From Minor to Major
The Minor Arts in Medieval Art History
Edited by Colum Hourihane
Publication date:09 October 2012
Length of book:336 pages
Publisherthe Index of Christian Art, Princeton University
Whether we care to admit it or not, we have always distinguished between those arts that we consider superior and the lesser or minor forms. Giorgio Vasari is usually credited with formally structuring the primary nature of architecture, painting, and sculpture in his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, which was first published in 1568. Even though this division was initially applied to Italian art, it was not long before it gained more widespread currency. All of the other arts—such as ivory carving, glass, enamels, and goldsmiths’ work—were lumped together into a secondary group that took on pejorative associations, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Other labels have been used over time to describe these minor arts, and we have spoken of them as the decorative, applied, ornamental, luxury, sumptuous, or even mechanical arts. This collection explores the way in which these minor arts have fought back to gain wider acceptance in our holistic approach to studying the arts of the Middle Ages. No longer considered secondary, they are now firmly incorporated into our studies. This collection, written by some of the most eminent scholars in the field, looks at minor media from a historiographical perspective and shows how they are gaining wider acceptance.
The contributors are David S. Areford, Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, Frédéric Billiet, Paul Binski, John Cherry, Michael W. Cothren, Thomas E. Dale, Sharon Gerstel, Cynthia Hahn, Jos Koldeweij, Welleda Muller, Alan M. Stahl, Alicia Walker, Laura Weigert, Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck, and Kim Woods.
—Chloe Barnett, Art Libraries Society of North America