ROMANESQUE ART: Selected Papers, Vol. 1 by Meyer Schapiro
Kirkus Star

ROMANESQUE ART: Selected Papers, Vol. 1

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Meyer Schapiro, a Columbia cynosure until his 1973 retirement, produced no grand synthesis, no interpretive history, in either of his special fields, medieval and 19th-20th century art. But his writings--meticulous, lucid, penetrating--influenced generations of scholars and students, and the publication of his selected papers will make his insights as well as his researches tellingly accessible as a unit. This, the first of four volumes, focuses on Romanesque art-that bridge between Byzantine fixity and Gothic invention, ""a world of projected emotions, psychologically significant images of force, play, agressiveness, anxiety, self-torment and fear,"" as he writes of certain characteristically convoluted sculptures. The strikingly modern description is a tip-off to Schapiro's central thesis--enunciated in the opening essay and extended by the individual studies--that there had emerged within church art by the 11th and 12th centuries ""a new sphere of artistic creation without religious content and imbued with values of spontaneity, individual fantasy, delight in color and movement, and the expression of feeling that anticipates modern art."" Revolutionary in its implications, this runs ""contrary to the general belief that in the Middle Ages the work of art was considered mainly as a vehicle of religious teaching or a piece of craftsmanship serving a useful end. . . ."" Separate papers illumine the shift from Mozarabic to Romanesque style at the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, in Spain, where ""new conditions in the church and the secular world led to new conceptions of the traditional themes or suggested entirely new subjects""; examine the celebrated sculptures of the abbey churches of Souillac and Moissac in southern France; dismember the argument that ""imposition of [a] schema on the object destroys the natural form and produces the distorted, even disordered appearance of Romanesque figures""; and demonstrate the crucial importance of dating to our understanding of the art process. Masterly scholarship, exciting to contemplate.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Braziller