Anglo-Saxon Art 4th to 7th Century - Wayland's Work


Wayland's Work: Anglo-Saxon Art, Myth & Material Culture from the 4th to the 7th Century Stephen Pollington Lindsay Kerr Brett Hammond This book is big in size and scope. Here you will find new analyisis, images and information about early English art and the culture that inspired it. Wayland's Work contains 226 black & white drawings and 62 colour plates. Nearly all of these images were commissioned for this book - many show previously unpublished artifacts. Nothing on this scale has been achieved for nearly 100 years. This is the book about the origins and cultural significance of Anglo-Saxon art. It has sometimes been suggested that in all the metalwork and archaeological oddments we have from the Anglo-Saxon period, there is nothing one could call ‘art’. The contributors to this book believe that not only was there considerable artistry in the output of early Anglo-Saxon workshops, but that it was vigorous, complex and technically challenging. The designs found on Anglo-Saxon artefacts is never mere ornament: in a society which used visual and verbal signals to demonstrate power, authority, status and ethnicity, no visual statement was ever empty of meaning. The aim of this work is to prompt a better understanding of Anglo-Saxon art and the society which produced it. All three contributors have collaborated on the book with Stephen Pollington responsible for the text, Lindsay Kerr for the black and white drawings, and Brett Hammond for (with the exception of the Staffordshire Hoard) artefact research and colour photography. Between them they have assembled in these pages much information and many previously unpublished illustrations which show a wide variety of artefacts, designs and motifs. It is hoped that this will help bring about a wider knowledge and appreciation of Anglo-Saxon art. 226 black & white illustrations - 62 colour plates £70 hardback ISBN 978 1898281566 544 pages 30cm x 30cm Reviews of Wayland's Work Drawing on British and European publications this important book brings together the evidence for Early Medieval material culture. Well written with excellent illustrations it should be read by everyone with a serious interest in this fascinating period. Dr Kevin Leahy, FSA - National Adviser - Early Medieval Metalwork The Portable Antiquities Scheme Minerva Magazine Nov/Dec 2010 issue, volume 21 number 6, p.58-9: Peter Clayton, FSA The publisher states that the aim of this work is to 'prompt a better understanding of Anglo-Saxon art and the society which produced it'. Wayland's Work is substantial, both in its content and size (30 x 30cms and weighing just over 2kgs), and the question is, has it achieved its stated aim? First, it must be said, it is not a book to read through - like any menu, one must be selective and take it in small or larger portions to one's taste and interest. After an introduction that discusses 'What is Wayland's Work?', and the various sources of evidence, the book is divided into five major sections: 'Barbaric Style', 'Style and Evolution', 'Crafty Smiths', 'Wondrous Works', and 'Reading the Record'. Within each of these sections are major subdivisions, so that the contents list is a virtual index. The bibliography and index provided in the end matter are also valuable. Five appendices cover summaries of pottery stamps, buckles and wrist clasp typology. A fourth, a late addition covering taxonomy, features the recently discovered and much publicised Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver, keeping the book up-to-date. As the authors rightly point out, Anglo-Saxon art and objects have, for many years, been the Cinderella of artistic and archaeological studies - so much that has been written is often available only in scattered references and publication. The great value of this book is the wider view and synthesis that the authors have taken of this field of study, collating a vast range of material into a single source. Two British Museum exhibitions, 'The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art' (1984), and 'The Work of Angels. Masterpieces of Celtic Metalwork, 6th-9th Centuries AD' (1989) opened many people's eyes to the glories of an art that has been almost derisively dismissed as of little interest - the work of 'The Dark Ages'. How wrong they were proved by the success of these two exhibitions, and now with the publication of this magisterial survey. Whereas an exhibition catalogue is focused on the material at hand, in Wayland's Work the myth and the material culture are presented and explained hand-in-hand, together with the archaeological and extant literary evidence. Anglo-Saxon art is especially intricate in the splendid manuscripts that survive, as well as the metalwork and sculpture. Much of it has hidden meanings and references that are simply not visible to the uninitiated, and much still defies interpretation. Close study of the actual objects, or of good photographs, has made it possible to bring out new evidence, and also to correct previous errors and oversights in interpretation. The large series of splendid detailed line drawings presented in this volume open windows on aspects not hitherto noticed. This is well brought out in the specific sections as styles are analysed and placed into context, the various techniques used are explained, and metal artefacts are described and examined by type. There is also a review of non-metallic objects. It is in Section V, 'Reading the Record', that all these many threads of interpretation and description are brought together, the mythology of Britain during this period, and the intricate designs and compositional elements that include zoomorphic and anthropomorphic elements, notably in the latter the various male aspects. The works of earlier authors in this field have been closely studied and weighed up in view of later finds and developments. Indeed, the book is built 'on the shoulders of giants', those who in earlier years ventured into a field that was all too frequently overlooked or dismissed. The heading of Section IV, 'Wondrous Works', can well be applied as a description to this book - it is a wondrous work that will long be referred to as a ready source of information for the 300 years under consideration. Wayland's Work does indeed fulfil its stated objective. Peter A. Clayton, FSA

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