What are the characteristics of medieval art?

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Medieval art, like every single aspect of life, changed and evolved during the very long medieval period. In a sense there is no such thing as "medieval art", since the art produced in the 11th century is totally unlike that of the 13th or the 15th centuries, any more than the art of the Old Masters resembles the art of today (although both are historically classed as "modern").

Taking just one particular period: in the 12th century in Anglo-Norman England, manuscript art was at first characterized by plain blocks of color for backgrounds, often with elaborate patterned borders; by distinctive black outlines of all elements, simple but effective drapery of clothing, very naive facial features, "posed" postures, symbolic hand gestures, the omission of unnecessary detail, flat coloring and stylized plants, trees and buildings. The range of colors used was limited to muted reds, yellows, blues and greens.

In the most precious manuscripts backgrounds were entirely of gold leaf.

Towards the end of the 12th century things had evolved: coloring began to show definite of hands, faces and other elements; drapery became much more elaborate; more detail was included and the range of colors increased. Gold was still used for backgrounds, particularly in religious scenes.

Wall painting in the 12th century is an entirely different matter, with different techniques and method of application.

To emphasize the developments that took place in art in the Middle Ages, the links below take you to English manuscript pictures from the 12th and 14th centuries:
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