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Art and design

The Lindisfarne Gospels is a glowing example of a new style of 'insular' (meaning 'from the British Isles') art. The artist-scribe used other Gospel Books as models for his text but devised his own ambitious decorative style that fused different styles:

  • Interlace or knotwork
  • Fretwork, step or key patterns from Graeco-Roman art
  • Celtic La Tène, a curvaceous organic style of art that used abstract patterns and stylised animal and human forms.

He was an innovator in other ways too.

Rather than using scrap pieces, he planned his designs on the backs of the actual vellum used in the book. Compass and divider marks, following the rules of sacred geometry, are still visible on the backs of the carpet pages.

He added details freehand with a lead point rather than the usual hard point, an implement like an early pencil, 300 years ahead of its time.

He drew on the back in reverse, and back-lit it to view the design from the correct side of the vellum.

 

Back-drawings in lead-point for the Matthew carpet
Click for enlarged image
 
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