Romanesque

The term Romanesque was applied in the nineteenth century to Western architecture of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries (the precise span varies from region to region) because of its use of Roman principles of construction. Romanesque is also applied to the other visual arts of the period to indicate a style that drew on earlier art of the West, including that of ancient Rome, and also incorporated Byzantine and even some Islamic influences. Although there are regional flavors within Romanesque art, it was essentially an international style that promoted an interest in the human figure, an interest that was, nevertheless, subordinated to decorative forms and patterns (as seen in damp-fold drapery). A taste for the humorous and grotesque is also manifest, combining with the decorative to produce characteristic zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, gymnastic, inhabited, and historiated initials, ultimately of Insular and Pre-Carolingian derivation. The number of subjects depicted in religious art during this period increased, stimulated by religious reforms and scholarship, resulting in an expanded Old and New Testament iconography (with developments in areas such as typology). Although the production and patronage of manuscripts was principally ecclesiastical in the Romanesque period, there was also an increase in the production of illuminated scholarly and technical works, such as bestiaries and herbals.


Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (Malibu, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the British Library, c1994).