Bk 1. xxvii. 5b-10 Orthography (cont.)


(detail) CLM 6250 ff.178v-179r c.810 AD for link to ms see sidebar.

(detail)  Glasgow,  MS Hunter 475 (V.7.2).

It is interesting to see that for Isidore “warmth of blood produces beauty”.  The convention of picturing ‘roses’ in the cheek is found only in Iberian and in Byzantine art during the earlier medieval centuries. For the rest of the northern, Latin world, the ‘lily’ would not be met by the ‘rose’ for centuries, and not gain acceptance before the end of the fifteenth century.

A good, early, survey of the texts showing how literary stereotypes created ideas of female beauty still deserves to be read and cited:

  • D.S. Brewer, ‘The Ideal of Feminine Beauty in Medieval Literature, Especially “Harley Lyrics”, Chaucer,and Some Elizabethans’, The Modern Language Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Jul., 1955), pp. 257-269. (JSTOR)

On the conception, and perception of ‘beauty’ in medieval culture and art, .. see

  • Mary Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages (2013).

Art, beauty and perception  –  modern perception and understanding of medieval perceptions –  are treated by Carruthers’ essays, though she draws lines that have created certain clear divisions in the responses elicited.  As example, below are two reviews.  I ought plainly to say that Braude’s review lost my confidence by its opening – inappropriate –  idea that Carruthers’ Book of Memory   “follows in the footsteps” of Frances Yates!  In fact, Carruthers’ study was an entirely original, and paradigm-shifting investigation of the subject, deeply erudite, and it all but made Yates’ work obsolete.  Nothing remotely ‘following in the footsteps’ about it.  However –

  • Richard Braude for Reviews in History [HERE]
  • Jennifer Rushworth for the  Oxonian Review [HERE]


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