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Medieval Art and Apotropaism Essay

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Updated: Jan 2nd, 2022


Medieval art was prominent in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe and lasted for more than a thousand years. Closely associated with the works of the time was apotropaism- the engagement of ritual or magic to ward bad luck or evil off. This paper will discuss medieval art and the link with apotropaism and will emphasize on what rendered protection to the works. Comparative and contrasting examples will be explored on the importance of apotropaism to the design and functions of the art. The importance of apotropaism to medieval art is portrayed in the lifestyle and religious beliefs of the time when the works were designed.

Organs of the works

Medieval art primarily includes notable works and artistically engaged provincial works, general arts, revivals and variety of the medieval era. Traditionally, medieval sculpture is distinguished in approaches and foremost periods when they were made. Though, this classification is difficult, a commonly accepted format mainly embraces the intricate art, arts of the Migration era, arts of Earlier Christianity, Blinkered art, Gothic sculpture, and Pre-Romanesque art. A number of other central-style periods are also included in this classification. Illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, metalwork, mosaics, and stained glass were some of the production media for the works. These media have proven to be better than the likes of tapestry, textile, and fresco.

The legacies of the works proceeded from interwoven ‘barbarian’ foundations of Northern Europe art. By this, medieval art can traditionally be said to envelope the relationship of history linking the fundamentals of conventionally ‘barbarian’ and earlier Christian arts (Stokstad, Marilyn and Michael Cothren. 2010). The medieval period came to an end with the perception of recovery from Renaissance and classical art values. Since a consideration of a significant revival in the commencement of the 19th century distinguished the works as been colossal accomplishments of the Western art (Stokstad, Marilyn and Michael Cothren. 2010).

Protection of the Medieval Art

Great art works of the Medieval age were priceless in their times. Throughout 1400 and 1500, art pieces like those of Scott, Leonardo, Paul Peter, Rembrandt, and di Buoninsegna prospered on wooden panels. As a point of interest, most work of art of the times needed protection for survival. Taking consideration of the Mediterranean age, eye beads were slung or put on to thwart the harm of evil eyes within home premises, for example, and the credence spread uncontrollably and found a path traditionally to Russia, Europe, and down into India where it skipped energetically into the Middle East from Britain. Calling the evil eye deliberately or unintentionally was resenting to strangers who visited. The malevolent-eye character would cause envy and jealousy, and resultantly, a palpable or verbal appreciation became a taboo and forbidden in certain cultures. This, then, invoked the tradition where sayings like Masha ‘Allah (which mean it is willed by God) and indirect appreciations emerged to ward off the result of admirations.

Apotropaic descriptions assumed a local subject in Roman Art. Envy drove bad luck to envied persons. Amusement was encouraged alongside the evasion of jealousy by the practice of apotropaic descriptions, when there was a visitor. These descriptions involved acts such as hunchback malformations, phalluses, as well as pygmies. Deformity was viewed by the Romans as funny. They, therefore, used it to keep the evil eye away.

Likewise, apotropaism was employed to guard works of art when stuff such as sacred Sacraments, Garlic, Rose flowers, and crucifixes were employed to obliterate and destroy vampire werewolves. Even presently, nearly global, cultures adhere to such believes as painting the eye to gain protection against destructibility.

Specifically, Stokstad, Marilyn and Michael Cothren (2010) have identified The portrait of Charles the Bald as a major influence of the recent Renaissance mode. This is an image of Charles which is decorated to his royal reputation, thus an imagery part of a unified Carolingian legendary genre, the reflection of the emperor. In the ninth century, the image was not accorded much interest until when it gained the audience of the patron and the pope.

Similarly, much interest is accorded the silvery Gummersmark brooch which was structured in the 6th century which had a geometric form.

The effects and influence of the work on the society of that time can be likened to The Dying Gaul. This is a sculpture from Pergamon in modern-day Turkey. Certain Celtic people who migrated in the year 278 BC from Gaul went over to Hellespont where the established homes. After engaging in numerous fights, they were crushed by Attalus, the first who was protective of the regions of Greek. The statue was then rise to honor the victory which was linked with the artist Epigonus. Due to the significance of the moments when the sculpture was raised, it assumed isotropic values. Very likely, works of antique were accorded protection based on the linkages they had with religion and belief, as well as significant dedications – as is expressive in paintings of the ‘protector eye’.

The apotropaic idea which covered repatriating evil or bad intentions which where invoked at one remains quite prominent to the entire humankind. In Indonesia and tropical Africa, the credibility of black magic is vast and existent. In Renaissance Europe and Medieval, different items are accorded different qualities of protection; hence they were used in varying ways.


Medieval art played a key role in the social cultural being of humanity. It shaped beliefs and positioned respect and set norms in society. Even till these days, most of the art works of the times, which are cracking, warping, and splitting are specially handled with a sense of protection and are conserved to retain their value. Indeed, the importance of apotropaism to medieval art is portrayed in the lifestyle and religious beliefs of all times when civilized humanity has existed.

Reference List

Stokstad, Marilyn and Michael Cothren. 2010. Art History Portable Book 1: Ancient Art 4th Edition. New York: Prentice Hall.

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