histart348 - Wehe 1 History of Art 348 Prof. Elizabeth...

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Wehe 1 History of Art 348 Prof. Elizabeth Sears Art Out of Context Beatus was an important Spanish monk from the area of Liébana who attributed much to the Christian culture in the eighth century. Today, he is best remembered for writing a Commentary on the Apocalypse , which he last revised in 786. As many as 26 later versions of this text survive in the form of illustrated manuscripts, emphasizing the importance of this historical piece. While this may not spark the interest of those unmoved by ancient biblical texts, what they do not realize is the rarity of each of the individual illustrations. From the brilliant, contrasting bands of color to the exquisite detail of interlaced borders, each image breathes new life into an ancient and very unique culture. Northern Spain, between the ninth and twelfth centuries, was the home of Christian people originally from the Islamic south, which caused their manuscripts to be very much an art out of context. However, over the centuries the Islamic influence on the Beatus manuscripts lessened and more Romanesque features emerged, bringing an end to the distinctive Mozarabic period. The term “Mozarabic” stems from the word “Mustarib”, which literally means “Arabicized”. Due to increasingly hostile living conditions in the southern parts of Spain for non-Muslims, many Christians chose to migrate north during the ninth and tenth centuries. This literally formed a culture that had its roots in Islam but was a Christian society, or as it is now commonly known, a Mozarabic society. Many beautiful manuscripts were a product of this culture, but a particularly impressive one was reproduced for centuries, Beatus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse .
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Wehe 2 Much of the distinctiveness and creativity of these manuscripts comes from the color choices. Although older Beatus manuscripts tended to be written in brown ink and with a limited variety of colors for illustrations, simplified highlights were sometimes managed. Later manuscripts became more extravagant and boasted a large assortment of colors: dark green, mauve, dark red, dark blue, violet, black, orange, and a bright yellow. The use of this bright yellow color brings a lot of originality and life to Mozarabic painting and illumination. It even inspired the use of a yellow pigment for backgrounds in wall paintings, such as in the church San Miguel de Lillo in Asturias, Spain. According to Mireille Mentre in Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Spain, “Another striking feature of Mozarabic painting is that the colours used differ widely in tonal value, standing out clearly and distinctly as a result of these sharp contrasts” 1 . This idea is emphasized in the use of thick, contrasting bands of color which are juxtaposed to form backgrounds in images. Besides this color motif, there are other typically Islamic elements found in the
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histart348 - Wehe 1 History of Art 348 Prof. Elizabeth...

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