In This Article Art in the Visigothic Period

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography
  • General Overviews
  • Exhibition Catalogues
  • Epigraphy and Scripts
  • Sculpture
  • Ceramics
  • Studies Questioning Visigothic Art

Medieval Studies Art in the Visigothic Period
by
Rose Walker
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0231

Introduction

Art in the Visigothic period lies on a spectrum. One end, it has been seen as an exceptional body of work produced in Iberia in the 6th and 7th centuries. The key elements are a group of standing buildings, mostly in the northwest of the peninsula, and two treasure hoards, one, the Guarrazar treasure, found near Toledo, and the other, the Torredonjimeno hoard, outside Jaén. The Guarrazar hoard contained a number of gold votive crowns, notable for their Byzantine features, including one with pendant letters spelling out the name of King Recceswinth (649–672). At the other end of the spectrum, the corpus has been interrogated to such an extent that parts of it all but disappear, with works reassigned either to the Late Antique period or to the 9th or 10th centuries. The objects most securely dated to the period when Visigoths were in Spain, from the early 5th to the very early 8th century, are pieces of jewelry, mainly fibulae and belt buckles. They were found in cemeteries, especially on the Meseta, but few have a securely recorded archaeological provenance. They also exemplify another question that problematizes this field: how Visigothic was Visigothic-period art. The Visigoths were a group of peoples that, having come together around the Danube, went on to sack Rome in 410. They were subsequently settled across Aquitaine where they are archaeologically invisible or at least indistinguishable from the local population. In the 6th century, after defeat by the Franks, they moved the center of their operations to Iberia, where they remained a minority, a ruling military elite. King Leovigild (569–586) conquered the greater part of the peninsula, including the far northwest previously under Suevic rule, and by c. 625, King Sisebut had ended the Byzantine occupation of the southeast coastal region. However, it has not been possible to distinguish between the graves of the indigenous Hispano-Roman population and those of the immigrant Visigoths, and much of this jewelry in any case may have been imported and not manufactured in Iberia. Archaeological sites, often with layers of Roman and post-Visigothic occupation, provide one view of the buildings that may have been available to the elite in this period. Some sites, including Mérida, Tarragona, Toledo, and Barcelona, have a clear place in history, and excavators have proposed historical contexts for others, identifying sites, for example, with the royal city of Recópolis and with the bishopric of Elo. Many of these sites have yielded fragments of sculpture, and others without provenance have been associated with them. The sculptural corpus, both these fragments and the friezes and capitals found in the standing buildings, form part of the ongoing debate about the chronology of the works assigned to the Visigothic period and whether they instead belong to the 8th, 9th, or 10th centuries.

Bibliography

Ferreiro has to date compiled five bibliographies of works on the Visigothic period, which are especially useful for their citation of journal articles. Each is organized by topics, including archaeology. While they have author and subject indexes with cross-referencing, there are no annotations. The large size of these volumes, and the difficult decisions entailed in the division into topics, means that they can be challenging for newcomers to the field. Ripoll and Carrero 2009 provides a bibliographic essay for the field, that while maintaining the Visigothic corpus also acknowledges alternative views.

  • Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Spain, A.D. 418–711: A Bibliography. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1988.

    E-mail Citation »

    A bibliography of works from the 19th century and the 20th century up to 1984.

  • Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update): A Supplemental Bibliography, 1984–2003. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is the second, and the largest, of these bibliographies on all aspects of the Visigoths in France and Iberia. Its size demonstrates the growth of the field over these two decades.

  • Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update): A Supplemental Bibliography, 2004–2006. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004169449.i-306E-mail Citation »

    The third of the updates extends the chronological span back to the 4th century, and includes more sources on archaeology and liturgy.

  • Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update): A Supplemental Bibliography, 2007–2009. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004215382E-mail Citation »

    Additional bibliography under the same categories covering three years.

  • Ferreiro, Alberto. The Visigoths in Gaul and Iberia (Update): A Supplemental Bibliography, 2010–2012. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2014.

    E-mail Citation »

    Additional bibliography under the same categories for a further three years.

  • Ripoll, Gisela, and Eduardo Carrero. “Art wisigoth en Hispania: En quête d’une revision necessaire.” Perspective 2 (2009): 256–276.

    E-mail Citation »

    A thorough review of the more recent historiography and the evidence for Visigothic art supplied by new studies and archaeology.

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