloisonne jewelry. Although there are elements in the designs of metalwork that are distinctive to that medium, many of these designs were used in sculpture, and were applied to the new medium of manuscript illumination. It was said of scribes of the period that they adorned “little books with such elegant designs and so rendered life a pleasant kind of the highest ornaments.”
for metalwork, manuscript illumination and other media were often
worked out on
slips of bone or thin pieces of stone. The manuscript illuminator used
pens and, possibly, brushes. Pigments came from a variety of
white or red; orpiment, yellow; verdigris, green; lapis lazuli, blue;
blue and pink to purple; woad, blue, and kerme, red. Some of the
very costly, and had to be imported from a great distance. Although it
know where the monks obtained the lapis lazuli in the Dark Ages, later
Designs were laid out with compasses, rulers and templates. The perforations from the compass points can be seen on the pages of manuscripts. The art works were built up with intersecting arcs or circles. Manuscripts were executed on vellum–calf skin–which had a smooth and a “hair” side that, to some extent, decided the quality of the work. The vellum was precious, and imperfect sheets were sometimes used. The artist who decorated the pages was usually a scribe, but occasionally the artist and scribe were different people.
similarity of the Gospel Books produced in the
of venerating relics seems to have spread to
not many examples of Anglo-Saxon architecture since most of their
were built from wood. The Danes left very few of those buildings
only Anglo-Saxon buildings made more permanently were their churches
They were generally small and simple, and when the
stone shaft from Codford
ornaments from Trewhiddle
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The Fuller Brooch
Anglo-Saxon, late 9th century AD
The earliest known personification of the Five Senses
for larger image
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Silver and Gold Buckle decorated with a fish
Anglo-Saxon, mid-7th century AD,
from Crundale Down, Kent, England.
A Christian symbol
for larger image
© The British Library Board
Lindisfarne Carpet Page
from the Lindisfarne Bible, by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne, scribe and Aldred the glossator, made 710-721, in Latin with Anglo-Saxon glosses.
Earls Barton, Northants, All Saints
A late Saxon tower displaying characteristic openings, lesenes, and "long-and-short work"
go to Lancaster Churches
where there are many more images
and information about Saxon architecture.
and also Britain Express
|Historical Time Line
The Making of Kings- Kingship, The Army and Warfare
Events before King Egbert's Time- Beginning in Europe, The 7 Kingdoms and the Church, Lineage, Ancestors and Parentage
The Life of King Egbert- The Early Years (775-802)
The Kingship- Chronicle Excerpts, 802-824, 825-829, 830-839, Reasons for Success
The People and Places Important to King Egbert - The People, The Places
Society in King Egbert's Time- Part 1 (Government, Household, Allegiance, Finances) Part 2 (Great Hall, Cooking & Eating, Food, Feasts, Christmas)
Part 3 (Crafts & Trade, Clothing and Appearance, Hygiene, Medicine) Part 4 (Peasants, Farming, Gardens & Plants, Common Tasks, Home, Village) Part 5 (Art)
Sources and References