Norman Art refers to the style of art that was developed and employed by the Normans in Europe. The problem with a blanket term is that Normans, who initially settled down in Normandy in the 10th century, were ranging into England, southern Italy, Sicily, Ireland and Scotland by the end of the 11th century.
As the Normans wrested control of these territories and settled down, they evolved distinct styles of art and architecture in each region. It is consequently difficult to categorise Norman art in these different regions under an umbrella term.
Characteristics of Norman Art
Norman art relied heavily on the Roman legacy of Western Europe. However, in areas such as southern Italy, Norman art was characterised by significant influences of Arab, Greek and Lombard art traditions. Norman mosaics, in particular, were characterised by a strong influence of classical Greek artwork.
Norman Art in Normandy
Normandy was the earliest region in Western Europe where Normans first settled. It was here that the earliest instances of Norman art began in the 11th century when the Norman nobility began to patronise intellectual activities in monasteries. The result was a series of illustrated manuscripts, many of which borrowed from Anglo-Saxons in the north and the Franks in style.
Norman art originated at the hands of the Normans in various parts of Europe.
Norman art dates from 11th century until the 15th century.
Norman art was influenced by classical Greek heritage, Byzantine art traditions, Roman art heritage and Arab art.
Norman art can be seen in England, Italy, Sicily and Normandy.
Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 57 : La mort d’Harold
Norman Art in Italy
The largest body of extant specimens of Norman art exist in Italy. Here Norman stonework and metalwork borrowed significantly from classical Greek, Arab and Lombard art traditions. Metalwork flourished in Norman Italy and extant bronze sculptures dating back to the Norman period exist to this day. Ivorywork also flourished significantly in Italy during Norman rule.
Norman Art in England
Most of the extant samples of Norman Art in England comprise of the architecture which Normans erected following their 1066 invasion of England. An unusual and highly significant piece, however, is the Bayeux Tapestry which is often included both in the Anglo-Saxon art heritage as well as the Norman art.
The Tapestry was commissioned by the Normans following the 1066 invasion but it was the handywork of Anglo Saxon artisans. It is a huge piece of embroidery art which depicts the events leading up to the 1066 invasion.
Top five examples of Norman art:
The Tower of London which dates back to the 11th century and is an iconic example of Norman architecture.
The Extant bronze lion statue which dates back to sometime around 1100 and is an example of Norman metalwork.
The Bayeux Tapestry which dates back to 11th century and is an example of embroidery commissioned by the Normans.
The Trivulzio candelabra which dates back to the 13th century and is an example of Norman artwork in Italy.
The Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Palermo which dates back to the 12th century is one of the most magnificent examples of Norman mosaics.