When I last left you at the Cleveland Museum of Art, I had shown you items from the period that we often call the Dark Ages, the centuries after the fall of Rome when barbarian tribes swept across Western Europe. Later, from the years 1050 to 1350, Europe experienced a building boom as churches, cathedrals and monasteries were built. At first they were constructed in the Romanesque style and then in the soaring Gothic style. As trade once again grew and the economy stabilized, art become more sophisticated. The greatest patron of the arts was the Church, and the vast majority of art was religious. The wealthy also commissioned devotional art for their own private use.
As we pass through the museum's medieval galleries, here is a small sampling from the collection...
In Romanesque churches, the capitals (that piece of stone which sits atop a column) were often decoratively sculpted, sometimes with themes from the Bible. This capital dates from around 1125, and comes from a church in central France. It portrays the story of Daniel in the lion's den.
These wooden statues of the mourning Virgin and St. John come from a church in Spain and date from around 1250. The statues which decorated the interiors and exteriors of churches, be they of wood or of stone, were almost always painted. You can still see some of the paint on these.
A wood sculpture of the Virgin and Child from 12th century France.
These incomplete but beautifully expressive angels are examples of the High Gothic style of 13th century France. They probably come from Reims, which, being a cathedral town, was a center for sculptor's workshops.
This limestone head of an apostle would have been part of a life-sized figure decorating the exterior of a church. It dates from around 1325 and is probably from Toulouse, France.
This box of gilded copper and cloisonné enamel is a a pyx, a receptacle for holding the consecrated host. It is from 12th century Germany. The central scene of the Crucifixion is flanked by Old Testament scenes of Abel's sacrifice of sheep and Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.
This statue of the Virgin and Child is from the late 1200s and comes from the Meuse Valley in present day Belgium. The settings around the Virgin's neck and along the edge of her cloak show that this would have originally been decorated with gemstones.
This portable altar from around 1200 comes from Cologne, Germany. The figures are carved from walrus ivory which would have been brought to Germany via trades routes with Norway.
This ivory triptych with scenes from the life of the Virgin is from 14th century France or Austria.