Medieval aesthetics  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
history of aesthetics

Surviving medieval art is largely religious in focus, and typically was funded by the State, Orthodox or Roman Catholic church, powerful ecclesiastical individuals, or wealthy secular patrons. Often the pieces have an intended liturgical function, such as chalices or churches.

Medieval Art Objects were made from rare and valuable materials, such as Gold and Lapis, the cost of which was often superior to the wages of the maker.

Art and aesthetic philosophy was a continuation of ancient lines of thought, with the additional use of explicit theological categories. St. Bonaventure’s “Retracing the Arts to Theology” discusses the skills of the artisan as gifts given by God for the purpose of disclosing God to mankind via four “lights”: the light of skill in mechanical arts which discloses the world of artifacts, as guided by the light of sense perception which discloses the world of natural forms, as guided by the light of philosophy which discloses the world of intellectual truth, as guided by the light of divine wisdom which discloses the world of saving truth.

Saint Thomas Aquinas' aesthetic theory is arguably more famous and influential among the medieval aesthetic theories, having been explicitly used in the writing of the famous writer James Joyce as well as many other influential 20th century authors. Thomas, as with many of the other medievals, never explicitly gives an account of "beauty" in itself, but the theory is reconstructed on the basis of disparate comments in a wide array of works. His theory follows the classical model of Aristotle, but with explicit formulation of beauty as "pulchrum transcendentalis" or convertible with being among the other "transcendentals" such as "truth" and "goodness." Umberto Eco's The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas identifies the three main characteristics of beautiful things in Aquinas' philosophy as: integritas, consonantia, and claritas. Aristotle identifies the first two characteristics, with the third being an "innovation" of Aquinas in the light of Platonic/neo-Platonic and Augustinian thought. In sum, medieval aesthetic, while not a unified system, presents a unique view of beauty that deserves an in-depth treatment in the history of art.

Theologians such as Anselm of Canterbury, John Scotus Eriugena, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, and Bernard of Clairvaux touched upon themes such as "the idea of beauty, the vision of God, the image of Christ, the iconodule-iconoclast conflict, and the strong presence of personally grounded and poetic doxologies". (Gesa Elsbeth Thiessen, 2004)

As the medieval world shifts into the Renaissance, art again returns to focus on this world and on secular issues of human life. The philosophy of art of the ancient Greeks and Romans is re-appropriated.

See also

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages, medieval art, medieval art, medieval worldview, medieval philosophy, medieval culture, theological aesthetics




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Medieval aesthetics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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