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Art of the Crusades

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Author Topic: Art of the Crusades  (Read 119 times)
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« on: May 16, 2007, 04:42:07 am »

Styles input to the mix

The crusaders encountered a long and rich artistic tradition in the lands they conquered at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th. Byzantine art and Islamic art (that of both the Arabs and the Turks) were the dominant styles in the crusader states, although there were also the styles of the indigenous Syrians and Armenians. These indigenous styles were incorporated into styles brought by the crusaders from Europe, which were themselves highly varied, stemming from France, Italy, Germany, England, and elsewhere.

Painting - Mount Sinai school

An example of the mixture of different styles is the Melisende Psalter, an illuminated manuscript produced in the mid-12th century, perhaps for Queen Melisende of Jerusalem. It reflects her European and Armenian heritage, and is also influenced by Byzantine and Islamic techniques. The monastery of St Catherine, Sinai was an important centre where a school of manuscript and icon painting that blended European and local influences emerged. Fortunately it has also been a very secure home for its collection of art, so we have a good number of survivals that are still there, and hardly any from elsewhere. Artists who can be identified on stylistic grounds as originating in France and Italy (Venice and Apulia) worked there, producing work mixing Byzantine and Western conventions, but usually with lettering in Greek. This was possible because by a quirk of Orthodox history the church there was in communion with both the Catholic and the other Orthodox churches, and so the normal sectarian divides that separated the crusaders from even the local Chistians did not operate. Another example of the mixture of styles is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the renovation and rebuilding of which was completed in 1149.

The end

After the rapid collapse of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the late-12th century, which must have destroyed a great part of the artwork the crusaders produced, they were mostly confined to a few cities on the Mediterranean coast until Acre was conquered in 1291. Their artistic output did not cease during the 13th century, and shows further influences from the art of the Mamluks and Mongols.
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