Medieval Splendor

07.23.135:16 PM ET

Coloring-in an Old Picture

The Daily Pic: At the Met, the Middle Ages turn out to be rainbow-hued.

A recent visit to the Cloisters, the uptown medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, brought home a truth that I’ve known but rarely felt: That medieval sculptures and buildings were almost always brightly painted. It makes way more sense of a stained glass like the one at right, from Germany in about 1300, to imagine it in a setting that included bright statues like the one at left, from Italy in about 1350.  Instead of either glass or statue standing out as a note of designer color in an elegant stone box – as in most current museums and churches – both would originally have been parts of a total decor that included all the bright hues of God’s creation. That vision also makes more sense of the brightly painted altarpieces of the 14th and 15th centuries: The glowing fictions they present would have been of a piece with the glowing reality all around them. There would have been continuity between the painted and real world, instead of disjunction.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

how do i comment?
Get The Daily Beast In Your Inbox
By clicking "Subscribe", you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason
Follow The Daily Beast