Tuesday, 14 April 2009


WARNING: Pet peeve alert!

Let's talk about Irish, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian designs in the period 600 to 1000. Did you notice that I did not say 'Celtic'? Great! If I should include any other cultural groups which actually existed, just request them and I'll add them in. From 600 onwards, it is somewhat reasonable to refer to Anglo-Saxons as a group although the regions of Kent and East Anglia do show marked cultural differences in clothing and jewelry.

I'm leaving out the Book of Kells and Book of Durrow for one simple reason: they show mixed cultural influences so I'd have to give them to more than one of these groups (if not all three and a few more besides).

So, here are some examples of Scandinavian design, which went through several distinct periods and styles during this time. These are the Urnes church panels circa 1050-1150, walking sticks from Dublin and Lund in the Ringerike style circa 980-1075, a Borre handle circa 875-950, and the Oseberg keel carvings from 750-875.

Now here are some examples of insular Anglo-Saxon design, which went through two cultural revolutions or renaissances during this time, one around 700-850 (ish) and one around 900-1050 (ish). These are the Benedictional of St Aethelwold from the 900s, the Strickland brooch circa 850, the Lindisfarne gospels circa 700-721 (they're a mixed Hiberno-Saxon style, admittedly, but created by one Bishop Eadfrith so I slipped them in), the Bewcastle cross circa 650-750, and the Sutton Hoo buckle circa 600-630.

And last but not least, here are some Irish designs from the same time, which also went through a number of periods and styles. These are the Muiredach cross from 923, the famous Tara brooch circa 900, and a page from the Book of Dimma circa the 700s.

Now one last image just to really hammer things down, a Byzantine panel from Greece or the Balkans circa 1250-1300.

Okay. Now we can talk about 'knotwork', what styles it comes in, and what regions, times, and cultures it's appropriate for.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Now I'm fuckin' ticked. I have some gorgeous examples of Irish art that would be perfect to throw in, but my book about them has disappeared. I really must get to the root of my library's attrition; I suspect evil gremlins are involved.

    Anyway, you posted that beautifully.

  3. Irish examples were really difficult to find because so much modern stuff was cluttering up my searches. I hope you find that book.

  4. What you have to do is search on specific artifacts; most of the really impressive ones are known by nom-de-plumes. It's just been so long since college that I can't remember many of them. I wanted the book so I could refresh my memory and do an effective google search.

    I know how you feel. Searching on this stuff gets you all sorts of silly silver shit.

  5. I'm reading old posts now (I love this site!) and I have to add this: The Franks were doing some really spiffy knotwork of their own, especially the Carolingians. Just sayin'. :-)

  6. Also La Tene, which is at least proto-knotwork (also thought to be where the Irish style orginated from)