Painting Styles in the middle ages
Written by Simon Newman
History - Middle Ages
Middle Ages paintings are some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork that were ever created. They can express an entire scene through a painting, and each and every one of them represents a great deal of the topics that were extremely important during that time period. You can tell a great deal about what was going on simply by looking at a single painting.
Symbolism was a huge part of the Middle Ages paintings, and that means that many of the paintings represent something that was largely valued at the time. Religion was one of the biggest factors during the Middle Ages, and that is reflected in much of the painting that was conducted at that time.
The majority of the most popular paintings that you see throughout the history books that were created during the Middle Ages involve some form of major religious figure. The earlier paintings were done by monks and other members that were residents in the monastery. The average person was not able to become a painter, and painting was considered to be left up to someone of the church. It was not until later in the middle ages that painting began to be done by peasants or other people that did not hold a position in the church.
Middle Ages paintings are not the only version of art that was created during that time period. There was a rather large variation in the type of artwork that was created and there was a great deal of time and effort that went into creating each and every piece. The Middle Ages saw the beginning of the Mosaic style art, a growth in popularity in sculptures, metalworking, even the first nude was established. While there are quite a lot of different styles of artwork that were created paintings probably had some of the biggest effect on history.
Italy was one of the biggest contributors of famous artists during the Middle Ages. Artists like Donatello, Giotto, and Cimabue all made a name for themselves during this time period. They all came from fairly meager beginnings in which they branched out and developed artistically to create some of the most beautiful artwork that would grace the history books for years to come. The majority of these paintings showed many religiously significant figures. Some of them were painted to show certain churches or cathedrals. While not all of the paintings labeled which cathedral the scene was taking place in there were many distinctive traits that were painted in order to remove any doubt for where it was taking place.
The Beginning of Paintings
The first of the Middle Ages paintings were not what we considered to be paintings at all. They were more like illustrations than paintings. They were used in order to help express the words of a manuscript of teaching in literature. Since the monks or monasteries were the main location for educating artists most of the artistic work was used to support these teachings and help bring the words off the page and to life for those that would be learning the religious teachings.
It was not until later in the Middle Ages period that people outside of the monastery began to develop or more were allowed to develop an interest in the arts. While these artists did not tend to come from the monastery that did not mean that their art was not still influenced by religion. While their paintings were more like actual paintings and less like illustrations they were still used in order to express certain special scenes in the Christian religion.
Subjects of Paintings
Mary Magdalene and Jesus were the two main subjects throughout many of the Middle Ages paintings. While a lot of the art was being created outside of the monastery that did not mean that the artists themselves wanted to draw attention away from the church. They wanted to branch out to reach a larger audience and teach to those individuals that were unable to get an education or be able to read the religious stories on their own. The illustrations allowed many people to more fully understand the teachings, and it some cases it even made the teachings more real to them.
A printing press did not exist during the middle ages, so it was much more difficult to get a copy of a piece of literature. It would take a great deal of wealth in order to be able to copy a manuscript and there were few people or places that had the type of money that it would take. The church is where the majority of the money was during the Middle Ages. They were able to use that money in order to try and make copies of the religious literature so that it could be shared with others. While the monastery was copying the manuscripts they were adding some illustrations to those manuscripts so that the higher members of society that found reading difficult would be able to experience the teachings as well.
There is a large transition in the style of art throughout the Middle Ages. The beginning part of the Middle Ages saw extremely subtle colors being used, and the art itself was a more muted style. It was meant to specifically express the readings, but would do little more to express additional ideas. The later part of the Middle Ages saw a more dramatic use of colors and also an influential type of painting. The larger and more dramatic expression of color and use of interpretation in the paintings is what makes it extremely easy to distinguish the difference the early Middle Ages and the artwork of the later Middle Ages.
Paintings throughout history have told stories that surround that time period. There is a great deal to be learned from studying the paintings of the Middle Ages. Not only will you be able to learn the religious stories of the times, but you can also tell a great deal about the architecture of the time for it is featured in many of the paintings.