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Thread: Celtic vs. Northern Art

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    Senior Member velvet's Avatar
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    Celtic vs. Northern Art

    Inspired by a talk lately in the shoutbox I figured to create this thread, to compare celtic art, what is usually considered celtic art and the similarities and differencies to northern art.

    For a start I've scanned some of the artwork from books I own.
    The first image shows coins found in the area of (today's) south / west Germany, France and Switzerland, with an age ranging from 2500 years old to about 1500 years old. Influence of Rome's art and myths is possible / very likely.
    The second image shows a decoration page from the book of Durrow from the late 7th century.
    Here is a collection of common symbols taken from the book of kells (early 9th century), the most artwork in the book of kells is clearly of strong christian influence (images are available online, no need to upload them here)

    In contrast to the celtic artwork I have attached also an image of the portal of Urnes stave church, with that it is easy to see that the stylising of the animals are quite different (although there is a time gap of about 1000 years). The books mentioned above show mainly what today is considered to be typical celtic art, but this style only developed on the british islands and namely Ireland, where quite early was a heavy exchange with the scandinavien people.
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    Senior Member Adaleiz's Avatar
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    I may have some sources to add after I find my way home.

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    Theres a world of difference between celtic and northern art. the best way to demonstrate is to go way back... to the origins of La Tene art... if you google image some of that early stuff, you will no doubt see that none of that is what modern mind thinks of as celtic art...

    eventually, La Tene art evolved through several stages, adapting more and more into flowing, complex geometrical shapes which reached their peak in the pre roman insular art of britain. In this art you can see more recogniseable stuff like complex spirals and roundels that have been exaggerated to amazing patterns. check out the witham shield and the thames shield, the insular sword scabbards, the horse trappings from the polden hill hoard, and you can get an idea of what, to my mind is typically celtic, the flowing lines, spirals, scrolls etc.

    northern art was totally different. its really amazing stuff, the things that were produced before the insular fusion that became known as "celtic art".

    for the BEST examples, google image the sutton hoo treasures, and the more recent stafforshire hoard. the animal interlace here is what i think is the traditional and amazing northern tradition at its peak before the fusion.

    celtic and anglic monks working in england adapted directly these patterns from both traditions to decorate their holy books, and this is what became known as celtic art. lookign at certain pages in the book of durrow you can see how the germanic interlace was adapted to a celtic asthetic of symmetry and the celtic spirals.

    however, more pure forms of these two different types of art endured in the extremities of the germanic and celtic realms... in scandinavia animal interlace evolved and became even more complex and beautiful under the skilled hands of the viking craftsmen, (google some viking art and you can see how its essentially the same northern art taken to extremes), while in certain parts of ireland the pure La Tene tradition also continued, producing spectacular and intricate spiral works.

    Again, when the vikings began to colonise Ireland, the two cultures and their art forms merged once more, producing something again different to the "celtic art" of britain, but just as amazing

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