- Carolingian art
Carolingian art is the roughly 120-year period from about AD
780to 900— during the reign of Charlemagneand his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. For the first time, Northern European kings patronized classical Mediterranean Roman art forms, blending classical forms with Germanic ones, creating entirely new innovations in figurine line drawing and setting the stage for the rise of Romanesque artand eventually Gothic artin the West.
The Carolingian era is the first period in the
Medieval artmovement known as "Pre-Romanesque".
Carolingians found a taste for Mediterranean art when
Charlemagneset out to rival the splendour of the Lateranin Rome where he had been crowned Holy Roman Emperorin 800. As symbolic representative of Rome (and by title), he sought the "renovatio" (revival) of Roman culture and learning in the West, and thus became a patron of the arts. He wished to establish himself as the heir to the great rulers of the past, to emulate and symbolically link the artistic achievements of Early Christian and Byzantine culture with his own.
But it was more than a conscious desire to revive ancient Roman culture. During Charlemagne's reign the
Iconoclasmcontroversy was dividing the Byzantine Empire. Charlemagne decided to take a middle road, not allowing the complete destruction of human images, but not going so far as to allow their worship either. This decision not to adopt iconoclastic principles, and to allow the use of human figures in moderation, had immense consequences, for it was out of Carolingian art that western Romanesque and Gothic art developed — had Charlemagne sided with the Iconoclasts, the history of Western art would have been very different.
Illuminated manuscripts, metalwork, small-scale sculpture, mosaics and frescos survive from the period.
With the end of Carolingian rule around
900, artistic production halted for about three generations. By the later 10th century with the Clunyreform movement, and a revived spirit for the idea of Empire, art production began again. New Pre-Romanesque styles appeared in Germany with the Ottonian Dynasty, in England with the Anglo-Saxons, and in France, Italy and Spain.
The most numerous surviving works of the Carolingian renaissance are
illuminated manuscripts. Under Charlemagne's direction, new Gospels and liturgical works were prepared, as were teaching materials such as historical, literary and scientific works from ancient authors. Carolingian art had different monastic centers throughout the Carolingian Empire, known as " ateliers", and each atelier had its own style that developed based on the artists and influences of that particular location and time. The earliest was the Court School of Charlemagne; then a Rheimsian style, which became the most influential of the Carolingian period; a Touronian style; a Drogo style; and finally a Court School of Charles the Bald. These are the major centers, but others exist, characterized by the works of art produced there.
The Court School of Charlemagne (also known as the Ada School) produced the earliest manuscripts, including the
Godescalc Evangelistary(781–783); the Lorsch Gospels (778–820); the Ada Gospels( [http://rubens.anu.edu.au/htdocs/bytype/manuscripts/survey/0001/195.jpgpicture:St.Matthew] ); the Soissons Gospels; and the Coronation Gospels( [http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/Images/109images/Carolingian/coronation_matthew.jpgpicture:St.Matthew] ). The Court School manuscripts were ornate, courtly ostentatious, and reminiscent of 6th century ivories and mosaics from Ravenna, Italy. They were the earliest Carolingian manuscripts and initiated a revival of Roman classicism, yet still maintained Migration Period art(Merovingian and Insular) traditions in their basically linear presentation, with no concern for volume and spatial relationships.
In the early 9th century Archbishop
Ebo of Rheims, at Hautvillers(near Rheims), assembled artists and transformed Carolingian art to something entirely love. The Gospel book of Ebbo(816–835) was painted with swift, fresh and vibrant brush strokes, evoking an inspiration and energy unknown in classical Mediterranean forms (see image this page and [http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/Images/109images/Carolingian/Ebbo_Matthew.jpgpicture:St.Matthew] ). Other books associated with the Rheims school include the Utrecht Psalter( [http://members.tripod.com/bibliomane/utrecht_psalter.htm picture:gallery] ), which was perhaps the most important of all Carolingian manuscripts, and the " Bern Physiologus", the earliest Latin edition of the Christian allegorical text on animals. The expressive animations of the Rheims school, in particular the Utrecht Psalter with its naturalistic expressive figurine line drawings, would have influence on northern medieval art for centuries to follow, into the Romanesque period.
Another style developed at the monastery of
St Martin of Tours, in which large Bibles were illustrated based on Late Antiquity Bible illustrations. Three large Touronian Bibles were created, the last, and best, example was made about 845/846 for Charles the Bald, called the Vivian Bible. The Tours School was cut short by the invasion of the Normansin 853, but its style had already left a permanent mark on other centers in the Carolingian Empire.
diocese of Metzwas another center of Carolingian art. Between 850 and 855 a sacramentarywas made for Bishop Drogo called the Drogo Sacramentary. The illuminated "historiated" decorated initials (see image this page) were to have influence into the Romanesque period and were a harmonious union of classical lettering with figural scenes.
In the second half of the 9th century the traditions of the first half continued. A number of richly decorated Bibles were made for Charles the Bald, fusing Late Antiquity forms with the styles developed at Rheims and Tours. It was during this time a
Franco-Saxonstyle appeared in the north of France, integrating Hiberno-Saxon interlace, and would outlast all other Carolingian styles into the next century.
Charles the Bald, like his grandfather, also established a Court School. Its location is uncertain but several manuscripts are attributed to it, with the
Codex Aureus(870) ( [http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/Images/109images/Carolingian/Cod_Aureus_Chas_Bald.jpgpicture:Charles the Bald Enthroned] ) being the last and most spectacular. It contained Touronian and Rheimsian elements, but fused with the style that characterized Charlemagne's Court School more formal manuscripts.
With the death of Charles the Bald patronage for manuscripts declined, signaling the beginning of the end, but some work did continue for a while. The
Abbey of St. Gallcreated the Folchard Psalter(872) and the Golden Psalter(883). This Gallish style was unique, but lacked the level of technical mastery seen in other regions.
culpture and metalwork
Carolingian sculptors created book covers in carved ivory, with themes largely derived from
Late Antiquitypaintings. For example the front and back covers of the Lorsch Gospels are of a 6th century Imperial triumph, adapted to the triumph of Christ and the Virgin.
Charlemagne revived large-scale bronze casting when he created a foundry at
Aachenwhich cast the doors for his palace chapel, in imitation of Roman design.
The finest example of Carolingian goldsmith work was the
Golden Altar(824–859) ( [http://milano.arounder.com/PROJECTS/SANT_AMBROGIO/home_fullscreen.html picture:altar] ), also known as the Paliotto, located in San Ambrogio Churchin Milan. The altars four sides are decorated with images in gold and silver repoussé, framed by borders of filigree, precious stones and enamel.
We know from written sources of
frescos in churches and palaces, although most have not survived. Charlemagne's Aachen palace contained a wall painting of the Liberal Arts, as well as narrative scenes from his war in Spain. The palace of Louis the Piousat Ingelheimcontained historical images from antiquity to the time of Charlemagne, and the palace church contained typologicalscenes of the Old and New Testaments juxtaposition ed next to one another.
Fragmentary paintings have survived at
Auxerre, Coblenz, Lorsch, Cologne, Fulda, Corvey, Trier, Mustair, Malles, Naturno, Cividale, Bresciaand Milan.
Mosaics installed in Charlemagne's palatine chapel dome were reminiscent of Early Christian churches in Rome. The mosaic no longer survives, but [http://perso.wanadoo.fr/police.daniel/Riboul/Germigny.htm remnants of one remains] in the apseof the oratory at Germigny-des-Prés(806) which shows the Ark of the Covenantadored by angels, discovered in 1820 under a coat of plaster.
Spolia" is the Latin term for "spoils" and is used to refer to the taking or appropriation of ancient monumental or other art works for new uses or locations. We know that many marbles and columns were brought from Rome northward during this period.
Perhaps the most famous example of Carolingian spolia is the tale of an equestrian statue. In Rome, Charlemagne had seen the
Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aureliusin the Lateran Palace. It was the only surviving statue of a pre-Christian Roman Emperor because it was mistakenly thought, at the time, to be that of Constantine and thus held great accord—Charlemagne thus brought an equestrian statue from Ravenna, then believed to be that of Theodoric the Great, to Aachen, to match the statue of "Constantine" in Rome.
* Joachim E. Gaehde (1989). "Pre-Romanesque Art". "
Dictionary of the Middle Ages". ISBN 0-684-18276-9
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9020436/Carolingian-art "Carolingian art"] . In "
Encyclopædia Britannica" Online.
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