Medieval Art: The Dramatic Art of The Middle Ages

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Do you remember how, in the history lectures, we were all taught about the medieval period at some point in time?

Well, the period was not just prior to civilization; it was also the establishment of art and literature.

The medieval art period covers an immense range of history, drama, and a variety of places within Europe.

Even though the movement was short-lived, it brought immense change and innovation to the creation of artifacts. 

As the innovation started to grow, that is when it started to reach out to Western Asia and Northern Africa.

Introduction to Medieval art!

A painting of Mosaic Jesus Istanbul
Image Source: Medium

The period of Medieval art is said to have begun with the fall of the Roman Empire.

At the beginning of the 14th century, Medieval Art became an influential period in Western art and culture. 

mona lisa ad of reproduction

Medieval art included some of the most major art movements and periods known to have developed within art history.

The medieval art period was influenced by the artistic heritage of the previous Roman era and the iconographic customs of the early Christian Church. 

The medieval period was not only an art movement but also a fusion of styles, and it essentially went on to produce some of the most famous paintings. 

The various artistic mediums used in medieval art included sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, tapestries, mosaics, and metalwork.

The use of pricey and precious materials, which later came to be a hallmark of the period, became well-known in Medieval art.

Due to its accomplishments, the Middle Ages are now viewed as a crucial developmental stage for later-emerging Western art forms.

When the Renaissance art movement began, the era of medieval art eventually came to an end.

Suggested Read: Movements in Art

Historical Overview of Medieval Art

The helmet of sutton Hoo, book of kells Christ Enthroned, Carolingian art and clonmacnoise
Image Source: Wikipedia, compiled by PortraitFlip

Medieval art grew within Northern Europe and out of the aesthetic heritage left by the Roman Empire.

After its dissolution in 476 A.D., the period leading up to the emergence of Medieval art was seen as an incredibly formative time in the continent’s artistic history.

Lasting until the early stages of the Renaissance in the 14th century, Medieval art encompassed many diverse forms of media.

Thus, the history of Medieval art is said to be very expansive, as the movement lasted for numerous centuries and covered a wide range of genres.

Prominent in European regions, as well as the Middle East and North Africa, the Medieval Art period produced some artworks that are considered to be the world’s most valuable pieces today.

Artworks using gold, such as gold leaf in religious manuscripts, were popular during the Medieval era, as the movement was greatly influenced by the early stages.

Suggested Read: About Mark Rothko

Commencement of Medieval Art

The beginning of Medieval art includes artworks that range from the 5th century CE all the way through to 1000 CE.

In addition to this, early Medieval artworks demonstrate a diverse cultural influence, that combined classic Greek and Roman art.

The Catholic church and other wealthy patrons started commissioning works for specific social and religious ceremonies around the time early Medieval Art first emerged.

The development of relief sculpture as a popular art form occurred during the Medieval era.

These works lacked a great deal of realism, the fresco paintings especially seeming flat in style with very somber subjects. 

The artistic style of these structures clearly had a Christian influence, even though their architecture was primarily Roman in style. 

Early Medieval Art did, however, develop new forms and styles that would eventually fundamentally alter the field of art.

It also happened while also preserving some historical forms and methods, such as stylistic components borrowed from the Classical world.

Also Read: Harleem Renaissance Movement

Major Styles of Middle Ages Art

The Medieval Art period lasted for ten centuries and covered an enormous scope of time and place.

That also meant that many different styles and forms of art were experimented with and included.

As religion and faith were seen as the way of life during the Middle Ages, the artwork that was created expressed various social, political, and historical events. 

Generally, Medieval Art is divided up according to the distinct types of artwork that were created, which were expressed differently in different regions and at different times.

Early Christian Period

A painting of Jesus healing the bleeding woman
Image Source: Wikipedia

Emerging in Italy this period of art focused more on the spiritual and holy artworks.

If you take a look at the artworks, they contain holy and spiritual references, as the subject matter tends to portray Biblical scenes.

As images of Christ proliferated in art around the fourth century, Christian works of art gained popularity.

As more medieval artists started to create scenes that featured Jesus and other religious figures, worries about representing the Deity in images started to increase.

As it is said that not all the good things last long and as soon as the Early Christian art period started to showcase while the Medieval art was just commenced many artworks lost their existence.

Some designs and artworks were long gone and some of them somehow managed to make it through the first three centuries of Christian Art.

Byzantine Period

The era of byzantium
Image Source: Literary Hub

An art period that not only was claimed to be one of the darkest periods of the time but also ruled on the capital of Roman Empire at the time.

This art period is none other than the Byzantine period.

With the usage of religious references, depiction of Christ and virgin Mary, this art period has established itself in the longer run.

Architecture during the Byzantine period was typically grandiose and dazzling, as buildings demonstrated the wealth and intellectual prowess of their designers, artists, and builders. 

Starry Nights Reproduction AD

This is why churches built during the Byzantine period were magnificent, as they represented the dominant religion of Christianity in addition to these qualities.

The stunning mosaics and fresco paintings that adorned the churches, as well as the majority of the artwork produced during this time, have sadly all been destroyed. 

Also Read: Famous Medieval artworks

Gothic Period

a painting of sainte-chapelle
Image Source: Wikipedia

Gothic art was characterized by the use of brighter colors, dimensions, and perspective, as it demonstrated a pointed move back towards realism. 

The last period of late Medieval Art was the Gothic art period, which began developing in the 12th century.

Artists began to use more shadows and light in their artworks, and experimented with broad and new subject matters. 

Suggested Read: Realism Art Movement

Medieval Paintings

The painting of Paradiesgärtlein
Image source: Wikimedia

Due to the vastness of the Medieval period, many different types of mediums were experimented with. 

Sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, metalwork, stained glass, and mosaics are among the works of art that still exist in significant numbers. 

Vibrant paintings that featured famous icons, such as Jesus and the Virgin Mary, were common during the early stages of the Medieval period.

One of the most iconic religious paintings created during this time was The Last Supper by Giotto di Bondone, painted in 1306.

Jesus and his apostles were shown in this painting, which went on to become the most popular religious scene in art history. 

Stained Glass

Another stunning type of art that was prevalent during the Medieval era was the art of stained glass.

This art form was created by mixing sand and wood ash together before melting it into a liquid so that it could be molded into glass.

Before the glass had hardened, powdered metals were added, which created the beautiful colors seen in the glassworks that later decorated great cathedrals. 

Famous Medieval Artworks

Wilton Diptych (c. 1395–1399)

The Wilton Diptych is a small portable diptych of two hinged panels, painted on both sides, now in the National Gallery, London.

It is an extremely rare survival of a late medieval religious panel painting from England. 

The diptych was painted for King Richard II of England, who is depicted kneeling before the Virgin and Child in what is known as a donor portrait.

He is presented to them by the English saints King Edmund the Martyr, King Edward the Confessor, and their patron saint, John the Baptist.

The painting is an outstanding example of the International Gothic style, and the nationality of the unknown artist is probably French or English. 

The Trinity (c. 1411–1427) by Andrei Rublev

A painting named trinity
Image Source: wikipedia

The Trinity is an icon created by the Russian painter Andrei Rublev in the early 15th century.

It is his most famous work and the most famous of all Russian icons, and it is regarded as one of the highest achievements of Russian art. 

Scholars believe that it is one of only two works of art that can be attributed to Rublev with any sort of certainty.

Adoration of the Magi (1423) by Gentile da Fabriano

Painting of Adoration of the magi
Image Source: Wikipedia

The Adoration of the Magi, the Adoration of the Kings, or the Visitations of the Wise Men are all terms used to describe the subjects of the Nativity of Jesus in art, which includes the three Magi.

They had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.

Chritsian iconography considerably expanded the bare account of the biblical Magi described in the Gospel of Matthew.

By the later Middle Ages, this drew from non-canonical sources like the Golden Legend by Jacobus De Voragine. 

The adoration scene was often used to represent the Nativity, one of the most indispensable episodes in the cycle of the Life of the virgin as well as the Life of Christ.

Stories throughout the Middle Ages started circulating, that speculated on who exactly were the three kings who were famous for visiting the Christ child.

Eventually, it was decided that the three kings would represent the three main continents of the world.


This was all about the famous era of Medieval art. I hope that you enjoyed reading the information.

Medieval art was not just an art movement; it was a stepping stone for the great Renaissance art movement!

Many beautiful artifacts were curated during this period, and some of the paintings have been the center of attraction as well.

Do you wish to own a painting that becomes the center of attraction in your house?

Then, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place!

PortraitFlip has given you a wide range of replicas to choose from, and you can get them hand-painted at museum quality.


Author’s Note

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This was all about medieval art and its characteristics.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called Medieval art?

It is called Medieval art as it refers to a period that is also known as the Middle Ages.

What is the origin of the Medieval Art?

The creative legacy of the Roman Empire and the early Christian church’s iconographic practices served as the foundation for medieval art in Europe.

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