Medieval Artists
Sculptors, Book Painters, Illuminators and Goldsmiths of the Middle Ages.

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Statue of Saint Faith (Sainte Foy) (870)
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques.
Medieval statuette which reputedly uses
the death mask of King Charlemagne.

Medieval Artists (c.1100-1450)

Contents

Introduction
Types of Medieval Art
Materials Used in Medieval Art
History of Medieval Art
LIST OF MEDIEVAL ARTISTS
- Romanesque
- Gothic, International Gothic, Pre-Renaissance
- Russian Medieval Icon Painters



High Relief medieval carving
showing Judas Iscariot hanging
himself, helped by devils (1120-35)
By French sculptor Gislebertus,
Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun.

GREAT EUROPEAN PAINTERS
For biographies and paintings
of the greatest artists in Europe
from the Renaissance to 1800,
see: Old Masters: Artists.

BEST SCULPTORS
For a list of the world's most
talented 3-D artists, see:
Greatest Sculptors.

Introduction

Although Medieval history covers almost ten centuries between the Sack of Rome (c.450 CE) and the Early Italian Renaissance (1400), Western Medieval art is limited to Byzantine culture (Eastern Roman Empire), Hiberno-Saxon Insular art, artworks from the royal courts of Charlemagne and his Ottonian successors, and finally - from roughly 1000 onwards - the European-wide movements of Christian art, known as Romanesque and Gothic. It was only during the final 400 years that the individual names of painters, sculptors and other decorative artists began to be recorded with any regularity. Thus most of our artists date from this period.

Types of Medieval Art

The largest category of extant medieval artworks is sculpture, notably the statues, reliefs and column-statues created for the great Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals of Chartres, Notre-Dame de Paris, Cologne, Reims, and others. In addition, artists created masterpieces of Medieval manuscript illumination, ornamental metalwork, stained glass art (Chartres Cathedral) mosaic art (Chora Church in Constantinople), tapestry (Cloth of Saint Gereon, 1020), embroidery (Bayeux Tapestry, 1080) and fine art painting (mainly portraits executed on wooden panels, or fresco wall-paintings, or miniature portrait painting on vellum).

EVOLUTION OF VISUAL ART
For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For the chronology and dates
of key events in the evolution
of visual arts around the world
see: History of Art Timeline.

WORLD'S GREATEST ARTWORKS
For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.

EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
For details of the origins and
development of the plastic arts
see: History of Sculpture.

 

Materials Used in Medieval Art

Although artist-monks received little money or even formal acknowledgement of their efforts, the Church (as well as secular patrons) had no compunction in lavishing money on the works of art themselves. Types of valuable materials in regular use included: gold dust, foil or leaf; silver and other precious metals (see also, the art of goldsmithing); expensive natural colour pigments such as ultramarine, made from the rare Afghanistan ore lapis lazuli; rare types of ivory; calf-skin for vellum - one bible manuscript required the skins of up to 500 animals; and many other expensive materials.

History of Medieval Art

European art during the Middle Ages developed out of the artistic heritage of classical antiquity, the Roman Empire, as well as Christian iconography. To this mixture, must be added the influence of the Middle East in the forms and ideals of Byzantine culture. Interestingly, at the start of the Medieval period, nearly all works of art were commissioned by religious authorities (for churches/monasteries) or secular leaders (for public edification), and most were actually created by monks. By the end of the period, the arts industry had broadened considerably from its original monastic base: not only were most artists laymen, but a number of artworks were commissioned by wealthy bourgeois patrons for personal enjoyment.

Even so, for 600 years (c.400-1000 CE) Europe was a cultural backwater. Only one institution survived: the Christian Church - centred in Rome, and Constantinople. Not surprisingly, therefore, the church became the main sponsor of architecture, and other types of art, during the medieval era.

Early Christian Artists (650-900 CE)

One of the finest examples of early Christian fine art were the Irish and Anglo-Saxon illuminated manuscripts dating from the mid-sixth century CE. These beautifully illustrated books (eg. Book of Kells, Book of Durrow), combining Celtic art with Anglo-Saxon and Celtic metalwork art, were produced by scribes and artist-monks in the scriptoriums of abbeys and monasteries across Ireland and Northern England. They were succeeded by Carolingan, Ottonian and Byzantine illuminated texts, as well as a host of Persian Islamic illuminations.

Medieval Artists on the Continent

The first signs of a Continental cultural renaissance appeared about 775 at the royal court of the Christian King Charlemagne. This period - known as Carolingian Art - was influenced by Late Antiquity and Byzantine traditions. Charlemagne's artists and calligraphers - including some of the Continent's best miniaturists - produced a number of outstanding illuminated texts, like the Godscalc Evangelistary, the Lorsch Gospels and the Gospels of St Medard of Soissons. For more, see: German Medieval Art (c.800-1250), Medieval Christian Art and Medieval Sculpture.

Romanesque Designers (c.950-1140)

By the mid-10th century, the Rome-based Christian Church had begun to establish a network of Bishops and lesser clergy in most areas of Western Europe. (See also: Ottonian Art.) As its wealth increased, the church turned to monumental architecture, using a new design language known as Romanesque art, to promote its divine message. Romanesque designers and architects erected hundreds of new churches and monasteries across the Continent. Famous examples included: the Cathedral of Pisa with its famous leaning bell tower, the Florence Baptistery, Laon Cathedral, Augsburg and Worms Cathedrals, the abbeys of Cluny, Aux Dames (Caen) and Les Hommes (Mont Saint-Michel). In England, 26 out of 27 ancient Cathedrals were started during the Romanesque period. For more, see Architecture History. See also: Romanesque Sculpture. For more about mural painting during the 11th and 12th centuries, see: Romanesque Painting. For regional differences of style, see: Romanesque Painting in Italy; also France; and Spain. For medieval book painting and gospel illuminations, see: Romanesque Illuminated Manuscripts.

Gothic Architects (c.1140-1300)

Romanesque architecture was impressive but boring. Also, the interiors of most churches were dimly lit because of their small windows. All this was changed by the new Gothic architecture, whose soaring arches, vaulted ceilings, and massive stained glass windows inspired and informed the Church's illiterate congregations. Gothic art first appeared (c.1140) in the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, near Paris, before being applied most famously to the cathedrals of Northern France, which were richly decorated with Gothic sculpture. Famous Gothic buildings include the cathedrals of Notre Dame de Paris, Reims, Chartres, Cologne, Vienna, Florence, Siena, Milan, Burgos, Toledo, Leon, as well as Westminster Abbey, York Minster and the cathedrals of Salisbury, Canterbury and Lincoln. See also: English Gothic Sculpture and German Gothic Sculpture. For more about architectural design in Germany, during this period, please see: German Gothic Art (c.1200-1450).

Byzantine Artists (c.500-1400)

By the time Rome was sacked in 450 CE, thousands of Roman and Greek painters, craftsmen and other artists had moved to Constantinople (Byzantium) where they proceeded to create a new set of Eastern Christian images and icons - based on a combination of Greek, Persian and Egyptian culture - known as Byzantine Art.

Almost exclusively devoted to religious expression, its architecture and painting (little sculpture was produced by Byzantine artists) developed within a rigid tradition. This led to a sophistication of style rarely equalled in Western art. Major types of medieval Byzantine art included public mosaics, private icons made with encaustic wax paint on portable wooden panels, illuminated manuscripts such as the famous Rabula Gospel (586), fresco painting, as well as decorative art including ivory diptychs and exquisite metalwork. Unlike medieval religious art in Western Europe, Byzantine artworks hardly ever had a didactic or narrative function: they remained essentially impersonal, ceremonial and symbolic.

Byzantine architects built numerous outstanding churches and religious buildings, including: the Hagia Irene (c.360) and the Hagia Sophia (532-37), both in Constantinople (now Istanbul); and the Church of St. Sophia in Sofia in Bulgaria (527-65) - all richly decorated with gilding, mosaic art, murals and relief sculpture. In time, medieval Byzantine architects became more influenced by eastern traditions of design and decoration, and exerted a deep influence on early Islamic art and architecture, as exemplified by the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus.

Byzantine art spread to Ravenna as well as Kiev, Novgorod, Tver, Pskov and Moscow, where it became a major type of Russian medieval painting, and stimulated the emergence of numerous centres of artistic excellence such as the Novgorod school of icon painting, and later the Moscow school of painting.

Medieval Artists Heralded Renaissance

During the 14th century, the Gothic style - which up until 1300 had been mainly exemplified by architecture and sculpture, as well as widespread production of Gothic illuminated manuscripts - began to be applied to painting and the decorative arts in a variant known as International Gothic. Characterized by the overriding primacy of pattern and colour, to which composition and naturalistic detail were subordinated, the style - as exemplified by International Gothic illuminations - was a blend of Italian and Northern European art, and was practised especially in centres like Lombardy, Franco-Flemish Burgundy and Bohemia. This idiom was developed and improved by three important pre-Renaissance painters, Cimabue (Cenni di Peppi) (1240-1302), Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319) of the conservative Sienese School of painting and Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337), whose fresco work and panel painting laid the groundwork for 15th century Florentine painters and sculptors, especially their mastery of linear perspective and realism.

 

List of Medieval Artists

Among the identified masters of painting, sculpture, architecture and other visual arts of the Late Middle Ages, were the following:

Romanesque Artists
Medieval visual art came about as part of the massive building program staged by the Christian Church authorities. Thus most Romanesque visual artists were sculptors and other craftsmen employed in building the early cathedrals of Europe.

Gislebertus (active early 12th century)
French sculptor, renowned for his works at the Cathedral of Saint Lazare.
Master of Cabestany (active late 12th century)
Anonymous artist who made the Romanesque-style tympanum, at Cabestany.
Master Mateo (active 2nd half 12th century)
Spanish sculptor renowned for his Portico de la Gloria.
Benedetto Antelami (active 1178-1196)
One of the finest Italian sculptors before the Gothic artist Nicola Pisano

Gothic and Pre-Renaissance Artists
Like the earlier Romanesque era, most Gothic visual art was related to cathedral building. So most Gothic visual artists were sculptors, stained glass artists, mosaicists and other craftsmen employed in the cathedral construction program. Only in Italy were fresco and panel painters able to demonstrate their true ability.

Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278)
Seen as a key founder of Italian sculpture.
Cimabue (Cenni di Peppi) (1240-1302)
Painted the famous fresco cycle in the Church of S. Francesco in Assisi.
Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310)
Noted for his Gothic-style tomb sculpture.
Giovanni Pisano (c.1250-1314)
Italian sculptor/architect; created the marble altar at Arezzo.
Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319)
Leading painter from Siena; painted the Maesta altarpiece for Siena Cathedral.
Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)
Considered to be the greatest pre-Renaissance fresco painter.
Simone Martini (1285-1344)
Italian Gothic painter from the Siena School.
Jean Pucelle (c.1290-1334)
French book painter and miniaturist, noted for Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux.
Giovanni di Balduccio (c.1290–1339)
Sculpted the Shrine of St Peter Martyr at S. Eustorgio, Milan.
Andrea Pisano (1295-1348)
Made the first set of bronze doors for the Florentine baptistery.
Filippo Calendario (before 1315-1355)
Sculptor and artist in charge of the 14th century Doge's Palace in Venice.
Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Active 1319-48)
Italian Gothic painter, member of Siena School.
Pietro Lorenzetti (active 1320-45)
Italian painter of Sienese School, influenced by Giotto.
Andre Beauneveu (c.1335-1400)
Official sculptor to King Charles V of France, and Duke Jean de Berry.
Claus Sluter (c.1340-1406)
Flemish sculptor, head of the Dijon school.
Melchior Broederlam (c.1350-1411)
Flemish artist working for Philip the Bold, noted for The Dijon Altarpiece.
Lorenzo Monaco (1370-1425)
Painter and monk, active in Florence; International Gothic style.
Masolino (1383-1440)
Goldsmith/painter, collaborated with Masaccio on Brancacci chapel frescoes.
Limbourg Brothers (fl.1390-1416)
Flemish book painters, manuscript illuminations, see Les Tres Riches Heures.
Pisanello (Antonio Pisano) (c.1394-1455)
Verona painter, medallist, portraitist, in International Gothic style.
Sassetta (Stefano di Giovanni) (c.1395-1450)
International Gothic painter, Siena School, noted for St Francis altarpiece.
Jean Fouquet (1420-81)
Leading French painter of 15th century; court painter to Charles VII, Louis XI.

Russian Medieval Icon Painters
Eastern Orthodox Christian art depended heavily on Byzantine forms, such as religious icons, typically executed in tempera on wood panels. Other media included fresco murals and mosaics.

Theophanes the Greek (c.1340-1410)
Byzantine artist, founder of Novgorod and Muscovite schools of icon painting.
Andrei Rublev (c.1360-1430)
Russia's most famous iconographer, famous for Holy Trinity icon painting.
Dionysius (Dionisius the Wise, Dionisii or Dionisy) (c.1440-1502)
Icon painter noted for his icons for the Iosifo-Volokolamsky monastery.

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