Explore the enduring art and architecture of these ancient cultures in THE PURPOSE OF ARTISTIC PRODUCTION IN THE ARTS OF THE MIDDLE AGES: THE VIRTUAL EXHIBITION. Encounter objects rarely displayed outside of Scandinavia, France, and Jerusalem in this unique exhibition that showcases the relationship between their artistic production.
The story that is told throughout the three objects is the artistic production and how it is essential in the development of the understanding of medieval art history. The objects tied together in a similar form, as they are all examples of early medieval art. They display rich artistic craftsmanship and its relation to its culture and religion. Its creation comes from cultures from the Norse, Charlemagne kingdoms, and Islam. All of these works gain its influence from Ancient Greek and Roman art, with the addition of pagan Norse, Christianity, and Islamic patterns.
Major art movements and periods, revivals, and the artists themselves all gain its influences from other culture and history. The artists at this era created relief sculptures, mosaics, and manuscripts. Using bronze, glass, coloured stone, and parchment as a medium, they create intricate designs on jewelry and devotional objects. The Viking tortoise brooches from the nine and tenth century depicted abstract animal forms and interlaced patterns. The Te igitur initial page, from the Drogo Sacramentary represented the sacrifice of Christ from the Old Testament. Furthermore, the outer ambulatory mosaics from the Dome of the Rock use religious inspiration and motifs from Islamic cultures. New artistic techniques were formed in this era, such as metalworking and illuminated manuscripts. Old techniques such as mosaics were also presented. Manuscript artists embellished their work with Christian iconography and insular abstract patterns which were similar to Anglo-Saxon metalworks. Thus, early medieval art applies to diverse artistic heritage; from the Nordic region of Sweden, Charlemagne, and Islamic culture.
The tortoise brooches is an accessory object notably worn by Scandinavian women. It is used to hold up their woollen overdresses, aprons, or cloaks. The tortoise brooch got its name from the similarity of tortoiseshell. Around the ninth and tenth centuries is the when the tortoise brooches were created. It was found in a grave site in Bjorko, Adelso, Uppland, Sweden.
There is an absence of figural imagery in the artwork. It is decorated with engraved interlace patterns that fill the whole frame of the artifact. The object helps tell a story of how Viking artists and craftspeople were excellent in metalwork and woodwork. The clasps were cast in bronze, which was then poured into a two-piece clay mould. It also used gilding technique, which is applying a thin coating of fine gold powder to a solid surface.
The artist who produced the tortoise brooch combined late Viking-style with the influence of Anglo-Saxon metalwork. Intricate anthropomorphic and animal forms are shown throughout the jewelry. For instance, Jelling style of stylistic animals could be found intertwining within the pin. The artist also added shallow engraving or punching of Anglo-Saxon metalwork. This technique gives the sense that the jewelry has been undercut extensively. (Wilson, “The Vikings at Home”p, 124-126)
The differences the other two objects does not have is that this Vikings artwork is a portable and wearable piece. The owner of this jewelry implies that it was from a woman who was part of the high social class or who is a wife of a wealthy merchant. Brooches were made as objects that Viking could use on an everyday basis. It was also used as an exported item since it was mass-produced, as artists can reuse previous clay moulds for future production. The brooches do not display any interaction with Norse pagan culture. Instead, it presents exceptional skills of Viking metalworkers.
The Drogo Sacramentary an illuminated manuscript is made for Charlemagne’s son Drago, bishop and archbishop of Metz (Stokstad, 119). The Sacramentary was produced outside of a monastic scriptorium and was used for liturgical ceremonies. It is illustrated in 38 initials with historical accounts from the episode of the life of Christ. The style of the manuscript is a fusion of Celtic and Christian elements.
In Te igitur, it tells the story of Christian artist craftsmanship. Drogo’s artist gains its influences directly from late antiquity books brought from Rome. The artwork displays the opening words of the Canon of the Mass. The capital T and other letters are enlaced with foliage. The artist arranged scenes from the sacrifice of Christ in the Old Testament. From left to right, Abel, Melchizedek and Abraham bring each offering to Christ’s hand hovering above Melchizedek. There are iconographic figures and animals which are depicted as miniature Christianity subjects.
This artwork is different from the other two artworks in the exhibition because it allows illuminators to use their artistic ability to educate other people. The manuscripts offer visual and textual content to help readers interpret the text. It also displays the importance of the institution who had commisioned the book.
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a shrine, built by Muslims, to celebrate events from the life of Muhammed. The mosaics detail from the interior building walls helps tell the story of Islamic ideology and the artistic craftsmanship.
The artwork is aniconism, the depiction of human forms or animals in art is idolatry. It follows the liturgical rules from the Qur’an, as it prohibits the use of figurative art in religious buildings. As a substitute, vegetative motifs, geometrical floral, and winged crowns which were once worn by Sasanian kings, was displayed. The vegetal motives reflect the artistic theme in Islamic context that emphasizes in holiness. Furthermore, artists overlapped and interlaced the designs to form an intricate pattern of tessellations. Artists placed Quranic inscriptions along the wall to educate the viewer about the virtues of Islamic faith over other religion, for instance, Christianity.
The aura that this object has that the other two objects do not have is that it displays examples of Islamic interactions with Byzantine artistic elements and Sasanian influences. The Corinthian columns relate to the Classical antiquity. Moreover, the mosaics pattern are created to educate the viewer of the Islamic cultural values. The lack of figures in Islamic art has a stark contrast with Christian art because subjects are represented as objects of arts.