Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art by Heidi C. GearhartTheophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art by Heidi C. Gearhart

Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art

byHeidi C. Gearhart

Hardcover | May 2, 2017

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In this study of the rare twelfth-century treatise On Diverse Arts, Heidi C. Gearhart explores the unique system of values that guided artists of the High Middle Ages as they created their works.

Written in northern Germany by a monk known only by the pseudonym Theophilus, On Diverse Arts is the only known complete tract on art to survive from the period. It contains three books, each with a richly religious prologue, describing the arts of painting, glass, and metalwork. Gearhart places this one-of-a-kind treatise in context alongside works by other monastic and literary thinkers of the time and presents a new reading of the text itself. Examining the earliest manuscripts, she reveals a carefully ordered, sophisticated work that aligns the making of art with the virtues of a spiritual life. On Diverse Arts, Gearhart shows, articulated a distinctly medieval theory of art that accounted for the entire process of production—from thought and preparation to the acquisition of material, the execution of work, the creation of form, and the practice of seeing.

An important new perspective on one of the most significant texts in art history and the first study of its kind available in English, Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval Art provides fresh insight into the principles and values of medieval art making. Scholars of art history, medieval studies, and Christianity will find Gearhart’s book especially edifying and valuable.

Heidi C. Gearhart is Assistant Professor of Art History at Assumption College.Heidi C. Gearhart is Assistant Professor of Art History at Assumption College.
Title:Theophilus and the Theory and Practice of Medieval ArtFormat:HardcoverDimensions:236 pages, 10 × 8 × 0.9 inPublished:May 2, 2017Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271077158

ISBN - 13:9780271077154


Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


List of Abbreviations


1 Pedagogy and Exegesis

2 The Transformation of Matter

3 Monastic Labor and Craft

4 The Display of Skill

Conclusion: The Practice of Seeing




Editorial Reviews

“Every student of medieval art has heard of Theophilus, and many have read On Diverse Arts, but few scholars have grappled with the true challenges of the text. Heidi Gearhart’s book opens this topic in new and exciting ways, bringing the complex political and spiritual landscape of Romanesque Germany into a fresh dialogue with the manuscripts and art objects associated with Theophilus and his circle. The result is a thoughtful, insightful, and deeply engaging discussion of On Diverse Arts, not merely as a manual for making art but rather as a richly rewarding document that sheds unexpected light on the social, artistic, and intellectual culture of twelfth-century Europe.”—Shirin Fozi, University of Pittsburgh