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Medieval Studies Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture
by
Catherine E. Karkov

Introduction

The Anglo-Saxon period in English history covers roughly the years 600 to 1100. Stone sculpture is one of the most important and most original forms of Anglo-Saxon art and thus holds a unique place within the study of early medieval art in general. Nowhere else in the early medieval world, with the exception of Ireland and parts of Scotland—and the Anglo-Saxons were in close contact with both areas—does such a variety and such a large number of monuments survive. The types of monument produced, along with carving styles, vary regionally and chronologically. The art of Rome and the Mediterranean world served as a strong influence in the 7th and 8th centuries, as did the art of the Carolingians in the 9th century. Waves of Scandinavian settlers brought with them new styles, new motifs, and new forms of monument, which appear in increasing numbers (especially in the North) from the 9th century on. In general, we can also say that more sculpture was produced in the North than in the South, although architectural sculpture is found in greater numbers in the South during the 10th and 11th centuries. Scholars of the subject are compelled to deal with fragmentary remains of the evidence, the fact that many sculptures are no longer in situ (whether through attempted destruction or reuse), and gaps in the historical evidence. Archaeological reports, which usually offer precise information on the locations of finds, and epigraphic evidence are particularly valuable for the information on date and provenance that they can provide. Descriptions of monumental metalwork sculptures exist, though the sculptures themselves have not survived. The Liber Eliensis, for example, contains a description of a Crucifixion group with accompanying figures of St. Æthelthryth and her sisters that once stood around the altar of Ely Cathedral. Wooden sculpture too was a major art form, though again it has all but vanished from the material record. Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture has long been a subject of antiquarian interest. Originally published in 1927, Collingwood 1989 (cited under High Crosses) marks the passage of study of this sculpture into a scholarly discipline, and W. G. Collingwood’s work has given rise to a number of more recent historiographical publications, several devoted to negotiating the disciplinary and methodological space between art-historical and archaeological studies of the monuments. Collingwood also remains especially important for Northumbrian sculpture, because one can still see the influence of some of his classifications and archaeological approaches to the material in the volumes of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, cited under (General Overviews). Methodologically, the study of sculpture has remained a very conservative field, though this has begun to change. Style, iconography, the dating of the monuments, and the study of their historical context remain the core concerns in the study of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, although more theoretical questions regarding materiality, gender, ideology, the postcolonial nature of Anglo-Saxon art, and the post-Anglo-Saxon reception of works are becoming increasingly important.

Bibliographies

No bibliographies are devoted solely to Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, but information on sculpture is included in the general bibliographies listed in this section. Deshman 1984 and Werner 1984 provide good starting points. Although both are obviously limited to pre-1984 scholarship, they do provide a good introduction to the birth of the field. The International Medieval Bibliography and the Old English Newsletter have the advantage of being searchable online. The annual bibliography of the journal Anglo-Saxon England is especially valuable, and its information tends to be more up to date than that of the International Medieval Bibliography or the Old English Newsletter.

General Overviews

Because sculpture was such an important medium, any book on Anglo-Saxon art will have some information on at least the best-known or most important monuments. Indeed, many of the published histories of the period and of individual kingdoms will have such material as well. For sculpture as a medium within Anglo-Saxon art in general, see Dodwell 1982, Wilson 1984, and Karkov 2011. For studies focusing more exclusively on sculpture, Bailey 1996 is a good place to start, although those interested in the history of the field might start with Brown 1903–1937 and progress chronologically. G. Baldwin Brown was one of the first to stress the artistic merits of Anglo-Saxon art and architecture. He was also one of the first to consider such topics as the artistic aspects of Anglo-Saxon coinage. His work marks a shift from 19th-century antiquarianism toward an art-historical methodology. For descriptions of and a bibliography on individual monuments and sites, the volumes of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture are indispensable.

  • Bailey, Richard N. England’s Earliest Sculptors. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1996.

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    Provides an excellent starting point for and overview of the subject. In addition to an in-depth discussion of the types of monument characteristic of Anglo-Saxon England, Bailey also covers the geographic and chronological divisions of the field. The book includes chapters on approaches to the study of Anglo-Saxon sculpture and sculptors as well as to the pitfalls that have plagued and in some cases continue to plague scholarship.

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  • Brown, G. Baldwin. The Arts in Early England. 6 vols. London: John Murray, 1903–1937.

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    Individual volumes are The Life of Saxon England in Relation to the Arts; Ecclesiastical Architecture in England from the Conversion of the Saxons to the Norman Conquest; Saxon Art and Industry in the Pagan Period; The Ruthwell and Bewcastle Crosses, the Gospels of Lindisfarne, and Other Church Monuments of Northumbria; Completion of the Study of the Monuments of the Great Period of the Art of Anglian Northumbria; and Anglo-Saxon Sculpture.

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  • Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture.

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    This is the first source to go to for information on stone sculpture of any sort. Organized by county, the volumes in the series provide introductory essays on the contexts of the sculptures and full photographic records plus informative catalogue entries with information on origin, date, and provenance and bibliography, description, and discussion of each work. Rosemary Cramp, A Grammar of Anglo-Saxon Ornament: A General Introduction to the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, was published as an introduction to the first volume of the corpus in 1984 but has been available as a separate offprint since 1991.

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    • Cramp, Rosemary. Studies in Anglo-Saxon Sculpture. London: Pindar, 1993.

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      Cramp is the leading expert in the field. This book brings together fifteen of her previously published papers. It includes studies of individual monuments, such as the Ruthwell Cross or a name stone from the monastery of Monkwearmouth, as well as more general papers on the art that influenced Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Most papers focus on the art of early Northumbria, Cramp’s area of specialization.

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    • Dodwell, C. R. Anglo-Saxon Art: A New Perspective. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1982.

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      A survey of what literary sources reveal about Anglo-Saxon taste and attitudes toward art and of the enormous number of objects lost over the centuries. Dodwell was the first to give sustained attention to the way such losses have distorted our understanding of the period. Inadequately illustrated.

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    • Karkov, Catherine E. The Art of Anglo-Saxon England. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2011.

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      Examines the way Anglo-Saxon art, including sculpture and the sculptural landscape, create and narrate national and cultural identity over the centuries in which “England” was coming into being. The book has a double focus on art as aesthetic vehicle and as active political force.

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    • Wilson, David M. Anglo-Saxon Art from the Seventh Century to the Norman Conquest. London: Thames and Hudson, 1984.

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      Written in conjunction with an exhibition of Anglo-Saxon art at the British Museum, the book’s largely chronological approach and focus on individual objects give it something of the feel of an exhibition catalogue, though with significantly fewer color plates. It covers an enormous amount of material and is written for a general readership.

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    Exhibition Catalogues

    No catalogues and no exhibitions have been devoted exclusively to Anglo-Saxon sculpture, largely because, despite the fragmentary nature of many monuments, a significant number of the most important pieces are either still in situ or too difficult to transport. All the works in this section contain entries on select sculptures. Start with Hawkes 1996 and Backhouse, et al. 1984. Webster and Backhouse 1991 is especially valuable for information on the earliest centuries of Anglo-Saxon art.

    • Backhouse, Janet, D. H. Turner, and Leslie Webster, eds. The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art, 966–1066. London: British Museum, 1984.

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      Although the bibliography and some of the information in this catalogue are now out of date and the choice of 966 as a cutoff date is problematic, it still provides an excellent overview of the best-known works of the period, along with some that deserve to be better known. Sculpture was not a part of the exhibition, but important pieces, such as the sculpture from late Anglo-Saxon Winchester, are discussed.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. The Golden Age of Northumbria. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Tyne and Wear Museum Services, 1996.

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      The volume and quality of the sculpture produced in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria during the 7th and 8th centuries are two of the reasons the period is referred to as a “golden age.” This catalogue includes sculptures from Wearmouth and Jarrow, Hartlepool, Jedburgh Abbey, and Hexham, setting them in the context both of the art of the period and the sculptural traditions of the Romano-British past.

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    • Webster, Leslie, and Janet Backhouse, eds. The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art and Culture A.D. 600–900. London: British Museum, 1991.

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      A prequel to The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art exhibition, this catalogue takes a more explicitly political approach to its subject, though that is not always apparent in the individual catalogue entries. The title implies an active role for art in the making of nation and national culture that few would now deny, but the attempts at suggesting cultural unity either in the Anglo-Saxon period or in the early 21st century are problematic. Sculpture is included, although it does not loom large.

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    Collections of Papers

    The books listed in this section offer a good overview of the range of Anglo-Saxon sculpture and approaches to Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Where to start will depend on individual interest. Hawkes and Mills 1999 deals with early Northumbria and gives the reader a sense of the larger historical, archaeological, and religious context in which sculpture was created and viewed. Karkov, et al. 1997 and Spearman and Higgitt 1993 deal with the wider Insular world (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). Spearman and Higgitt 1993 is primarily archaeological and art historical, while Karkov, et al. 1997 includes papers on language and literature. The papers in Karkov and Orton 2003 focus on new approaches to the field and include critiques of earlier scholarship on key monuments, such as the Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses.

    • Hawkes, Jane, and Susan Mills, eds. Northumbria’s Golden Age. Stroud, UK: Alan Sutton, 1999.

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      This is a published volume of the papers from the conference that accompanied the Golden Age of Northumbria exhibition (Hawkes 1996, cited under Exhibition Catalogues). The collection includes essays on Anglo-Saxon history, literature, and archaeology along with papers on the reconstruction of timber buildings, the motif of Romulus and Remus in Anglo-Saxon art, Anglo-Saxon sculpture, inscribed stones from the monastery at Hartlepool, Northumbrian vine-scroll ornament, and the Ruthwell and Bewcastle standing stone crosses.

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    • Karkov, Catherine E., Robert T. Farrell, and Michael Ryan, eds. The Insular Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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      Includes papers on the wooden cross erected at Heavenfield by St. Oswald in the 7th century (Douglas Mac Lean), the iconography of the 8th-century Bewcastle Cross (Catherine E. Karkov), issues of gender on the 8th-century Ruthwell Cross (Carol Farr), the iconography of the 9th-century Rothbury cross head (Jane Hawkes), and questions of survival and revival in Anglo-Saxon sculpture (James Lang).

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    • Karkov, Catherine E., and Fred Orton, eds. Theorizing Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2003.

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      While the majority of the book is devoted to the Bewcastle and Ruthwell monuments, other sculptures, such as the Sandbach crosses, name stones, or the Hackness Cross, are discussed. Jane Hawkes’s “Reading Stone” examines the visual narratives of the Sandbach crosses as well as issues of historiography. Catherine E. Karkov’s paper explores issues of name, voice, and gender in a group of early Northumbrian sculptures. The rest of the contributors (Richard Bailey, Fred Orton, Ian Wood, and Éamonn Ó Carragáin) are concerned with the debate over the date, form, and function of the Ruthwell and Bewcastle Crosses. The book is especially valuable for the new approaches it incorporates: social history (Orton), feminism (Karkov), and narrativity (Hawkes).

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    • Spearman, R. Michael, and John Higgitt, eds. The Age of Migrating Ideas: Early Medieval Art in Northern Britain and Ireland; Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Insular Art Held in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, 3–6 January 1991. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1993.

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      This volume contains important papers on interlace ornament and iconic images (Ernst Kitzinger), sculpture from Whitby (Rosemary Cramp), the Hovingham panel (Jane Hawkes), and Northumbrian sculpture of the 8th to 10th centuries (James Lang). The volume also includes papers dealing with Irish, Scottish, and Pictish sculpture.

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    High Crosses

    The high cross, or freestanding stone cross, is one of the characteristic monuments of Anglo-Saxon England. The vast majority of crosses date from the early Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian periods (8th through 10th centuries) and are located in the North of England. Originally published in 1927, Collingwood 1989 constitutes the first systematic attempt to classify the Northumbrian crosses, and it remains a good introduction to the field, even if some of the author’s dates and conclusions have been proved wrong. Mitchell 2001 is also excellent for the information it provides on why some of the early crosses were erected. Cramp 1970, Wood 1987, and Hawkes 1996 deal with early Northumbrian crosses, Lang 1976 deals with an Anglo-Scandinavian cross (see also the section Anglo-Scandinavian Sculpture), and Hawkes 2002 discusses a cross from the kingdom of Mercia. Hawkes 2009 is a useful study of the form and iconography of columnar crosses. (See also the Oxford Bibliographies article High Crosses.)

    • Collingwood, W. G. Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age. Burnham-on-Sea, UK: Llanerch, 1989.

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      Although Collingwood’s methodology and much of his information is now out of date, this book, originally published in 1927, remains essential reading as one of the pioneering publications in the field and as a monument to the interest in an originary medieval heritage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The volume is illustrated entirely with the author’s own drawings, many of which capture details that are now lost to the eye.

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    • Cramp, Rosemary. “The Position of the Otley Crosses in English Sculpture of the Eighth to Ninth Centuries.” In Kolloquium über spätantike und frühmittelalterliche Skulptur. Vol. 2. Edited by Vladimir Milojćić, 55–63. Mainz, West Germany: Zabern, 1970.

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      Next to Ruthwell and Bewcastle, Otley has some of the most classicizing sculpture in northern England. Because all that remains are fragments, it is difficult to determine exactly what the original sculptural program was or how many sculptors were responsible for the monuments. This is still the best overall survey of the sculpture. Read in conjunction with Wood 1987, which provides a more detailed historical context for the crosses.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “The Rothbury Cross: An Iconographic Bricolage.” Gesta 35.1 (1996): 73–90.

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      An iconographic analysis of this now-fragmentary monument. The article gives a thorough description and convincing identification and analysis of each of the scenes depicted on the surviving fragments.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. The Sandbach Crosses: Sign and Significance in Anglo-Saxon Sculpture. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2002.

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      This book examines the meaning of a group of badly damaged 9th-century stone crosses at Sandbach, Cheshire, in terms of their figural iconography and their probable meaning within the local community for which they were made. The crosses are interpreted as material expressions of ecclesiastical power that borrow in turn from the traditions of the Columban church and the Carolingian Empire.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “The Church Triumphant: The Figural Columns of Early Ninth-Century England.” In Form and Order in the Anglo-Saxon World, 600–1100. Edited by Sally Crawford, Helena Hamerow, and Leslie Webster, 31–44. Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 16. Oxford: Oxford University School of Archaeology, 2009.

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      Identifies and discusses the iconography of the figural carvings on the Masham Cross in the context both of early Christian art and the Jupiter and triumphal columns of the Roman world. Argues that Masham (and the other Anglo-Saxon column crosses) appropriate elements of imperial Christian centers, such as Rome and Jerusalem, in the service of the Anglo-Saxon church.

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    • Lang, James. “The Sculptors of the Nunburnholme Cross.” Archaeological Journal 133 (1976): 75–94.

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      The Nunburnholme Cross is the work of three (possibly four) sculptors, with one (possibly two) working in the Anglian tradition, one in the Anglo-Scandinavian tradition, and one in the Anglo-Norman period. This paper focuses on differentiating and defining the work of the Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian sculptors.

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    • Mitchell, John. “The High Cross and Monastic Strategies in Eighth-Century Northumbria.” In New Offerings, Ancient Treasures: Studies in Medieval Art for George Henderson. Edited by Paul Binski and William Noel, 88–114. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2001.

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      An excellent consideration of the larger meanings of the high crosses both within Anglo-Saxon and more general early medieval contexts. Mitchell considers not just the influence of early Christian iconographic traditions on the crosses but also the role that Late Antique traditions, the contemporary landscape, and monastic ideologies might have played on the development of form and imagery. The best contemporary survey of the material to date.

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    • Wood, Ian N. “Anglo-Saxon Otley: An Episcopal Estate and Its Crosses in a Northumbrian Context.” Northern History 23 (1987): 20–38.

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      Explores the historical, political, theological, and ideological contexts in which the Otley estate and the crosses that once stood within it came into being. Best read in conjunction with Cramp 1970, which provides a more art-historical perspective.

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    The Ruthwell and Bewcastle Crosses

    The Ruthwell (Dumfries) Cross and the Bewcastle (Cumbria) Cross are probably the most published of all Anglo-Saxon monuments because of their outstanding quality, complex iconographic, and liturgical programs and because they have some similarities with each other. The bibliography is extensive and stretches back many centuries. Ó Carragáin 2005 and Orton, et al. 2007 are thorough discussions of the monuments. For further reading, their bibliographies should be consulted. Those interested in the development of scholarship on the crosses should begin with Cook 1912, Saxl 1943, and Schapiro 1944 and then move on to Cassidy 1992; Ó Carragáin 2005; and Orton, et al. 2007. Farr 1997 is notable as the first study to tackle issues of gender in the imagery of the crosses and among their audiences. See also Volume 5 of Brown 1903–1937 (cited under General Overviews).

    • Cassidy, Brendan, ed. The Ruthwell Cross: Papers from the Colloquium Sponsored by the Index of Christian Art, Princeton University, 8 December 1989. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Department of Art and Archaeology, 1992.

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      The volume includes Cassidy on the later life of the Ruthwell Cross; Robert T. Farrell on its construction, destruction, and reconstruction; Douglas Mac Lean on its date, David Howlett on its inscriptions; and Paul Meyvaert on the iconography of Ecclesia and Vita Monastica on the cross.

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    • Cook, A. S. The Date of the Ruthwell and Bewcastle Crosses. Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1912.

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      One of the earliest attempts at a comprehensive study of the two monuments. While some of Cook’s ideas and conclusions have been superseded, his interdisciplinary approach set an example for later scholars (see the studies in Cassidy 1992, for example). This remains essential reading for anyone interested in the crosses and the history of scholarship on them.

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    • Farr, Carol A. “Worthy Women on the Ruthwell Cross: Women as Sign in Early Anglo-Saxon Monasticism.” In The Insular Tradition. Edited by Catherine E. Karkov, Robert T. Farrell, and Michael Ryan, 45–61. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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      Exactly half the figural panels on the Ruthwell Cross include or are devoted to images of women. In this groundbreaking study, Farr considers the meaning of these images both within their historical context and through the lens of contemporary feminist theory.

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    • Ó Carragáin, Éamonn. Ritual and the Rood: Liturgical Images and the Old English Poems of the Dream of the Rood Tradition. London: British Library, 2005.

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      A thorough iconographic and literary analysis of Ruthwell’s images and inscriptions that sets them squarely within the context of the liturgy of the early church, especially as it relates to the liturgy of Lent and Holy Week. There is a wealth of information here; however, the arguments of the book are compromised by the emotional prose style and the author’s insistence on an exclusively liturgical reading of the cross, at the expense of its social and political functions.

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    • Orton, Fred, and Ian Wood, with Clare Lees. Fragments of History: Rethinking the Ruthwell and Bewcastle Monuments. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2007.

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      The idiosyncratic prose style of this book makes it a difficult read in places. The authors provide a focused analysis of the varying meanings of these monuments, with regard to place, gender, time, style and inscriptions, and function. They argue that the monuments would have meant one thing to the Northumbrian church that erected them and quite another to the British inhabitants of those areas. Noteworthy for its analysis of early antiquarian accounts of the crosses.

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    • Saxl, Fritz. “The Ruthwell Cross.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 6 (1943): 1–19.

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      Seminal study of the Ruthwell Cross that focuses on the Mediterranean sources (stylistic and iconographic) of its vine-scroll ornament and figural panels. This was the first paper to offer a sustained analysis of the theological program and content of the monument and thus laid the basis for much subsequent scholarship. Also one of the first publications to treat the cross as a three-dimensional monument that the viewer needed to move around to experience. Should be read in conjunction with Schapiro 1944.

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    • Schapiro, Meyer. “The Religious Meaning of the Ruthwell Cross.” Art Bulletin 26.4 (1944): 150–176.

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      With Fritz Saxl, Schapiro was one of the first scholars to seriously consider how the cross might have been used by those who made it and what it might have meant in an 8th-century context. Also one of the first to consider it as a work of three-dimensional sculpture. Schapiro’s main interest is in how the cross relates to the sociocultural world of the time. Best read in conjunction with Saxl 1943. Reprinted in Meyer Schapiro, Late Antique, Early Christian, and Mediaeval Art, Vol. 3 of Selected Papers (New York: George Braziller, 1979), pp. 186–192.

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    Funerary and Memorial Sculpture

    Anglo-Saxon funerary and memorial sculpture took many forms. Among the earliest forms, the relatively small and simple name stones were incised with crosses and the name or names of the dead and could be placed in the grave or possibly around the walls of the monastic church (Okasha 2004). Elsewhere, larger but still-simple crosses may have marked graves or again may have stood against a church wall as a form of commemoration (Cramp 1993). Memorials for important figures, such as saints, kings, and other members of the elite classes, could be very ornate (Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1985, Hawkes 1995). The Bewcastle Cross is included in the section High Crosses because it is so often discussed in connection with the Ruthwell Cross, but it is also a memorial monument (Ruthwell is not) and could just as easily have been included here. No general overview of Anglo-Saxon memorial sculpture exists, but the reader should start with Cramp 1993 and Okasha 2004, because both provide a good introduction to monastic attitudes toward death and commemoration. Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle 1985 and Hawkes 1995 offer close iconographic readings of important early Anglo-Saxon monuments, while Lang 1984 is an excellent discussion of a characteristic Anglo-Scandinavian type of funerary or memorial sculpture.

    • Biddle, Martin, and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle. “The Repton Stone.” Anglo-Saxon England 14 (1985): 233–292.

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      The best account to date of the enigmatic Repton Stone, which the authors argue is probably a memorial portrait of king Æthelbald of Mercia (d. 757). They also argue that the fragment was originally part of a three- to four-meter-high freestanding stone cross, although to reconstruct a monument of such size from one fragment is dangerous at best.

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    • Cramp, Rosemary. “A Reconsideration of the Monastic Site of Whitby.” In The Age of Migrating Ideas: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Insular Art Held in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, 3–6 January 1991. Edited by R. Michael Spearman and John Higgitt, 64–73. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1993.

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      Whitby had one of the largest assemblages of sculpture in Anglo-Saxon England. It is not exclusively funerary/memorial in nature, though most of it is made up of plain cross slabs believed to have been memorial monuments. Cramp reexamines the problematic original excavation reports on the site and the forms of the crosses that survive to determine the place of the monastery and its sculpture within early Northumbria.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “The Wirksworth Slab: An Iconography of Humilitas.” Peritia 9.1 (1995): 246–289.

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      The shape of the Wirksworth Slab suggests that it was once the top of a tomb or shrine. Hawkes examines the iconography of the monument and its sources, providing an overall reading of the whole as well as the controversy surrounding its date.

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    • Lang, James T. “The Hogback: A Viking Colonial Monument.” In Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History. Vol. 3. Edited by Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, James Campbell, and David Brown, 85–176. Oxford: Oxford University Committee for Archaeology, 1984.

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      The hogback is a characteristic memorial sculpture of the Viking age. Its shape resembles that of a house, often with gripping bears at each end. Hogbacks are also found in Ireland during the Viking period, but they occur in far larger numbers in Anglo-Scandinavian England. In this paper Lang explores the possible reasons for the distribution of the monument and offers a classification of the types of hogbacks that survive.

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    • Okasha, Elizabeth. “Memorial Stones or Grave-Stones?” In The Christian Tradition in Anglo-Saxon England: Approaches to Current Scholarship and Teaching. Edited by Paul Cavill, 841–846. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2004.

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      This paper is concerned with early Anglo-Saxon name stones, small incised slabs that carry a cross and the name (or names) of the deceased. Some have been found in graves, others may have been placed above graves, and others, as Okasha suggests here, may have been arranged within the church and may have served as a sort of liber vitae (confraternity book) in stone.

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    Shrines and Church Furnishings

    It can be virtually impossible to tell a shrine from a very grand funerary monument; however, for purposes of this article, a “shrine” is defined as the tomb or memorial of a saint as opposed to a very wealthy member of the secular elite. The Wirksworth Slab (Hawkes 1995, cited under Funerary and Memorial Sculpture) may have been a shrine, but there is nothing about its iconography or history that would establish with any certainty that it was not part of the tomb of a pious woman. In addition to shrines, Anglo-Saxon churches would have included sculpted altars and baptismal fonts (at least by the end of the period), and the major ecclesiastical centers would have contained bishops’ thrones, such as the Frith Stool at Hexham Abbey (discussed in the Hexham entry for the Durham and Northumberland volume of the Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, cited under General Overviews). Cramp 1986 is the place to start for a general introduction to Anglo-Saxon church furnishings. Rodwell, et al. 2008 is the best source for information on the Lichfield Angel.

    • Cramp, Rosemary. “The Furnishing and Sculptural Decoration of Anglo-Saxon Churches.” In The Anglo-Saxon Church: Papers on History, Architecture, and Archaeology in Honour of Dr. H. M. Taylor. Edited by L. A. S. Butler, Richard Morris, and Harold McCarter Taylor, 101–104. London: Council for British Archaeology, 1986.

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      A short but informative overview of the types of sculpture found in and on Anglo-Saxon churches.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “Mary and the Cycle of Resurrection: The Iconography of the Hovingham Panel.” In The Age of Migrating Ideas: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Insular Art Held in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, 3–6 January 1991. Edited by R. Michael Spearman and John Higgitt, 254–260. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1993.

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      An iconographic analysis of this early-9th-century panel, believed to be part of a large and impressive shrine. Hawkes offers an identification for each of the carved figures, an iconographic reading of the whole, and a discussion of how the imagery would be appropriate to a body contained within the shrine.

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    • Rodwell, Warwick, Jane Hawkes, Emily Howe, and Rosemary Cramp. “The Lichfield Angel: A Spectacular Anglo-Saxon Painted Sculpture.” Antiquaries Journal 88.3 (2008): 48–108.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500001359Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      The Lichfield Angel was discovered in 2003 beneath the east end of the present cathedral and is thought to have been part of a shrine, possibly the shrine of St. Chad. The authors here present a thorough analysis of the sculpture and its paint and some possible suggestions for the reconstruction of the original shrine. Some corrections are also made to suggestions put forward in Brown 2007 (cited under Painted Sculpture). Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Architectural Sculpture

    Unlike church furnishings, architectural sculpture remains engaged with the wall. A considerable amount of Anglo-Saxon architectural sculpture survives in situ, although many works were rebuilt into the walls of later churches (as at Breedon-on-the-Hill) or discovered in the excavation of modern churches (as at Hexham). Both material and documentary evidence reveal that Anglo-Saxon churches could be elaborately decorated both with internal and external sculpted panels and friezes. Taylor and Taylor 1966 is the best overall summary of the different types of decoration. Cramp 1974 is devoted to early Anglo-Saxon churches in Northumbria; Jewell 1986 and Jewell 2001, to those in Mercia. Quirk 1961 and Coatsworth 1988 deal with the decoration of 10th- and 11th-century churches in southern England. See also Cramp 1986, cited under Shrines and Church Furnishings. Gem 2006 is the best source for information on the sculpted facade, the most public-facing sculptural program of any church.

    • Coatsworth, Elizabeth. “Late Pre-Conquest Sculptures with the Crucifixion South of the Humber.” In Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence. By Elizabeth Coatsworth, 161–193. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1988.

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      Architectural sculpture in the South of England is a later phenomenon than in the North, and the subject matter is also rather different. Monumental carved roods and images of the Virgin, for example, are characteristic of 10th- and 11th-century sculpture in the South. Coatsworth explores this phenomenon, focusing on the roods and their contexts.

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    • Cramp, Rosemary. “Early Northumbrian Sculpture at Hexham.” In Saint Wilfrid at Hexham. Edited by D. P. Kirby, 115–140. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Oriel, 1974.

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      St. Wilfrid’s church at Hexham made extensive use both of reused Roman carvings and newly carved Anglo-Saxon panels. The remains of many are now on display inside the church. Cramp’s paper examines their meaning within the contexts both of early Hexham and of the development of Northumbrian sculpture in general.

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    • Gem, Richard. “The Pre-Romanesque Facade in England.” In Studies in English Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque Architecture. Vol. 1. By Richard Gem, 187–205. London: Pindar, 2006.

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      Surveys the development of the western facade of English churches built between the 7th and 11th centuries, establishing three main phases based on architectural form. The growing use of sculpture in western facades and the changing subjects depicted are examined as part of that development.

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    • Jewell, Richard. “The Anglo-Saxon Friezes at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire.” Archaeologia 108 (1986): 67–94.

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      Jewell discusses the style, iconography, and possible meaning of the sculptures, many of which are enigmatic. The stones are now embedded at various points in the interior walls of the church, and Jewell attempts to reconstruct their original order and positioning. Updated information on some aspects of his conclusions is in Jewell 2001.

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    • Jewell, Richard. “Classicism of Southumbrian Sculpture.” In Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe. Edited by Michelle P. Brown and Carol A. Farr, 246–282. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 2001.

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      Explores the stylistic and iconographic sources for the architectural sculpture at the churches of Breedon-on-the Hill and Fletton (with mention of other sites), arguing that the classicism of these works comes directly from works of early Christian art rather than from the art of the Carolingian world, on which it has sometimes been seen to depend.

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    • Quirk, R. N. “Winchester New Minster and Its Tenth-Century Tower.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3d ser., 24 (1961): 16–54.

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      The New Minster tower was a six-story structure that dominated the western facade of the church. While it is not certain that it was embellished with sculptural decoration, each story was known to have had a separate dedication, and Quirk suggests here that it would have had sculptural decoration appropriate to each story.

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    • Taylor, Joan, and H. M. Taylor. “Architectural Sculpture in Pre-Norman England.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3d ser., 29 (1966): 3–51.

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      A useful general survey of types and styles of architectural sculpture across Anglo-Saxon England.

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    Painted Sculpture

    Most Anglo-Saxon sculpture, both freestanding and architectural, would originally have been painted. Fragments of the gesso that held the paint survive on numerous monuments, but fragments of the pigments themselves survive on relatively few. Much information on painted sculpture can be found in the excavation reports of individual monastic sites, but a few publications are devoted exclusively to the subject. The reader should start with Cather, et al. 1990 for an overview. Both Bagshaw, et al. 2006 and Gem, et al. 2008 provide information on the discovery of a painted figure at Deerhurst, Gloucestershire. Brown 2007 explores connections between painted sculpture and manuscript illumination at one important artistic center.

    • Bagshaw, Steve, Richard Bryant, and Michael Hare. “The Discovery of an Anglo-Saxon Painted Figure at St. Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire.” Antiquaries Journal 86.6 (2006): 66–109.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500000068Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Report on a painted figure discovered inside the church in 1993. While the figure itself is painted rather than sculpted, it should be understood within the overall program of painting and sculpture within the church and read in conjunction with Gem, et al. 2008. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    • Brown, Michelle P. “The Lichfield Angel: Lichfield as a Centre of Insular Art.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association 160.1 (2007): 8–19.

      DOI: 10.1179/174767007x219928Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the painted angel, part of a shrine thought to be that of St. Chad, in the context of Mercian manuscript art, particularly the Lichfield Gospels. Also presents a reconstruction of the original color scheme of the angel. While there are errors (there was no purple used on the angel, for example), the parallels with the manuscripts are thought provoking. Should be read in conjunction with Rodwell, et al. 2008 (cited under Shrines and Church Furnishings).

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    • Cather, Sharon, David Park, and Paul Williamson, eds. Early Medieval Wall Painting and Painted Sculpture in England: Based on a Symposium Held at the Courtauld Institute of Art, February, 1985. British Archaeological Reports, British Series 216. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1990.

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      Most of the volume is devoted to Anglo-Saxon material. Rosemary Cramp discusses evidence for wall painting and painted sculpture from Jarrow, Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle write on the results of ongoing excavations in Winchester, and James Lang and Dominic Tweddle survey the painted sculpture of Northumbria and southeastern England, respectively.

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    • Gem, Richard, and Emily Howe, with Richard Bryant. “The Ninth-Century Polychrome Decoration at St. Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire.” Antiquaries Journal 88 (2008): 109–164.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0003581500001360Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A report on the analysis of surviving paintwork on the painted sculptures of the west porch and the chancel arch of the church. The authors also discuss a newly discovered plant scroll painted on the arch, and they assess the overall program of painting and painted sculpture. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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    Anglo-Scandinavian Sculpture

    The 10th century saw a huge increase in sculptural production, especially across the North of England, as Scandinavian settlers began to focus their creativity and patronage on the medium. New styles and iconographies were adopted from the Scandinavian homelands, and new types of monument began to appear. Some types of sculptures, the hogback tomb, for example, are unique to the period (see Lang 1984, cited under Funerary and Memorial Sculpture). A marked turn to secular patronage and display also occurred, in contrast to the ecclesiastical and monastic patrons and sites that had characterized the previous Anglian period. Most of the sculpture was produced by and for the social elite, although Buckland 2010 provides an interesting exception. Bailey 1980 is the place to start. Lang 1986 and Fuglesang 1986 provide solid overviews of the art of the period. Berg 1958 focuses on a single iconic monument. Foys 2007 and Foys 2010 provide a more theoretical approach to the topic and information on new media and virtual reconstructions. See also Lang 1976 (cited under High Crosses).

    • Bailey, Richard N. Viking Age Sculpture in Northern England. London: Collins, 1980.

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      Far more Anglo-Scandinavian than Anglo-Saxon sculpture remains in the North of England, and this is still the best volume on the subject in print to date. The book is aimed both at a general and a scholarly audience, so that while it provides much valuable detail on historical context, regional groupings, dating, iconography, and monument type, it is also a very readable book.

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    • Berg, Knut. “The Gosforth Cross.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 21.1–2 (1958): 27–43.

      DOI: 10.2307/750485Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Despite its date, this is still the best article for a sense of the scale, iconography, and importance of this key monument. Berg surveys earlier scholarship on the monument (much of which has now been completely discredited) and then goes on to offer his own interpretation, based around the events of Ragnarök, which scholars agree is at the center of the cross’s imagery and meaning.

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    • Buckland, Paul C. “Ragnarök and the Stones of York.” In The Viking Age: Ireland and the West. Edited by John Sheehan and Donnchadh Ó Corráin, 47–59. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2010.

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      Discussion of a graffito on a reused block of limestone in the tower of the Church of St. Helen’s at Skipworth, East Yorkshire. The carving is an important example of an image that was not produced by and for the elite and an interesting study in the reuse of stone across centuries and conquests.

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    • Foys, Martin K. “Cyberspace, Sculpture, and the Revision of Medieval Space.” In Virtually Anglo-Saxon: Old Media, New Media, and Early Medieval Studies in the Late Age of Print. By Martin K. Foys, 159–188. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.

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      In part this is a close reading of the badly damaged and wrongly reconstructed Nunburnholme Cross, and in part it is a tentative reconstruction of part of its imagery, using digital technologies to reconstruct aspects of the original iconographic program. Perhaps more important, Foys parallels the layers of the stone’s history (Roman architectural stone, Anglian cross, Anglo-Scandinavian cross) to the space and political history of Northumbria itself.

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    • Foys, Martin. “New Media and the Nunburnholme Cross.” In Cross and Cruciform in the Anglo-Saxon World: Studies to Honor the Memory of Timothy Reuter. Edited by Sarah Larratt Keefer, Karen L. Jolly, and Catherine E. Karkov, 340–368. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2010.

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      Views the Nunburnholme Cross as bearer of meaning across time and media but as an object resistant to space. Foys considers the possibilities opened up by advances in virtual modeling and the ways they could bridge such spatial gaps. A useful history of the discovery of the cross fragments is included.

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    • Fuglesang, Signe Horn. “The Relationship between Scandinavian and English Art from the Late Eighth to the Mid Twelfth Century.” In Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture. Edited by Paul E. Szarmach and Virginia Darrow Oggins, 203–241. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, 1986.

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      Uses both archaeological and art-historical material to survey some of the similarities and differences in style, motif, and artistic tradition across the period, with a view to developing criteria through which “foreign influence” might be established. Also takes on the problematic question of how to date the material.

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    • Lang, James. “The Distinctiveness of Viking Colonial Art.” In Sources of Anglo-Saxon Sculpture. Edited by Paul E. Szarmach and Virginia Darrow Oggins, 243–260. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University, 1986.

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      Surveys motifs and stylistic features that are common to works of Viking-age art in England, Ireland, and the Isle of Man, with a focus on sculpture. Identifies a common method of laying out designs and blocked grids and suggests that a rigidly symmetrical geometrical construction is a distinguishing aspect of Viking colonial art.

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    Iconographic Interpretations

    Iconography is the study of the meaning of images, and it means quite literally picture writing. Traditionally it has been the most common approach taken to the study of Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture, and it remains so in the early 21st century. All the entries in this section deal with different aspects of the symbolic meaning (monastic, liturgical, religious, secular, social, ideological, or gendered) of individual monuments or groups of monuments. Where to start depends on individual interest. Bailey 1996 and Hawkes 2003 provide the most-general coverage. Farr 1999 is essential reading for those interested in questions of gender, as is Hawkes 2007 for those interested in the iconography of angels. Karkov 1997 and Neuman de Vegvar 2007 are concerned with secular patrons and audiences. Bailey 2007 is a close study of one particular monument.

    • Bailey, Richard N. “‘What Mean These Stones?’ Some Aspects of Pre-Norman Sculpture in Cheshire and Lancashire.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 78.1 (1996): 21–46.

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      Toller Memorial Lecture for 1995. This wide-ranging lecture covers distribution patterns, monument types, and problems caused by the fragmentary physical nature and iconographic ambiguity yet complexity both of Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture in the region. Main focus is on what we can know of the original physical appearance of the monuments.

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    • Bailey, Richard N. “The Winwick Cross and a Suspended Sentence.” In Text, Image, Interpretation: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Its Insular Context in Honour of Éamonn Ó Carragáin. Edited by Alastair Minnis and Jane Roberts, 449–472. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007.

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      The Winwick Cross is housed in the church of St. Oswald at Winwick on the Lancashire-Cheshire border. This paper covers its discovery and dating and provides a description and analysis of its iconography, which is heavily influenced by the art of the Celtic West. Panels on the cross include an image of a priest, a scene interpreted as a soul in hell, and geometric and animal ornament.

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    • Farr, Carol A. “Questioning the Monuments: Approaches to Anglo-Saxon Sculpture through Gender Studies.” In The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England: Basic Readings. Edited by Catherine E. Karkov, 375–402. New York: Garland, 1999.

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      Farr focuses on two key monuments, the Ruthwell Cross and the Hackness Cross, but the feminist perspective she employs has relevance for sculpture studies in general. This paper examines the assumptions about gender that earlier scholars made in dealing with the monuments, and the roles women may have played both in the iconography of Anglo-Saxon sculpture and in the early Anglo-Saxon church.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “Iuxta Morem Romanorum: Stone and Sculpture in Anglo-Saxon England.” In Anglo-Saxon Styles. Edited by Catherine E. Karkov and George Hardin Brown, 69–99. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.

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      An examination of the Roman sources for aspects of the style and iconography of Anglo-Saxon sculpture. The paper also considers the sources for some of the stones themselves.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “Gregory the Great and Angelic Mediation: The Anglo-Saxon Crosses of the Derbyshire Peaks.” In Text, Image, Interpretation: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Its Insular Context in Honour of Éamonn Ó Carragáin. Edited by Alastair Minnis and Jane Roberts, 431–448. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007.

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      Examines the meaning of the angels that appear on pre-Viking-age sculptures at Bakewell, Eyam, and Bradbourne. Argues that they served as mnemonic cues that encouraged an understanding of the link between people and angels in the contemplation of the divine, and the role of that contemplation in pastoral care.

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    • Karkov, Catherine E. “The Bewcastle Cross: Some Iconographic Problems.” In The Insular Tradition. Edited by Catherine E. Karkov, Robert T. Farrell, and Michael Ryan, 9–26. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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      Focuses on the meaning of the lowest panel on the west face of the Bewcastle Cross, which depicts a layman with a falcon. Surveys the various interpretations of this panel in the scholarship and locates it within the overall iconography of the cross and contemporary representations of kingship.

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    • Neuman de Vegvar, Carol. “Converting the Anglo-Saxon Landscape: Crosses and Their Audiences.” In Text, Image, Interpretation: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Its Insular Context in Honour of Éamonn Ó Carragáin. Edited by Alastair Minnis and Jane Roberts, 407–430. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2007.

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      Considers the iconography of crosses decorated with vegetal rather than figural ornament, and their role in converting audiences outside the monastery. Includes a table of nonfigural cross shafts decorated with vegetal or primarily vegetal motifs.

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    Style

    Along with iconography, style is a major methodological tool used in the study of Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Style is understood in the most important studies not as a passive framework but as an active bearer of ideological meaning. Style also varies both regionally and chronologically; thus, it is helpful in understanding the changing concerns of artists and patrons and the sculptural monuments and programs they produced. Karkov and Brown 2003 is the most wide-ranging study; both Lang 1991 and Lang 1993 focus on regional styles and their meaning. See also Jewell 2001, cited under Architectural Sculpture.

    • Karkov, Catherine E., and George Hardin Brown, eds. Anglo-Saxon Styles. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.

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      Interdisciplinary collection of essays that examines Anglo-Saxon styles as manifested both in the visual and the verbal arts. Includes essays on the Ruthwell Cross and the Bewcastle Cross (Fred Orton) and on Romanitas in the use of stone and the iconography stone sculpture (Jane Hawkes; also see Hawkes 2003, cited under Iconographic Interpretations).

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    • Lang, James. The Anglian Sculpture of Deira: The Classical Tradition. Jarrow Lecture. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: n.p., 1991.

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      Explores aspects of the design of sculptures in the ancient kingdom of Deira (Yorkshire south of the River Tees) that reflect traditions borrowed from the Late Antique and Mediterranean worlds. Includes discussion of monuments from York Minster, Lastingham, Otley, and Hovingham.

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    • Lang, James. “Survival and Revival in Insular and Northumbrian Sculpture of the 8th to 10th Centuries.” In The Age of Migrating Ideas: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Insular Art Held in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, 3–6 January 1991. Edited by R. Michael Spearman and John Higgitt, 261–267. Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland, 1993.

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      An important paper that demonstrates that sculptural styles can be revived for a variety of reasons and that the history of Anglo-Saxon sculpture is more complicated than a simple linear development.

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    Historiography

    Historiographical studies focus on the history of a discipline as well as the history of the methodologies that characterize a discipline. Relatively few historiographical studies of Anglo-Saxon art in any medium have been published, but it is a growing field. Both Townend 2009 and Hawkes 2007 focus on W. G. Collingwood. Hawkes 2007 is more concerned with his importance to scholarly approaches to the field, while Townend 2009 focuses on his larger cultural influence. Hawkes 2009 offers an interesting comparison between the historiography of Anglo-Saxon sculpture and early medieval Irish sculpture.

    • Hawkes, Jane. “Collingwood and Anglo-Saxon Sculpture: Art History or Archaeology?” In Making and Meaning in Insular Art: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Insular Art Held at Trinity College Dublin, 25–28 August 2005. Edited by Rachel Moss, 142–152. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2007.

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      Anglo-Saxon art, and sculpture in particular, has long been considered both archaeological artifact and work of art. This paper explores W. G. Collingwood’s pivotal place both in creating this double identity and in moving Anglo-Saxon sculpture out of the world of antiquarian or aesthetic description and into that of scholarly study.

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    • Hawkes, Jane. “Studying Early Christian Sculpture in England and Ireland: The Object of Art History or Archaeology.” In Anglo-Saxon and Irish Relations before the Vikings. Edited by James Graham-Campbell and Michael Ryan, 397–408. London: British Academy, 2009.

      DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264508.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Considers the benefits and drawbacks of a stylistic approach to Anglo-Saxon sculpture, an approach regarded as problematic both by art historians and archaeologists. This paper focuses on the early-20th-century scholars who laid the foundations for the field, and the divisions that persist within some circles of contemporary scholarship.

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    • Townend, Matthew. The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland: The Norse Medievalism of W. G. Collingwood and His Contemporaries. Kendal, UK: Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2009.

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      Townend surveys antiquarian accounts of the Gosforth Cross and other sculptures, with a special emphasis on their importance both to Collingwood and W. S. Calverley. Also discusses Calverley’s replica of Gosforth at St. Kentigern’s Church, Aspatria, and the influence of Gosforth on 19th-century memorial monuments in the area.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 06/26/2012

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396584-0042

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