Monday, December 16, 2013

More Collecting

Elflandia brings us two posts on the absolutely gorgeous illuminations from the Visconti Hours.  I'm brought to mind of the time my older niece said medieval art is "lame" ...  If we go by these images, lame must mean exquisite, and so detailed as to draw us almost into falling into each letter, each piece ...

The new addiction to Arrant Pedantry proves its worth again - irregardless of the fact that I still don't like the word.

A Doll's House.  And a small fortune.  Actually - not all that small, really.

Richard III in threes.  First, a painting of the Battle of Bosworth.  Second, the first story on the judicial tangles of his burial.  Finally, "but wait, there's no more" on that judicial review.  The fun never ends for the long-dead.

3D technology, Framlingham, and Henry Fitzroy's tomb (Fitzroy was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, whose early death, like those of his uncle Arthur and later younger half-brother Edward, had not only an effect on Henry VIII's mania for getting a male heir, but of course on the history of England itself.)  At least this burial needn't suffer the indignities of that Plantagenet monarch displaced by his own grandfather.

Time Team brings us still another case of "but wait! there's more!" in the ever popular discussion/debate on the site of the Battle of Hastings.  I'd watch the special if only for Tony Robinson.  BALDRIC!!

Have you ever heard of Santa's problematic sidekick, Black Pete ... ?  And there we have a kettle of fish.

The dictionary 100 years in the making.  Wow!

Yayyyy!  Vintage snowmen!


Scheherazade said...

I think our general perception that the Middle Ages were dull and lifeless and extremely lacking in the art department is due largely to the attitudes of folks during the Renaissance that the Classical period was All That, and therefore all good art should aspire to reproduce Classical art, reproducing the glories of sueper-awesome Classical civilization. Medieval civilization, by contrast, was nothing but a dark and horrible period of barbarism, ignorance, and bad art.

To be fair, there was a collapse in the level of complexity of European society in late antiquity, though I don't know remotely enough to judge whether this actually resulted in lower standards of living for ordinary people (or just a less efficiently managed system of tax-extraction for funding building projects and royalty.) Still, even from this period and the early Middle Ages, there is a good deal of lovely 'barbarian' art, like the Book of Kells. By the High Middle Ages, social complexity and artistic achievement, from what I have read, were really quite comparable to Classical levels, and blend into the "Renaissance" without any sharp divisions or social disruptions like in late antiquity, making the distinction perhaps arbitrary.

Better pigments and canvas technologies did improve matters, though :)

DLM said...

"Medieval civilization, by contrast, was nothing but a dark and horrible period of barbarism, ignorance, and bad art.

To be fair, there was a collapse in the level of complexity of European society in late antiquity"

With respect, neither of these statements is backed up by any amount of study of the period. I don't buy into whig history (search that term on this blog for a wider discussion of this problem), and I definitely can't manage the sort of period-elitism propounded by those oh-so-"enlightened" Renaissance folks.

Human beings do not in fact lose portions nor the bulk of our intellect for periods spanning centuries. Talent, creativity, innovation, and the spirit don't wax and wane tidily to accommodate "periods" in history which are invented centuries after the fact by those who did not participate.

The entire concept of the fall of Rome is itself a highly debatable descriptor, and indeed the hero-worship we reserve for that culture, particularly in comparison with "barbarian" ones, is poorly founded on fashion, opinion, and bias - rather than on the true nature of Roman society versus (for example) Frankish. There's a lot of sophistication in the many cultures worldwide who didn't focus on ruling all the other cultures, making money off them, nor worrying about building in stone. The art you posted, which I linked above, beggars the conclusion that medieval culture was "dark and horrible."

Obviously, I have a bit of a case of hives about people writing off "the stupid past" (it's very much a running theme of this blog) but the idea that sophistication was born in recent centuries is a misunderstanding of the difference between sophistication and innovation. Artistic sophistication dates back to the very earliest works of prehistoric man, and it is (astoundingly) only recently that people have begun to admit that and make a study of just how remarkable the depth in history of human ingenuity is. What's interesting is that we've been fascinated by ancient art for millennia, and yet people still feel so confoundingly comfortable acting like it's only in the past 500 years art became somehow worthwhile. It is precisely this bewildering attitude I try to counter with most of this blog ...

DLM said...

I should add, of course, my thanks for reading, and for commenting! My apologies that I vented my spleen first rather than remembering my manners.