Anglo-Saxon art

Anglo-Saxon art

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Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 period of English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 history, beginning with the Migration period
Migration Period art
Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period . It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles...

 style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose sophisticated art was influential in much of northern Europe. The two periods of outstanding achievement were the 7th and 8th centuries, with the metalwork and jewellery from Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo, near to Woodbridge, in the English county of Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British...

 and a series of magnificent illuminated manuscripts, and the final period after about 950, when there was a revival of English culture after the end of the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 invasions. By the time of the Conquest the move to the Romanesque
Romanesque art
Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is increasingly known as the Pre-Romanesque...

 style is nearly complete. The important artistic centres, in so far as these can be established, were concentrated in the extremities of England, in Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, especially in the early period, and Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 and Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 near the south coast.

Anglo-Saxon art survives mostly in illuminated manuscripts, Anglo-Saxon architecture
Anglo-Saxon architecture
Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing...

, a number of very fine ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

 carvings, and some works in metal and other materials. Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum or English work is a contemporary term for fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds...

 ("English work") was already recognised as the finest embroidery in Europe, although only a few pieces from the Anglo-Saxon period remain - the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

 is a rather different sort of embroidery, on a far larger scale. As in most of Europe at the time, metalwork was the most highly regarded form of art by the Anglo-Saxons, but hardly any survives - there was enormous plundering of Anglo-Saxon churches, monasteries and the possessions of the dispossessed nobility by the new Norman rulers in their first decades, as well as the Norsemen before them, and the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

 after them, and most survivals were once on the continent. Anglo-Saxon taste favoured brightness and colour, and an effort of the imagination is often needed to see the excavated and worn remains that survive as they once were.

Perhaps the best known piece of Anglo-Saxon art is the Bayeux Tapestry which was commissioned by a Norman
Anglo-Norman
The Anglo-Normans were mainly the descendants of the Normans who ruled England following the Norman conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066. A small number of Normans were already settled in England prior to the conquest...

 patron from English artists working in the traditional Anglo-Saxon style. Anglo-Saxon artists also worked in fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

, stone
Stone carving
Stone carving is an ancient activity where pieces of rough natural stone are shaped by the controlled removal of stone. Owing to the permanence of the material, evidence can be found that even the earliest societies indulged in some form of stone work....

, ivory
Ivory carving
Ivory carving is the carving of ivory, that is to say animal tooth or tusk, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually. The ancient craft has now virtually ceased, as since CITES it is illegal under most circumstances throughout the world....

 and whalebone
Bone carving
Bone carving is the act of creating art forms by carving into animal bones and often includes the carving of antlers and horns. It can result in the ornamentation of a bone, or the creation of a figure. It has been practiced by a variety of world cultures, sometimes as a cheaper substitute for...

 (notably the Franks Casket
Franks Casket
The Franks Casket is a small Anglo-Saxon whalebone chest from the seventh century, now in the British Museum. The casket is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes...

), metalwork (for example the Fuller brooch
Fuller brooch
The Fuller Brooch is a piece of late 9th century Anglo-Saxon art of unknown provenance.It is a large disc made of hammered sheet silver inlaid with black niello and with a diameter of 11.4 cm. Its centre roundel is decorated with personifications of the five senses. In the centre is Sight with...

), glass
Anglo-Saxon glass
Anglo-Saxon glass has been found across England during archaeological excavations of both settlement and cemetery sites. Glass in the Anglo-Saxon period was used in the manufacture of a range of objects including vessels, beads, windows and was even used in jewellery. In the 5th century AD with the...

 and enamel
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

, many examples of which have been recovered through archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 excavation and some of which have simply been preserved over the centuries, especially in churches on the Continent, as the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s, Normans
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 and Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

 iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 between them left virtually nothing in England except for books and archaeological finds.

Overview


Metalwork is almost the only form in which the earliest Anglo-Saxon art has survived, mostly in Germanic-style jewellery (including fittings for clothes and weapons) which was, before the Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England
Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England
The Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England was a process spanning the 7th century.It is essentially the result of the Gregorian mission of 597, which was joined by the efforts of the Hiberno-Scottish mission from the 630s...

, commonly placed in burials. After the conversion, which took most of the 7th century, the fusion of Germanic Anglo-Saxon, Celtic
Celtic art
Celtic art is the art associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic...

 and Late Antique techniques and motifs, together with the requirement for books, created Hiberno-Saxon style, or Insular art
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

, which is also seen in illuminated manuscripts and some carved stone and ivory, probably mostly drawing from decorative metalwork motifs, and with further influences from the British Celts of the west and the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

. The Kingdom of Northumbria in the far north of England was the crucible of Insular style in Britain, at centres such as Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England. It is also known as Holy Island and constitutes a civil parish in Northumberland...

, founded c. 635 as an offshoot of the Irish monastery
Celtic Christianity
Celtic Christianity or Insular Christianity refers broadly to certain features of Christianity that were common, or held to be common, across the Celtic-speaking world during the Early Middle Ages...

 on Iona
Iona Abbey
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic...

, and Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey
Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey
Wearmouth-Jarrow is a twin-foundation English monastery, located on the River Wear in Sunderland and the River Tyne at Jarrow respectively, in the Kingdom of Northumbria . Its formal name is The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Wearmouth-Jarrow...

 (674) which looked to the continent. At about the same time as the Insular Lindisfarne Gospels
Lindisfarne Gospels
The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the British Library...

 was being made in the early 8th century, the Vespasian Psalter
Vespasian Psalter
The Vespasian Psalter is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated Psalter produced in the second or third quarter of the 8th century. It contains an interlinear gloss in Old English which is the oldest extant English translation of any portion of the Bible. It was produced in southern England, perhaps in St...

 from Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

 in the far south, which the missionaries from Rome had made their headquarters, shows a wholly different, classically based art. These two styles mixed and developed together and by the following century the resulting Anglo-Saxon style had reached maturity.

However Anglo-Saxon society was massively disrupted in the 9th century, especially the later half, by the Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 invasions, and the number of significant objects surviving falls considerably, and their dating becomes even vaguer than of those from a century before. Most monasteries in the north were closed for decades, if not forever, and after the Canterbury Bible of before 850, perhaps well before, "no major illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

 is known until well on into the tenth century". King Alfred (r. 871-899) held the Vikings back to a line running diagonally across the middle of England, above which they settled in the Danelaw
Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the "Danes" held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It is contrasted with "West Saxon law" and "Mercian law". The term has been extended by modern historians to...

, and were gradually integrated into what was now a unified Anglo-Saxon kingdom. The final phase of Anglo-Saxon art is known as the Winchester School or style, though it was produced in many centres in the south of England, and perhaps the Midlands also. Elements of this begin to be seen from around 900, but the first major manuscripts only appear around the 930s. The style combined influences from the continental art of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 with elements of older English art, and some particular elements including a nervous agitated style of drapery, sometimes matched by figures, especially in line drawings, which are the only images in many manuscripts, and were to remain especially prominent in medieval English art.

Illuminated manuscripts



Early Anglo-Saxon manuscript illumination forms part of Insular art
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

, a combination of influences from Mediterranean, Celtic
Celtic art
Celtic art is the art associated with the peoples known as Celts; those who spoke the Celtic languages in Europe from pre-history through to the modern period, as well as the art of ancient peoples whose language is uncertain, but have cultural and stylistic similarities with speakers of Celtic...

 and Germanic
Migration Period art
Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period . It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles...

 styles that arose when the Anglo-Saxons encountered Irish missionary activity in Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

, at Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne
Lindisfarne is a tidal island off the north-east coast of England. It is also known as Holy Island and constitutes a civil parish in Northumberland...

 and Iona
Iona
Iona is a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. It was a centre of Irish monasticism for four centuries and is today renowned for its tranquility and natural beauty. It is a popular tourist destination and a place for retreats...

 in particular. At the same time the Gregorian mission
Gregorian mission
The Gregorian mission, sometimes known as the Augustinian mission, was the missionary endeavour sent by Pope Gregory the Great to the Anglo-Saxons in 596 AD. Headed by Augustine of Canterbury, its goal was to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. By the death of the last missionary in 653, they...

 from Rome and its successors imported continental manuscripts like the Italian St. Augustine Gospels
St. Augustine Gospels
The St Augustine Gospels is an illuminated Gospel Book which dates from the 6th century. It was made in Italy and has been in England since fairly soon after its creation; by the 16th century, it had probably already been at Canterbury for almost a thousand years...

, and for a considerable period the two styles appear mixed in a variety of proportions in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. In the Lindisfarne Gospels
Lindisfarne Gospels
The Lindisfarne Gospels is an illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the British Library...

, of around 700-715, there are carpet pages and Insular initials of unprecedented complexity and sophistication, but the evangelist portrait
Evangelist portrait
Evangelist portraits are a specific type of miniature included in ancient and mediæval illuminated manuscript Gospel Books, and later in Bibles and other books, as well as other media. Each Gospel of the Four Evangelists, the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, may be prefaced by a portrait of...

s, clearly following Italian models, greatly simplify them, misunderstand some details of the setting, and give them a border with interlace corners. The portrait of St Matthew is based on the same Italian model, or one extremely similar, used for the figure of Ezra
Ezra
Ezra , also called Ezra the Scribe and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra. According to the Hebrew Bible he returned from the Babylonian exile and reintroduced the Torah in Jerusalem...

 that is one of the two large miniatures in the Codex Amiatinus
Codex Amiatinus
The Codex Amiatinus, designated by siglum A, is the earliest surviving manuscript of the nearly complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate version, and is considered to be the most accurate copy of St. Jerome's text. It is missing the Book of Baruch. It was produced in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of...

 (before 716), but the style there is very different; a far more illusionistic treatment, and an "attempt to introduce a pure Mediterranean style into Anglo-Saxon England", which failed, as "perhaps too advanced", leaving these images apparently as the only evidence.

A different mixture is seen in the opening from the Stockholm Codex Aureus
Stockholm Codex Aureus
The Stockholm Codex Aureus is an Insular Gospel book written in the mid-eighth century in Southumbria, probably in Canterbury...

 (mid-8th century, left) where the evangelist portrait to the left is in a consistent adaptation of Italian style, probably closely following some lost model, though adding interlace to the chair frame, while the text page to the right is mainly in Insular style, especially in the first line, with its vigorous Celtic spirals and interlace. The following lines revert to a quieter style more typical of Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 manuscripts of the period. Yet the same artist almost certainly produced both pages, and is very confident in both styles; the evangelist portrait of John includes roundels with Celtic spiral decoration probably drawn from the enamelled escutcheons of hanging bowl
Hanging bowl
Hanging bowls are a distinctive type of artifact of the period between the end of Roman rule in Britain in c. 410 AD and the emergence of the Christian Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the 7th century...

s. This is one of the so-called "Tiberius group" of manuscripts, which leant towards the Italian style, and appear to be associated with Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, or perhaps the kingdom of Mercia
Mercia
Mercia was one of the kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy. It was centred on the valley of the River Trent and its tributaries in the region now known as the English Midlands...

 in the heyday of the Mercian Supremacy
Mercian Supremacy
The Mercian Supremacy is a term commonly used to describe that period of English history between AD 600 and 900, in which the Kingdom of Mercia dominated the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy...

. It is, in the usual chronology, the last English manuscript in which "developed trumpet spiral patterns" are found.
The 9th century, especially the latter half, has very few major survivals made in England, but was a period when Insular and Anglo-Saxon influence on Carolingian
Carolingian art
Carolingian art comes from the Frankish Empire in the period of roughly 120 years from about AD 780 to 900 — during the reign of Charlemagne and his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art was produced by and for the court circle and a group of...

 manuscripts was at its height, from scriptoria such as those at the Anglo-Saxon mission
Anglo-Saxon mission
Anglo-Saxon missionaries were instrumental in the spread of Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century, continuing the work of Hiberno-Scottish missionaries which had been spreading Celtic Christianity across the Frankish Empire as well as in Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England itself...

's foundation at Echternach Abbey
Abbey of Echternach
The Abbey of Echternach is a Benedictine monastery in the town of Echternach, in eastern Luxembourg. The Abbey was founded by St Willibrord, the patron saint of Luxembourg, in the seventh century...

 (though the important Echternach Gospels
Echternach Gospels
The Echternach Gospels is an 8th-century insular Gospel Book from the library of the monastery of Echternach, Luxembourg. It is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris . The manuscript was written by the same scribe that wrote the Durham Gospels.-References:* De Hamel, Christopher. A History...

 were created in Northumbria), and the major monastery at Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

, where Alcuin of York was followed by another Anglo-Saxon abbot, between them covering the period from 796 to 834. Although Tours' own library was destroyed by Norsemen, over 60 9th century illuminated manuscripts from the scriptorium survive, in a style showing many borrowings from English models, especially in initial pages, where Insular influence remained visible in northern France until even the 12th century. The Anglo-Saxon metalwork produced in the Salzburg
Salzburg
-Population development:In 1935, the population significantly increased when Salzburg absorbed adjacent municipalities. After World War II, numerous refugees found a new home in the city. New residential space was created for American soldiers of the postwar Occupation, and could be used for...

 area of modern Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 has a manuscript counterpart in the "Cutbercht Gospels" in Vienna.

By the 10th century Insular elements were relegated to decorative embellishments in England, as the first phase of the "Winchester
Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

 style" developed. The first plant ornament, with leaves and grapes, was already seen in an initial in the Leningrad Bede, which can probably be dated to 746. The other large initial in the manuscript is the first historiated initial
Historiated initial
A historiated initial is an enlarged letter at the beginning of a paragraph or other section of text, which contains a picture. Strictly speaking, an inhabited initial contains figures that are decorative only, without forming a subject, whereas in a historiated initial there is an identifiable...

 (one containing a portrait or scene, here Christ or a saint) in the whole of Europe. The classically derived vine or plant scroll was to largely oust interlace as the dominant filler of ornamental spaces in Anglo-Saxon art, just as it did in much of Europe beginning with Carolingian art
Carolingian art
Carolingian art comes from the Frankish Empire in the period of roughly 120 years from about AD 780 to 900 — during the reign of Charlemagne and his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art was produced by and for the court circle and a group of...

, though in England animals within the scrolls remained much more common than abroad. For some long time scrolls, especially in metal, bone or ivory, are prone to have an animal head at one end and a plant element at the other. All these changes were not restricted to manuscripts, and may not have been driven by manuscript style, but we have a greater number of manuscripts surviving than works in other media, even if in most cases illuminations are restricted to initials and perhaps a few miniatures. Several ambitious projects of illumination are unfinished, such as the Old English Hexateuch
Old English Hexateuch
The Old English Hexateuch or Old English Illustrated Hexateuch refers to a richly illuminated manuscript in London - British Library, Cotton MS Claudius B.iv. It contains an Old English translation of the Hexateuch, which is the earliest vernacular translation of the first six books of the Old...

, which has some 550 scenes in various stages of completion, giving insight into working methods. The illustrations give Old Testament scenes an entirely contemporary setting and are valuable images of Anglo-Saxon life.

Manuscripts from the Winchester School or style only survive from about the 930s onwards; this coincided with a wave of revival and reform within English monasticism, encouraged by King Æthelstan (r. 924/5-939) and his successors. Æthelstan promoted Dunstan
Dunstan
Dunstan was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church...

 (909-988), a practising illuminator, eventually to Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, and also Æthelwold
Æthelwold of Winchester
Æthelwold of Winchester , was Bishop of Winchester from 963 to 984 and one of the leaders of the tenth century monastic reform movement in Anglo-Saxon England....

 and the French-trained Norseman Oswald
Oswald of Worcester
Oswald of Worcester was Archbishop of York from 972 to his death in 992. He was of Danish ancestry, but brought up by his uncle, Oda, who sent him to France to the abbey of Fleury to become a monk. After a number of years at Fleury, Oswald returned to England at the request of his uncle, who died...

. Illumination in a new style appears in a manuscript of the biographies by Bede of St Cuthbert
Cuthbert
- People :*Cuthbert , Anglo-Saxon saint, bishop, monk and hermit*Cuthbert of Canterbury , Archbishop of Canterbury*Cuthbert Bardsley , Anglican Bishop of Coventry*Cuthbert Brodrick , British architect...

 given by Æthelstan to the monastery in Chester-le-Street
Chester-le-Street
Chester-le-Street is a town in County Durham, England. It has a history going back to Roman times when it was called Concangis. The town is located south of Newcastle upon Tyne and west of Sunderland on the River Wear...

 about 937. There is a dedication portrait of the king presenting his book to the saint, the two of them standing outside a large church. This is the first real portrait of an English king, and heavily influenced by Carolingian style, with an elegant inhabited acanthus border. However the initials in the text combine Carolingian elements with animal forms in inventive fashion. Miniatures added in England to the continental Aethelstan Psalter begin to show Anglo-Saxon liveliness in figure drawing in compositions derived from Carolingian and Byzantine models, and over the following decades the distinctive Winchester style agitated draperies and elaborate acanthus borders develop.

The Benedictional of St. Æthelwold
Benedictional of St. Æthelwold
The Benedictional of St. Æthelwold is a 10th century illuminated benedictional, the most important surviving work of the Anglo-Saxon Winchester School of illumination...

 is a masterpiece of the later Winchester style, which drew on Insular, Carolingian, and Byzantine art
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 to make a heavier and more grandiose style, where the broad classicising acanthus
Acanthus (ornament)
The acanthus is one of the most common plant forms to make foliage ornament and decoration.-Architecture:In architecture, an ornament is carved into stone or wood to resemble leaves from the Mediterranean species of the Acanthus genus of plants, which have deeply cut leaves with some similarity to...

 foliage sometimes seems over-luxuriant. Anglo-Saxon illustration included many lively pen drawings, on which the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter
Utrecht Psalter
The Utrecht Psalter is a ninth century illuminated psalter which is a key masterpiece of Carolingian art; it is probably the most valuable manuscript in the Netherlands. It is famous for its 166 lively pen illustrations, with one accompanying each psalm and the other texts in the manuscript...

, in Canterbury from about 1000, was highly influential; the Harley Psalter
Harley Psalter
The Harley Psalter is an illuminated manuscript of the second and third decades of the eleventh century, with some later additions. It is a Latin psalter on vellum, measures 380 x 310 mm and was probably produced at Christ Church, Canterbury...

 is a copy of it. Anglo-Saxon culture was coming into increasing contact with, and exchanging influences with, a wider Latin Mediaeval Europe. Anglo-Saxon drawing had a great influence in Northern France throughout the 11th century, in the so-called "Channel school", and Insular decorative elements such as interlace remained popular into the 12th century in the Franco-Saxon style.

Metalwork



Pagan Anglo-Saxon metalwork initially uses the Germanic Animal Style
Animal style
Animal style art is characterized by its emphasis on animal and bird motifs, and the term describes an approach to decoration which existed from China to Northern Europe in the early Iron Age, and the barbarian art of the Migration Period...

 I and II decoration that would be expected from recent immigrants, but gradually develops a distinctive Anglo-Saxon character. Round disk brooches were preferred for the grandest pieces, over continental styles of fibulae and Romano-British penannular brooches, a consistent Anglo-Saxon taste throughout the period. Decoration included cloisonné
Cloisonné
Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné...

 ("cellwork"), in gold and garnet
Garnet
The garnet group includes a group of minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. The name "garnet" may come from either the Middle English word gernet meaning 'dark red', or the Latin granatus , possibly a reference to the Punica granatum , a plant with red seeds...

 for high-status pieces. Despite a considerable number of other finds, the discovery of the ship-burial at Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo, near to Woodbridge, in the English county of Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British...

, probably interred in the 620s, transformed the history of Anglo-Saxon art, showing a level of sophistication and quality that was wholly unexpected at this date. The most famous finds are the helmet and matching suite of purse lid
Purse Cover from Sutton Hoo Burial
Archaeologists at the Sutton Hoo site in Suffolk, England, found many exquisite artifacts in the remains of a royal ship burial. The excavation site contains a collection of burial mounds, and over the years the excavators discovered items that provided them with information about the Medieval...

, belt and other fittings of the king buried there, which made clear the source in Anglo-Saxon art, previously much disputed, of many elements of the style of Insular manuscripts.
By the 10th century Anglo-Saxon metalwork had a famous reputation as far afield as Italy, where English goldsmiths worked on plate for the altar of St Peter's itself, but hardly any pieces have survived the depredations of the Norman Conquest in 1066, and the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

, and none of the large-scale ones, shrines, doors and statues, that we know existed, and of which a few contemporary continental examples have survived. The references to specific works by the 11th century monastic artist Spearhafoc
Spearhafoc
Spearhafoc, a name meaning "sparrowhawk" in Old English , was an eleventh century Anglo-Saxon artist and Benedictine monk, whose artistic talent was apparently the cause of his rapid elevation to Abbot of Abingdon in 1047–48 and Bishop-Elect of London in 1051...

, none of which have identifiably survived, are about works in precious metal, and he is one of a small number of metalwork artists from the period whose name we know and whose work is described in any way. According to several sources, including the Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 chronicler Goscelin
Goscelin
Goscelin of Saint-Bertin was a Benedictine hagiographical writer, born between 1020–1035 and who died shortly after 1107...

, who knew him personally, Spearhafoc "was outstanding in painting, gold-engraving and goldsmithery", the painting very likely mainly in illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s. It was probably his artistic work which brought into contact with the royal family, and launched his rapid promotion in the church. Even the imprecise details given, mostly by Goscelin, are therefore valuable evidence of what Anglo-Saxon metalwork was like. Anglo-Saxon skill in gold-engraving, designs and figures engraved on gold objects, is mentioned by many foreign sources, and the few remaining engraved figures closely parallel the far more numerous pen-drawn figures in manuscripts, also an Anglo-Saxon speciality. Wall-paintings, which seem to have sometimes contained gold, were also apparently often made by manuscript illuminators, and Goscelin's description of his talents therefore suggests an artist skilled in all the main Anglo-Saxon media for figurative art - of which being a goldsmith was then regarded as the most prestigious branch. One 11th century lay goldsmith was even a thegn
Thegn
The term thegn , from OE þegn, ðegn "servant, attendant, retainer", is commonly used to describe either an aristocratic retainer of a king or nobleman in Anglo-Saxon England, or as a class term, the majority of the aristocracy below the ranks of ealdormen and high-reeves...

.
Many monastic artists reached senior positions; Spearhafoc's career in metalwork was paralleled in less sensational fashion by his contemporary Mannig, Abbot of Evesham
Abbot of Evesham
The Abbot of Evesham was the head of Evesham Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Worcestershire founded in the Anglo-Saxon era of English history. The succession continued until dissolution of the monastery in 1540:-List:...

 (Abbot 1044-58, d. 1066), and at the end of the previous century Saint Dunstan
Dunstan
Dunstan was an Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a Bishop of Worcester, a Bishop of London, and an Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church...

 had been a very successful Archbishop of Canterbury. Like Spearhafoc, Mannig's biography, with some precise details, is given in the chronicle maintained by his abbey. His work also had a miracle associated with it - the lay goldsmith Godric stabbed his hand with an awl
Scratch awl
A scratch awl is a woodworking layout and point-making tool. It is used to scribe a line to be followed by a hand saw or chisel when making woodworking joints and other operations....

 during the work on the large shrine at Evesham, which was miraculously healed overnight. Spearhafoc and Mannig are the "only two goldsmiths of whom we have extended accounts", and the additional information given about Godric, the leader of a team brought in by Mannig for the shrine, is also unique among the surviving evidence. Some twenty years after the miracle, he joined the Abbey of Evesham, presumably in retirement, and his son later became Prior
Prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

 there.

In the final century of the period a number of large figures in precious metal are recorded; presumably these were made of thin sheets over a wooden core like the Golden Madonna of Essen
Golden Madonna of Essen
The Golden Madonna of Essen is a sculpture with a wooden core covered all over with sheets of thin gold leaf of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus...

, the largest example of this type of Early Medieval figure to survive from anywhere in Europe. These appear to have been life-size, or nearly so, and were mostly crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

es, sometimes with figures of Mary and John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John...

 on either side. Patronage by the great figures of the land, and the largest monasteries, became extravagant in this period, and the greatest late Anglo-Saxon churches must have presented a dazzling spectacle, somewhat in the style of Eastern Orthodox churches. Anglo-Saxon taste revelled in expensive materials and the effects of light on precious metals, which were also embroidered into fabrics and used on wall-paintings. Sections of decorated elements from some large looted works such as reliquaries were sawn up by Viking raiders and taken home to their wives to wear as jewellery, and a number of these survive in Scandinavian museums.
While larger works are all lost, several small objects and fragments have survived, nearly all having been buried; in recent decades professional archaeology as well as metal-detecting and deep ploughing have greatly increased the number of objects known. Among the few unburied exceptions are the secular Fuller Brooch
Fuller brooch
The Fuller Brooch is a piece of late 9th century Anglo-Saxon art of unknown provenance.It is a large disc made of hammered sheet silver inlaid with black niello and with a diameter of 11.4 cm. Its centre roundel is decorated with personifications of the five senses. In the centre is Sight with...

, and two works made in Anglo-Saxon style carried to Austria by the Anglo-Saxon mission
Anglo-Saxon mission
Anglo-Saxon missionaries were instrumental in the spread of Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century, continuing the work of Hiberno-Scottish missionaries which had been spreading Celtic Christianity across the Frankish Empire as well as in Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England itself...

, the Tassilo Chalice
Tassilo Chalice
The Tassilo Chalice is a bronze chalice, gilded with silver and gold, dating from the 8th century. The chalice is of Anglo-Saxon design, and has probably been at Kremsmünster Abbey, Austria since shortly after it was made.- History :Dating from c...

 (late 8th century) and the Rupertus Cross. Especially in the 9th century, Anglo-Saxon styles, sometimes derived from manuscripts rather than metal examples, are found in a great number of smaller pieces of jewellery and other small fittings from across northern Europe. From England itself, the Alfred Jewel
Alfred Jewel
The Alfred Jewel is an Anglo-Saxon ornament dating from the late 9th century, discovered in 1693.It was made in the reign of King Alfred the Great and is inscribed "AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN", meaning "Alfred ordered me made"...

, with an enamel face, is the best known of a group of finely worked liturgical jewels, and there are a number of high quality disk brooches. The most ornate of earlier ones are colourful and complicated with inlays and filigrees, but the 9th century Pentney Hoard, discovered in 1978, contained six splendid brooches in flat silver openwork in the "Trewhiddle
Trewhiddle
Trewhiddle is a small settlement in south Cornwall, United Kingdom. It lies in the civil parish of Pentewan Valley and the ecclesiastical parish of St Austell. The nearest town is St Austell, approximately one mile to the north.-Manor of Trewhiddle:...

 style". In these small but fully formed animals, of no recognisable species, contort themselves in foliage and tendrils that interlace, but without the emphatic geometry of the earlier "ribbon" style.

In 2009 the Staffordshire hoard
Staffordshire Hoard
The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork . Discovered in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England on 5 July 2009, it consists of some 3,500 items that are nearly all martial in character...

, a major hoard of over 1,500 fragments of 7th and ?8th century metalwork pieces, mostly gold and military in nature, many with gold and garnet cloisonné inlays of high quality, was found by a metal-detectorist in Staffordshire
Staffordshire
Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders...

, then in Mercia. Jewellery is far more often found from burials of the early pagan period, as Christianity discouraged grave-goods, even including the personal possessions of the deceased. Early Anglo-Saxon jewellery includes various types of fibulae that are close to their Continental Germanic equivalents, but until Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo
Sutton Hoo, near to Woodbridge, in the English county of Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British...

 rarely of outstanding quality, which is why that find transformed thinking about early Anglo-Saxon art.

The earliest Anglo-Saxon coin type, the silver sceat
Sceat
Sceattas were small, thick silver coins minted in England, Frisia and Jutland during the Anglo-Saxon period.-History:Their name derives from an Old English word meaning 'wealth', which has been applied to these coins since the seventeenth century, based on interpretations of the law-code of King...

, forced craftsmen, no doubt asked to copy Roman and contemporary continental styles, to work outside their traditional forms and conventions in respect of the heads on the obverse, with results that are varied and often compelling. Later silver pennies, with largely linear relief heads of kings in profile on the obverse, are more uniform, as representatives of what was a stable and respected currency by contemporary European standards. A number of complete seax
Seax
Seax in Old English means knife or cutting tool. The name of the roofer's tool, the zax, is a development from this word...

knives have survived with inscriptions and some decoration, and sword fittings and other military pieces are an important form of jewellery. A treatise on social status needed to say that mere ownership of a gilded sword did not make a man a ceorle, the lowest rank of free men.

Monumental sculpture and wall painting



Apart from Anglo-Saxon architecture
Anglo-Saxon architecture
Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing...

, which survives entirely in churches, with only a handful of largely unaltered examples, monumental stone sculpture survives in large stone crosses, an equivalent to the high cross
High cross
A high cross or standing cross is a free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated. There was a unique Early Medieval tradition in Ireland and Britain of raising large sculpted stone crosses, usually outdoors...

es of the Celtic areas of Britain. Most sculpture was probably once painted, clarifying the designs, which are mostly in relatively low relief and not finished with great precision, and now almost all badly worn and weathered. Dating is usually difficult. Sculpture in wood was very likely more common, but almost the only significant large survival is St Cuthbert's coffin in Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham is a cathedral in the city of Durham, England, the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. The Bishopric dates from 995, with the present cathedral being founded in AD 1093...

, probably made in 698, with numerous linear images carved or incised in a technique that is a sort of large-scale engraving. The material of the earliest recorded crosses is unknown, but may well have been wood. From various references (to its destruction by Christians) there would seem to have been a tradition of Anglo-Saxon pagan monumental sculpture, probably in wood, of which no examples remain (as opposed to later Anglo-Scandinavian pagan imagery), and with which the crosses initially competed.

The Anglo-Saxon crosses have survived less well than those in Ireland, being more subject to iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 after the English Reformation
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

. Some featured large figurative sculpture of considerable quality, as on the Ruthwell Cross
Ruthwell Cross
The Ruthwell Cross is a stone Anglo-Saxon cross probably dating from the 8th century, when Ruthwell was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria; it is now in Scotland. Anglo-Saxon crosses are closely related to the contemporary Irish high crosses, and both are part of the Insular art tradition...

 and Bewcastle Cross
Bewcastle Cross
The Bewcastle Cross is an Anglo-Saxon high cross still in its original position in the churchyard of Bewcastle, near Carlisle, Cumbria, England. The cross probably dates from the 7th or early 8th century and features reliefs and inscriptions in the runic alphabet...

 (both probably around 800). Vine-scroll decoration and interlace
Interlace (visual arts)
In the visual arts, interlace is a decorative element found in medieval art. In interlace, bands or portions of other motifs are looped, braided, and knotted in complex geometric patterns, often to fill a space. Islamic interlace patterns and Celtic knotwork share similar patterns, suggesting a...

 are seen in alternating panels on the early Northumbrian Ruthwell, Bewcastle and Easby Cross
Easby Cross
The Easby Cross is an Anglo-Saxon sandstone standing cross of 800–820, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It originally came from Easby near Richmond in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, where a plaster replica is kept in the church. Easby was then in the Kingdom of...

es, though the vine-scroll is already more prominent, and has faces to itself. Later Southumbrian crosses often only use vine-scrolls. There may be inscriptions, in the runic or Roman scripts, and Latin or Old English, most famously at Ruthwell, where some of the poem the Dream of the Rood
Dream of the Rood
The Dream of the Rood is one of the earliest Christian poems in the corpus of Old English literature and an example of the genre of dream poetry. Like most Old English poetry, it is written in alliterative verse. Rood is from the Old English rod "pole", specifically "crucifix"...

is inscribed together with Latin texts; more often donors are commemorated. It has also been suggested that as well as paint, they may have been embellished with metalwork and gems. Typically, Anglo-Saxon crosses are tall and slender compared to Irish examples, many with a nearly square section, and more space given to ornament than figures. However there are exceptions, like the massive Sandbach Crosses
Sandbach Crosses
The Sandbach Crosses are two 9th-century Anglo-Saxon stone crosses now erected in the market place in the town of Sandbach, Cheshire, England. They are unusually large and elaborate examples of the type and have been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, and are a...

 from Mercia, with oblong sections mostly covered by figures on the wider faces, like some Irish crosses. The Gosforth Cross
Gosforth cross
upright|thumb|Gosforth Cross outside St Mary's church in Gosforth.The Gosforth Cross is a large stone Anglo-Saxon high cross in the churchyard at Gosforth in the English county of Cumbria. Formerly part of the kingdom of Northumbria, the area was settled by Scandinavians some time in either the 9th...

, of 930-950, is a rare example to survive complete; most survivals are only a section of the shaft, and iconoclasts were more concerned to destroy imagery than ornament. Many crosses must have just fallen over after some centuries; headpieces are the least common survivals, and the Easby Cross was repaired with lead in a way described in early documents. Like many monuments from the area of the Danelaw
Danelaw
The Danelaw, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle , is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the "Danes" held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. It is contrasted with "West Saxon law" and "Mercian law". The term has been extended by modern historians to...

, the Gosforth Cross combines Christian images with those from pagan mythology; apart from a Crucifixion scene, and perhaps scenes of the last Judgement, all the other images appear to belong to the Norse myth of Ragnarök
Ragnarök
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures , the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water...

, the destruction of the gods, a theme detected in other Christian monuments in Britain and Scandinavia, and which could be turned to Christian advantage.
Anglo-Scandinavians took up Anglo-Saxon sculptural forms with great enthusiasm, and in Yorkshire alone there are fragments from more than 500 monumental sculptures of the 10th and 11th centuries. However quantity was not matched by quality, and even the products of the main city, York, are described by David M. Wilson
David M. Wilson
Sir David Mackenzie Wilson, Kt is a British archaeologist, art historian, and museum curator, specialising in Anglo-Saxon art and the Viking Age. He lives on the Isle of Man....

 as "generally miserable and slipshod". In the early stages the successive styles of Norse art
Norse art
Norse art is a blanket term for the artistic styles in Scandinavia during the Germanic Iron Age, the Viking Age , and sometimes even used when describing objects from the Nordic Bronze Age...

 appear in England, but gradually as political and cultural ties weakened the Anglo-Scandinavians fail to keep up with trends in the homeland. So elements of the Borre style
Borre style
Borre style is a Viking Era animal ornamentation which was first named after artifacts from a boat grave in Borre mound cemetery near the village of Borre, in Horten municipality, Vestfold county, Norway.-History:...

 are seen, for example in the "ring-chain" interlace on the Gosforth Cross, and then the complex animals of the Jelling style
Jelling style
The Jelling style is a phase of Scandinavian animal art during the 10th century. The style is characterized by markedly stylized and often band-shaped bodies of animals...

 are mostly rather incompetently depicted in England, but traces of the next Mammen style
Mammen style
The Mammen style is a phase of Scandinavian animal art during the late 10th century and the early 11th century. The style is named after finds from a chamber tomb in Mammen on Jutland, Denmark. The finds included a silver engraved axe of which one side shows a markedly stylized animal with long...

 are hard to detect; they are much clearer on the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

. They are "perhaps, dimly" evident in the cross shaft from St Oswald's Priory, Gloucester
St Oswald's Priory, Gloucester
St Oswald's Priory was founded by Æthelflæd, daughter of Alfred the Great, and her husband Æthelred, ealdorman of Mercia, in the 890s. St Peter's Abbey had been founded in Gloucester about 679 by Osric, ruler of the Hwicce, and at the end of the ninth century Æthelflæd and Æthelred founded a new...

 (illustrated right). In general the traces of these styles in other media are even fainter. A uniquely Anglo-Scandinavian form is the hogback
Hogback (sculpture)
Hogbacks are stone carved Anglo-Scandinavian sculptures from 10th-12th century England and Scotland. Their function is generally accepted as grave markers.-Geography and description:...

, low grave-marker shaped like a long house with a pitched roof, and sometimes muzzled bears clutching on to each end. Ornament is sometimes a crude pattern of scoring, or scale-like elements presumably representing roofing shingles, but may include interlace and images.

Many fragments, parts of friezes and panels with figure and ornamental carving, have been recovered by archaeology, usually after being reused in rebuilt churches. The largest group of Anglo-Saxon sculpture is from a former abbey at Breedon-on-the-Hill in Mercia, with a number of elements of different dates, including lively narrow decorative strip friezes, many including human figures, and panels with saints and the Virgin. The most intriguing fragments are firstly a group, now at Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England and forms part of a World Heritage Site....

, from Reculver
Reculver
Reculver is a hamlet and coastal resort situated about east of Herne Bay in southeast England. It is a ward of the City of Canterbury district in the county of Kent. Reculver once occupied a strategic location at the western end of the Wantsum Channel, between the Isle of Thanet and the Kent...

 in Kent, from a large composition with many figure scenes and groups on a curved surface, evidently of high quality, though uncertain date (perhaps early 10th century). A Sacrifice of Isaac and an Ascension can be identified, and parts of standing groups of saints, prophets or apostles.

Standing equally apart from other survivals is a late slab from the Old Minster, Winchester
Old Minster, Winchester
The Old Minster was the Anglo-Saxon cathedral for the diocese of Wessex and then Winchester from 660 to 1093. It stood on a site immediately north of and partially beneath its successor, Winchester Cathedral....

 which appears to show a section of a large frieze with the story from Germanic mythology of Sigmund
Sigmund
This article is about the mythological hero Sigmund; for other meanings see: Sigmund .In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Völsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Völsung and his wife Hljod...

, which it has been suggested may have been as long as eighty feet wide, and over four feet high. There are literary references to secular narrative tapestries, a tradition of which the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

 is the only survival, and this may have been a stone equivalent, celebrating Sigmund, who was believed to be an ancestor of the intermarried royal houses of both England and Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, many of whom were buried in what was then the largest church in England.

It is also clear from literary sources that wall paintings were not uncommon, although not a prestigious form, and fragments of painted plaster have been found, as well as a painted face on a reused stone at Winchester
Winchester
Winchester is a historic cathedral city and former capital city of England. It is the county town of Hampshire, in South East England. The city lies at the heart of the wider City of Winchester, a local government district, and is located at the western end of the South Downs, along the course of...

, dating to before 903, and so an important early example of the Winchester figure style. A metaphor in a letter of Alcuin
Alcuin
Alcuin of York or Ealhwine, nicknamed Albinus or Flaccus was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York...

 speaks of "stars, like the painted ceiling of a great man's house". However, no paintings that are at all complete have survived on either wall or panel.

Ivory carving



As in the rest of the Christian world, while monumental sculpture was slowly re-emerging from its virtual absence in the Early Christian period, small-scale sculpture in metalwork, ivory carving
Ivory carving
Ivory carving is the carving of ivory, that is to say animal tooth or tusk, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually. The ancient craft has now virtually ceased, as since CITES it is illegal under most circumstances throughout the world....

 and also bone carving
Bone carving
Bone carving is the act of creating art forms by carving into animal bones and often includes the carving of antlers and horns. It can result in the ornamentation of a bone, or the creation of a figure. It has been practiced by a variety of world cultures, sometimes as a cheaper substitute for...

 was more important than in later periods, and by no means a "minor art". Most Anglo-Saxon ivory was from marine animals, especially the walrus
Walrus
The walrus is a large flippered marine mammal with a discontinuous circumpolar distribution in the Arctic Ocean and sub-Arctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. The walrus is the only living species in the Odobenidae family and Odobenus genus. It is subdivided into three subspecies: the Atlantic...

, imported from further north. The extraordinary early Franks Casket
Franks Casket
The Franks Casket is a small Anglo-Saxon whalebone chest from the seventh century, now in the British Museum. The casket is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes...

 is carved from whalebone, which a riddle
Riddle
A riddle is a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: enigmas, which are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution, and...

 on it alludes to. It contains a unique mixture of pagan, historical and Christian scenes, evidently attempting to cover a general history of the world, and inscriptions in runes in both Latin and Old English. We have few Anglo-Saxon panels from book-covers compared to those from Carolingian
Carolingian art
Carolingian art comes from the Frankish Empire in the period of roughly 120 years from about AD 780 to 900 — during the reign of Charlemagne and his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art was produced by and for the court circle and a group of...

 and Ottonian art
Ottonian art
In pre-romanesque Germany, the prevailing style was what has come to be known as Ottonian art. With Ottonian architecture, it is a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance named for the emperors Otto I, Otto II, and Otto III...

 but a number of figures of very high quality in high relief or fully in the round. In the last phase of Anglo-Saxon art two styles are apparent: one a heavier and formal one drawing from Carolingian and Ottonian sources, and the other the Winchester style, drawing from the Utrecht Psalter
Utrecht Psalter
The Utrecht Psalter is a ninth century illuminated psalter which is a key masterpiece of Carolingian art; it is probably the most valuable manuscript in the Netherlands. It is famous for its 166 lively pen illustrations, with one accompanying each psalm and the other texts in the manuscript...

 and an alternative Carolingian tradition. A very late boxwood
Boxwood
Boxwood may refer to:*Buxus, a genus of about 70 species of shrubs and trees in the family Buxaceæ, which in North America is called "boxwood"*Buxus sempervirens, the most common species of Buxus, which is known as "boxwood" in United Kingdom...

 casket, now in Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Cleveland is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and is the county seat of Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in the state. The city is located in northeastern Ohio on the southern shore of Lake Erie, approximately west of the Pennsylvania border...

, is carved all over with scenes from the Life of Christ
Life of Christ
The Life of Christ as a narrative cycle in Christian art comprises a number of different subjects, which were often grouped in series or cycles of works in a variety of media, narrating the life of Jesus on earth, as distinguished from the many other subjects in art showing the eternal life of...

in a provincial but accomplished version of the Winchester style, possibly originating in the West Midlands
West Midlands (region)
The West Midlands is an official region of England, covering the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. It contains the second most populous British city, Birmingham, and the larger West Midlands conurbation, which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley,...

, and is a unique survival of late Anglo-Saxon fine wood carving.

Textile art



The textile arts of embroidery and "tapestry", Opus anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum or English work is a contemporary term for fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds...

, were apparently those for which Anglo-Saxon England was famous throughout Europe by the end of the period, but there are only a handful of survivals, probably partly because of the Anglo-Saxon love of using threads in precious metal, making the work valuable for scrap. The Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

 is embroidered in wool on linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

 and shows the story of the Norman conquest of England
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

; it is surely the best known Anglo-Saxon work of art, and though made after the Conquest was both made in England and firmly in an Anglo-Saxon tradition, points now accepted by French art-historians. Such tapestries adorned both churches and wealthy houses in England, though at 0.5 by 68.38 metres (1.6 by 224.3 ft, and apparently incomplete) the Bayeux Tapestry must be exceptionally large. Only the figures and decoration are embroidered, on a background left plain, which shows the subject very clearly and was necessary to cover very large areas. All kinds of textile arts were produced by women, both nuns and laywomen, but many were probably designed by artists in other media. Byzantine silk
Byzantine silk
Byzantine silk is silk woven in the Byzantine Empire from about the 4th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.The Byzantine capital of Constantinople was the first significant silk-weaving center in Europe. Silk was one of the most important commodities in the Byzantine economy, used by...

s were available, though certainly expensive, in Anglo-Saxon England, and a number of pieces have been found used in burials and reliquaries. Probably, as in later vestments, these were often married with locally embroidered borders and panels. If we had more Anglo-Saxon survivals, Byzantine influences would no doubt be apparent.

The most highly valued embroideries were very different, fully worked in silk and gold of silver thread, and sometimes with gems of various sorts sewn in. These were used for vestments, altar-cloths and other church uses, and similar roles in the homes of the elite. Only a few pieces have survived, including three pieces at Durham that had been placed in the coffin of St Cuthbert, probably in the 930s, after being given by King Athelstan; they were however made in Winchester between 909 and 916. These are works "of breathtaking brilliance and quality", according to Wilson, including figures of saints, and important early examples of the Winchester style, though the origin of their style is a puzzle; they are closest to the wall-painting fragment from Winchester mentioned above, and an early example of acanthus decoration. The earliest group of survivals, now re-arranged and with the precious metal thread mostly picked out, are bands or borders from vestments, incorporating pearls and glass beads, with various types of scroll and animal decoration. These are probably 9th century and now in a church in Maaseik
Maaseik
Maaseik is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Limburg. The city is located on the river Meuse , bordering the Netherlands. The Maaseik municipality includes the town of Maaseik and the villages of Neeroeteren and Opoeteren...

 in Belgium. A further style of textile is a vestment illustrated in a miniature portrait of Saint Aethelwold in his Benedictional (see above), which shows the edge of what appears to be a huge acanthus "flower" (a term used in several documentary records) covering the wearer's back and shoulders. Other written sources mention other large-scale compositions.

Aftermath


Relatively little art survives from the rest of the century after 1066, or at least is confidently dated to that period. The art of Normandy was already under heavy Anglo-Saxon influence, but the period was one of massive despoilation of the churches by the small new ruling class, who had almost entirely dispossessed the old Anglo-Saxon elite. Under these circumstances little significant art was produced, but when it was, the style often showed a slow development of Anglo-Saxon styles into a fully Romanesque version. The attribution of many individual objects has jumped around across the boundary of the Norman Conquest, especially for sculpture, including ivories. A number of objects are claimed for their period by both the "Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art" and the "English Romanesque art: 1066-1200" exhibition catalogues, despite both being published in 1984. These include the ivory triangle mount with angels and the "Sigurd" stone relief fragment (discussed above), both from Winchester, and the ivory "pen-case" and Baptism (illustrated above), both in the British Museum.

The energy, love of complicated twining ornament, and refusal to wholly respect a dignified classical decorum that are displayed in both Insular and Winchester school art had already influenced continental style, as discussed above, where it provided an alternative to the heavy monumentality that Ottonian art
Ottonian art
In pre-romanesque Germany, the prevailing style was what has come to be known as Ottonian art. With Ottonian architecture, it is a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance named for the emperors Otto I, Otto II, and Otto III...

 displays even in small objects. This habit of mind was an essential component of both the Romanesque and Gothic
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

 styles, where forms of Anglo-Saxon invention such as the inhabited and historiated initials became more important than they ever had in Anglo-Saxon art itself, and works like the Gloucester Candlestick
Gloucester candlestick
The Gloucester Candlestick is an elaborately decorated English Romanesque gilt-bronze candlestick, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was made for Gloucester Cathedral between 1104 and 1113.-Description:...

 (c. 1110) show the process in other media.

Anglo-Saxon iconographical
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 innovations include the animal Hellmouth
Hellmouth
Hellmouth is the entrance to Hell envisaged as the gaping mouth of a huge monster, an image which first appears in Anglo-Saxon art, and then spread all over Europe, remaining very common in depictions of the Last Judgment and Harrowing of Hell until the end of the Middle Ages, and still sometimes...

, the ascending Christ shown only as a pair of legs and feet disappearing at the top of the image, the horned Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, St John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John...

 standing at the foot of the cross and writing, and God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 creating the world with a pair of compasses. All of these were later used across Europe. The earliest developed depiction of the Last Judgement in the West is also found on an Anglo-Saxon ivory.

See also



  • Medieval art
    Medieval art
    The medieval art of the Western world covers a vast scope of time and place, over 1000 years of art history in Europe, and at times the Middle East and North Africa...

  • Norse art
    Norse art
    Norse art is a blanket term for the artistic styles in Scandinavia during the Germanic Iron Age, the Viking Age , and sometimes even used when describing objects from the Nordic Bronze Age...

  • Migration Period art
    Migration Period art
    Migration Period art denotes the artwork of the Germanic peoples during the Migration period . It includes the Migration art of the Germanic tribes on the continent, as well the start of the Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic fusion in the British Isles...

  • List of illuminated Anglo-Saxon manuscripts
  • Anglo-Saxon architecture
    Anglo-Saxon architecture
    Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing...

  • Anglo-Saxon literature
    Anglo-Saxon literature
    Old English literature encompasses literature written in Old English in Anglo-Saxon England, in the period from the 7th century to the Norman Conquest of 1066. These works include genres such as epic poetry, hagiography, sermons, Bible translations, legal works, chronicles, riddles, and others...

  • Anglo-Saxon glass
    Anglo-Saxon glass
    Anglo-Saxon glass has been found across England during archaeological excavations of both settlement and cemetery sites. Glass in the Anglo-Saxon period was used in the manufacture of a range of objects including vessels, beads, windows and was even used in jewellery. In the 5th century AD with the...


External links