In studies of manuscripts illuminated in England during the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries scholars have long identified distinctively English characteristics of "boldness and virility," and even coarseness and crudeness, to which they have contrasted French "delicacy and refinement." Manuscripts produced in England during this period, such as the Alphonso Psalter of 1283-1284, that exhibit "exquisite finish" (all these quotations are from the writings of Eric G. Millar) are said to have been executed under the influence of French art. These characterizations rest on the concept, often un-acknowledged, of inbred national character. The interwoven questions of artistic influence and national character are examined in this paper historiographically, by tracing and evaluating the development of the concept of French influence on English manuscript illumination of the period, and comparatively, by testing the idea of French influence through side-by-side juxtapositions of works of known date. The results of this examination suggest that the concept of French influence and the concept of "Frenchness" and "Englishness" should be modified in favor of alternative ways of explaining commonalities and differences between illuminated manuscripts produced in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries on either side of the Channel.
Current issues are now on the Chicago Journals website. Read the latest issue.Gesta presents original research on developments in the study of art and life of the Middle Ages. The journal embraces all facets of artistic production from ca. 300 to ca. 1500 C.E., in Europe, the Mediterranean region, and the Slavic world. The journal has twice been awarded the annual Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize of the Medieval Academy of America for a “first article in medieval studies judged…to be of outstanding quality.”
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