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The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500-1200

The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500–1200

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
372 pages
393 illustrations
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Spanish art of the Middle Ages, a period that has been relatively unexplored in the English-speaking world, is examined here in detail. This publication accompanies a major exhibition for which more than 150 sculptures, architectural elements, paintings, textiles, and objects for everyday and ceremonial use have been gathered from museums and private collections in Spain, the United States, and Europe and Africa. Each work is illustrated (most in full color) and is discussed in texts that will be of interest to both the general reader and the scholar.

The volume opens with three essays by leading scholars that traverse the eventful world of medieval Spain, presenting themes that will prove important throughout the centuries from 500 to 1200. The immense influence of topography on Iberian history is limned, and the ongoing impact of Christianity and Islam on the peninsula is discussed in vivid terms. Of great interest is the survey of Spains cultural ties to Europe and to the Middle East. This wide-ranging introduction is followed by four sections: Visigothic Spain, Islamic Spain, the Kingdom of Asturias and Mozarabic Spain, and Romanesque Spain. Each opens with one or more distinguished essays, richly illustrated with photographs of architecture and works of art.

About A.D. 500 the Visigoths made their way into the Iberian Peninsula and supplanted the existing Roman polity. Their metalwork and sculpture give a sense of the dislocations of this transitional period. Just some two centuries later the Visigoths were themselves displaced by Muslims who moved from North Africa. The presence of Islam in the Iberian Peninsula has been examined in depth in Al-Andalus, the counterpart to the present exhibition which was presented in 1992 by the Metropolitan Museum. Here the ascendancy of Islam is documented through remarkable sculpture, ivories, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork.

Despite centuries of conflict and turmoil, the inhabitants of Spain—be they Christian or Muslim—left a splendid legacy of artworks. Perceptive essays examine the Christian kingdoms of the north and the extraordinary manuscripts produced by the monasteries established in the frontier territories between the Christian North and the Islamic states of al-Andalus. Included are numerous examples of manuscripts of great beauty and importance. The final section of the catalogue presents the flowering of the Romanesque in Spain. Special attention is given to the art of the Camino de Santiago, the great pilgrimage road, and to the magnificent architecture and wall paintings of Catalonia.

Throughout this publication the reader becomes aware not only of the clash between cultures but also of the less evident intercourse between widely different traditions. Both profound differences and shared artistic forms are brought to the fore. This volume is an essential introduction to an art that repays long study. It signals a new era in English-language studies of the still unfamiliar world of medieval Spain.

Belt Buckle, Copper alloy with garnets, glass, lapis lazuli, and cuttlefish bone, Visigothic
Lyre-Shaped Belt Buckle, Copper alloy, quarternary, Hispano–Visigothic
Horse Bit, Iron inlaid with copper alloy, gold, and silver, Visigothic or Byzantine
Visigothic or Byzantine
7th–9th century
Harness Pendant with Confronted Beasts, Leaded brass, Visigothic
Incense Burner, Bronze; cast, chased, and pierced
11th century
Head of a Youth, Marble, French
ca. 1100–1120
Crucifix, White oak with paint, gold leaf, and tin leaf (corpus); softwood with paint and tin leaf (cross), Spanish
ca. 1150–1200
Elephant, Fresco transferred to canvas, Spanish
first half 12th century (possibly 1129–34)
Hunting Scene, Fresco transferred to canvas, Spanish
first half 12th century (possibly 1129–34)
Warrior with Shield, Fresco transferred to canvas, Spanish
first half 12th century (possibly 1129–34)
Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere, Elephant ivory, traces of gilding, Spanish
ca. 1115–20
Panel with San Millán, Master Engelram and his son Redolfo  Spanish, Elephant ivory, with glass inlay, Spanish
Master Engelram and his son Redolfo
Panel with Byzantine Ivory Carving of the Crucifixion, Silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass, crystal, and sapphire cabochons, ivory on wood support, Byzantine (ivory); Spanish (setting)
Byzantine (ivory); Spanish (setting)
10th century (ivory); late 11th century (setting)
Panel with an Ivory Crucifixion Scene, Silver-gilt with pseudo-filigree, glass & stone cabochons, cloisonné enamel, elephant ivory with traces of gilding on pine support, Spanish
late 11th century
Processional Cross, Silver, partially gilt on wood core, carved gems, jewels, Spanish
ca. 1150–75
Reliquary Crucifix, Silver, gilded silver, and niello (cross); elephant ivory with gilding (corpus), North Spanish
North Spanish
ca. 1125–75
Chasse of Champagnat, Copper: engraved and gilt; champlevé enamel: blue-black, medium blue, turquoise, green, red, and white, French
ca. 1150
Crucifix, Champlevé enamel, copper-gilt, Spanish
ca. 1150
Virgin and Child, Copper: formed, repoussé, engraved, chased, scraped, and gilt; hands cast; champlevé enamel: dark, medium, and light blue; turquoise, green, yellow, red, and white; glass cabochons; wood core, French
ca. 1200
Segment of a Crozier Shaft, Elephant ivory, North Spanish
North Spanish
late 12th century
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———, ed. 1993. The Art of Medieval Spain, A.D. 500-1200. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art : Distributed by H.N. Abrams.