Friday, January 25, 2008

The Death of Medieval Art

Artist Daniel Mitsui quotes scholar Emile Mâle.
If the mediæval tradition died, it was killed not by the Renaissance, but by the Reformation. The Reformation put an end to the long tradition of legend, poetry, and dream, by forcing the Catholic Church to watch over all aspects of its thought and to turn strongly in upon itself.

One of the first consequences of the Reformation was to make Catholics suspicious of their old religious theater. For the first time, they became aware that the authors of the Mystery plays had added a thousand stories, platitudes, and vulgarities to the text of the Gospels... The happy age of innocence, when all was full of charm, was now past... The disappearance of the Mystery plays had serious consequences for Christian art... When the religious theater died out, the only remaining traditions were those perpetuated for a time in the workshops. The old artists remained faithful to what they had seen in their youth. This explains why, until the end of the sixteenth century, the traditional iconography is to be found in some stained glass windows.


Terry Nelson said...

This is very insightful.

elena maria vidal said...

I thought so.

Enbrethiliel said...


Elena, I've just read both long quotes from Male that Mitsui has put up. What treasures! =D Thank you so much for linking to them.

elena maria vidal said...

You're welcome!

Brantigny said...

I accompanied Genevieve to the NC Museum of Art for the French impressionist special exhibit. The students and I discussed some of the art differences between the Med, Renaisance and impressionist art. I think, and I told them that the the art of impressionist reflected what the artist saw with his (or her) eyes. Medl. and renaissance art was expressed by what the artist saw with his heart.

That is why modern art always appears so out of focus, or misshapen. I can not for the life of me understand why the philosophs regard trash as high art.

Art that does not Glorify God is so much scrap.

Anonymous said...

Maybe in 'modern' art the artist is reflecting the torment he/she observes in our modern era of hopelessness and Godlessness, and not necessarily something from within themselves.