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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 October 2017
This is a very useful publication but one which suffers one severe weakness. I'll mention this later.

Edward Tasker died before his book was published in 1993. His is a survey with profuse examples of all kinds of representations in medieval ecclesiastical architecture and furnishings. Not only is stone sculpture covered, but examples are also drawn from the likes of stained glass, roof bosses, misericords, and wall paintings. These illustrations of the medieval mind are by far largely confined to England, although references to European examples occasionally occur. Many of the usual suspects appear: the stained glass at Fairford and at St Neots, the bosses of Norwich Cathedral, the sculptures above the arcade of Salisbury Cathedral's chapter house, the carved wooden apostles at Blytheburgh. But there are plenty of examples from other places too, of which this inveterate church crawler was unaware.

The book's 320 pages are split into nine chapters, each with a short introduction followed by listings in alphabetical order. It is a reference book rather than a book to sit down and read. The first two chapters cover the old and new testaments, Tasker noting how for the latter, somewhat surprisingly, "The ministry of Christ receives scant attention." And we can guess why a rich church might reflect that. Chapter three focuses on the life of Mary. The shortest chapter (at four pages) is the fourth, which features representations of the godhead.

In contrast, the longest chapter is the fifth: eighty pages covering the wide range of representations of the saints. The teachings of the church itself is the subject of chapter six, with examples from the Agnus Dei and angels through to the four western doctors of the church. 'Creatures Natural and Mythical' is the title of the seventh chapter (Amphisbaena to the Yale), whilst everyday scenes (from alewives to wrestling) is the focus of chapter eight. The final chapter takes a look at representations of medieval stories and proverbs before a bibliography and index bring the volume to an end.

Tasker's work provides insights but is not without problems. In regard to the former, he notes for example how, of the nativity, "medieval artists were influenced by other writings": some representations have midwives present and some are set in a cave. With regard to the latter, Tasker often makes assertions with no evidence, such as "In the early Church, Christ was at first represented as Orpheus." Sometimes he seems too self-assured in his interpretations.

But the main issue I have with this book is that all the representations are reproduced in monochrome. Duh! Whilst this might hold good for sculpture and woodwork it is quite hopeless for the photographs of stained glass and wall paintings.
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on 24 March 2011
Thorough and authoratative encyclopedia covering major aspects of medieval imagery which might be found in a church or cathedral: Old and New Testament, St Mary the Virgin, Saints, the Church, natural and mythical creatures, everyday scenes, stories and proverbs.
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on 19 October 2007
A very well presented and easy to understand book. Lots of well taken photographs and detailed explanations.
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