Medieval Art and Society





This course is an examination of the decorative and monumental arts of the Middle Ages (6th–14th century) within diverse cultural and historical contexts. Medieval architecture and its wealth of ornament (mosaic, fresco, stained glass, and sculpture) shared a symbiotic relationship with portable objects of goldsmiths’ work, ivory, and illuminated manuscripts. All of these media created an integral visual experience. Contrasting attitudes toward religious art and decoration are examined, such as the cult of relics in Catholic Europe, the iconoclastic controversies in the Byzantine Empire, and the mystical geometry of Islamic mosque decoration. Pilgrimages and crusades are studied as opportunities for artistic exchange between East and West. Secular art is exemplified by the sumptuous arts of the courts, objects of adornment and leisure of the nobility, and household articles of the middle classes. At least two classes will be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters. 3 credits.