If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Saint Matthew from the Ebbo Gospel

Saint Matthew, folio 18 verso of the Ebbo Gospels (Gospel Book of the Archbishop of Reims) from Hautvillers, France, c. 816-35, ink and tempera on vellum, 10 1/4 x 8 1/4 (Bibliothèque Municipale, Épernay) Speakers: Dr. Nancy Ross and Jennifer Freeman. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

(music) Female 1: We're here at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo. We're looking at the Ebbo Gospels. This is Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels, dated around 820s, 830s. Female 2: What we see here is the evangelist composing his Gospel book, hunched over writing very energetically. Something that makes this gospel book particularly interesting is this charged, energetic, very expressive style in contrast to the more modeled images of even the same period and especially of late antique and classical painting. You can see he's writing with his stylus. Female 1: So we see Medieval materials at work here. Female 2: Right. Female 1: And how Medieval people wrote with one hand with the stylus, the other hand with an ink horn. Sometimes when I see images, Medieval manuscripts of people writing, I also see one hand holding a stylus and the other hand holding a knife which holds the page down. Female 2: It is interesting, he's writing in a codex which became popular with the advent of Christianity. The life of the codex, or book as we know it, took off with Christianity. Female 1: You mentioned these, I think of them as frenzied lines. We think of this book and we think of this artist, the Ebbo master, and we think of these frenzied, crazy lines, and when I think of this, I think of the Utrecht Psalter and that these lines must have been how Carolingian artists interpreted classical drawing style. Female 2: I think it's also interesting because this is a distinct style in contrast to other Carolingian works. Female 1: We see a little classically inspired landscape with buildings in the upper part, again a very classical motif. Female 2: We should note Matthew's attribute up in the upper right-hand corner, which is a winged man. Each of the Gospel writers has their own attribute, which is related to the Book of Revelation. Female 1: And the four Apocalyptic beasts. Female 2: Yeah, the four Apocalyptic beasts. Very early on in Christianity this gets associated with the Gospel writers. Matthew is the winged man. Mark is the lion. Luke is the bull. John is the Eagle. Female 3: When we use the term Carolingian, what we really mean is art at the time of Charlemagne. Charlemagne was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800, and he was a really big reformer. He engaged in art reform by encouraging artists and scribes to study and copy the artistic and writing styles of ancient books. Those styles were more naturalistic, kind of unlike most Medieval artists. Charlemagne was particularly interested in reviving the artistic styles that were used in the early Christian period, and particularly those associated with the Roman Emperor, Constantine. Female 1: With Carolingian art, we see artists trying to wrestle with issues of perspective, and trying to bring back a greater sense of realistically representing figures in three dimensions. I see several ways in which the artist is trying to do that. One of them is that, we're looking at the leg here. I see all this highlighting, which is bringing the leg forward to us; where this frenzied line style allows for a lot of highlighting and shadowing, and the shadows recede. I see the artist wrestling with trying to give us a more three-dimensional view of Matthew, while at the same time the artist is missing badly in the footstool here and its very strange position in relation to where Matthew was actually sitting. Female 2: Yeah, and this awkward flattening. There's no foreshortening attempted in the stand for the book. It effectively presents the book to the viewer in an interesting way, and I think does emphasize the act of writing and composition, which is, of course, important for an evangelist. (music)