Gislebertus, Last Judgment, 1120-1135
Illuminated manuscripts and other two-dimensional works of art show the same kind of vigorous
exaggeration that is evident in Gislebertus’ Last Judgment relief. Strong gesture, proportions that are
stretched or squashed to fit a space, and drapery that creates linear patterns rather than three-dimensional
folds are typical of Romanesque painting. One of the most important works of the period is the Bayeux
Tapestry, made in the second half of the eleventh century. The piece is actually embroidery rather than a
woven tapestry, and it was likely made by women in northern France. In about fifty separate scenes, the
tapestry illustrates the story of the Norman Conquest, in which William the Conqueror gained the throne
of England. The important figures are all clearly identified by their costumes or facial features. Battle
scenes, ships, feasts, and hundreds of other details are included in a direct, and sometimes amusing, style.
The figures in the top and bottom margins sometimes provide commentaries on the scene above.
Section of the Bayeux Tapestry, showing King Harold enthroned.
See the entire Bayeux tapestry with English translations of the inscriptions.
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