Artibus et Historiae no. 12 (VI)

1985, ISSN 0391-9064

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KARL CLAUSBERG - Usual and Unusual Facial Features in the Period of Henry the Lion. Some Observations Concerning the Problem of Medieval Expressionism

The miniatures in the recently sold Gospels of Henry the Lion - although unparalleled in elaborateness and splendour - seem to have frequently aroused some carefully shrouded opinions; the verdict: expensive, but of rather ordinary artistic quality. This is due especially to the strangely blank facial expressions which were bestowed, without any difference made, upon saints and sinners alike with painstaking though somehow unrefined draughtmanship. The observations presented here are aimed at a better understanding of the conservatism and restraint communicated by just these apparent artistic shortcomings. If seen in context with the most advanced, almost caricature-like contemporary forms of "political expressionism", e.g. in the Ebulo Codex (Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Ms. 120), the Gospels of Henry the Lion seem to exude an air of gloom yet stubbornness fitting the desperate state of Henry's affairs after 1180. Thus a careful stylistic analysis leads up to general problems of "aesthetic attitudes" and "Psycho- History" in art.

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