Seeing Medieval Art (Rethinking the Middle Ages)

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9781551115351: Seeing Medieval Art (Rethinking the Middle Ages)

A Note About the Cover: "Evangeliary of St. Andreas of Cologne." (AE 679, fol. 126v, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt. Reprinted by permission). This eleventh-century manuscript demonstrates a trend of the High Middle Ages in which transcendental contemplation was initiated by abstract means. Here, thin washes of celestial colors elevate the animal flesh itself, the vellum on which words and pictures are elsewhere inscribed, to guide the viewer's thoughts from the physical world toward (though not all the way to) the invisible God.

How did medieval people see art? How was it made, paid for, and used? Why was it necessary to social activities including teaching, civic processions, and missionary work, as well as to architecture and books?

With 12 color plates and 54 plates in all, Seeing Medieval Art looks at art's functions and traces many crucial developments including the development of secular art and historical narrative, and the emergence of individual portraiture.

This is the first title in a series called Rethinking the Middle Ages, which is committed to re-examining the Middle Ages, its themes, institutions, people, and events with short studies that will provoke discussion among students and medievalists, and invite them to think about the middle ages in new and unusual ways. The series editor, Paul Edward Dutton, invites suggestions and submissions.

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About the Author:

Herbert L. Kessler's most recent books are (with Johanna Zacharias) Rome 1300: On the Path of the Pilgrim (Yale University Press) and Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art (University of Pennsylvania Press). He is a professor of medieval art at Johns Hopkins University, Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America since 1991, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 1995.


Overall, Herbert L. Kessler has done a wonderful job of addressing his subject: seeing medieval art. Rich with examples and images, his text traces not only the contexts in which medieval art was utilized but the ways in which it was incorporated into medieval thought and practice, and the way it was intended to be seen.

(Thomasine Bartlett, University of New Orleans)

Experts and non-experts alike will find much to delight and challenge them in Kessler's rich embroidery of text and image.

(Mary Carruthers, Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Literature, New York University)

This innovative and deeply learned survey of the current state of medieval art history, organized enticingly according to eight of the issues that have engaged specialists most fruitfully over the past 15 years, is a stunning achievement. Lively in tone, interdisciplinary in approach, ecumenical in focus, afire with important insights on virtually every page, and packed with up-to-date bibliography, Herbert Kessler's newest work shows us better than any other book I know why medieval art matters—and how our own seeing of it has grown evermore interesting. I urge experts and general enthusiasts alike to read this book now.

(Peter Low, Williams College)

Finally, a sophisticated 'introduction' to medieval art focused on issues and ideas that will be an eye-opener for students, scholars, and general readers alike! Drawing on a vast range of sources and scholarship, Kessler paints with a broad brush, but with a fine eye for telling detail. Clear, concise, and compelling, this superlative synthesis ignores shibboleths, stakes out new ground, and provides a bracing reminder of why the Middle Ages remain central to any history of visual experience and the artistic imagination.

(Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Harvard University)

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