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Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art


  • 63 b/w illus. 8 colour illus.
  • Page extent: 256 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.745 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 709/.02/2
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: N6310 .G55 2005
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Art, Gothic--Themes, motives
    • Visual communication in art
    • Visual perception

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521830317 | ISBN-10: 0521830311)

Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art examines the working practices of medieval artists and challenges many assumptions about pre-modern science and art, especially the notion that descriptive art is a natural response to scientific empiricism. Late medieval images range from vividly specific to barely identifiable, but descriptiveness in the medieval context rarely correlates with a modern notion of function. Rather, scientific illustrations are often less descriptive than sacred art, and thus an inversion of the relationship between art and science. In this study, Jean Givens defines late medieval visual communication strategies and reveals the various modes of organizing and displaying knowledge. She demonstrates how medieval image making offers new insights into the syntax of visual communication and the function of descriptive art in both sacred and secular contexts.

• Bridges gap between the history of art and the history of science through a common language of images • A new approach to the topic of representation in both historical and modernist contexts • Relevant discussions of visual and verbal communication strategies


1. Gothic naturalism; 2. The testimony of sight; 3. Images and information; 4. The uses of likeness; 5. Models and copies; Conclusion: the mind's eye.


'This is a thoughtful but rewarding book, especially for anyone interested in the Middle Ages …'. W. D. Spence, Yorkshire Gazette and Herald

'… one of the great strengths of this book is that it gives an idea of the connectedness of medieval visual culture. The reader comes to see that carved stone leaves, a painted elephant and a set of architectural diagrams might have more in common with each other than it would seem at first sight … Givens pulls together her many examples and ideas to argue … a reconsideration of, among other things, the relationship of the visual to the verbal as means for communicating information, of the ways that an image can relate to the object or phenomenon that it describes or depicts, and of the making and use of naturalistic or descriptive images within medieval culture … provides much more than an account of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century artistic practices … Givens shows the value of a broad and interdisciplinary view of medieval visual culture, and of keeping an open mind when looking at images that might at first seem unrealistic.' British Journal for the History of Science

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