- Before 1500 BCE
- 1500 BCE to 500 BCE
- 500 BCE to 500 CE
- Sixth to Tenth Century
- Eleventh to Fourteenth Century
- Fifteenth Century
- Sixteenth Century
- Seventeenth Century
- Eighteenth Century
- Nineteenth Century
- Twentieth Century
- Twenty-first Century
- Geographic Area
- Central America
- Central and North Asia
- East Asia
- North America
- Northern Europe
- South America
- South Asia/South East Asia
- Southern Europe and Mediterranean
- West Asia
- Subject, Genre, Media, Artistic Practice
- African American/African Diaspora
- Ancient Egyptian/Near Eastern Art
- Ancient Greek/Roman Art
- Architectural History/Urbanism/Historic Preservation
- Art Education/Pedagogy/Art Therapy
- Art of the Ancient Americas
- Artistic Practice/Creativity
- Asian American/Asian Diaspora
- Ceramics/Metals/Fiber Arts/Glass
- Colonial and Modern Latin America
- Conceptual Art
- Decorative Arts
- Design History
- Digital Media/New Media/Web-Based Media
- Digital Scholarship/History
- Drawings/Prints/Work on Paper/Artistc Practice
- Fiber Arts and Textiles
- Folk Art/Vernacular Art
- Graphic/Industrial/Object Design
- Indigenous Peoples
- Installation/Environmental Art
- Islamic Art
- Material Culture
- Museum Practice/Museum Studies/Curatorial Studies/Arts Administration
- Native American/First Nations
- Patronage, Art Collecting
- Performance Art/Performance Studies/Public Practice
- Queer/Gay Art
- Sound Art
- Visual Studies
By the end of his career, Meyer Schapiro’s work had earned him virtually unanimous acclaim; art historians as different in their fields and approaches as T. J. Clark and John Pope-Hennessy placed him at the summit of the discipline.1 Now, six years after his death, his stature is unchanged. Thomas Crow has recently upheld Schapiro’s sixty-year old article on the sculptures of Souillac as a role model for theoretically engaged art historians whose concern with images leaves them frustrated by the logocentric origins of much contemporary theory.2 This call to imitate instead of avoid the past is highly unusual in art history today and suggests that unlike the writing of most of his peers, Schapiro’s scholarship is still alive and is read with more than historiographic interest. Additional evidence for his work’s continued life lies in the fact that most articles about Schapiro (including this one) are not critical but celebratory or explanatory; that is, rather than disagreeing with him, they praise and (attempt to) explain his success.3 Compared to the last twenty years of writing on Erwin Panofsky, the tone on Schapiro borders on the hagiographic. This is not altogether a good thing, for it suggests that art history has not fully reckoned with the issues most important to Schapiro. Otto Karl Werckmeister notes that Schapiro’s article “From Mozarabic to Romanesque at Silos” is “usually both praised and ignored by…specialists of medieval art in Spain.”4 One might also cite Schapiro’s paraphrase of Hans Sedlmayr’s evaluation of Alois Riegl: “The further development of [his] methods depends on the recognition of their weaknesses.”5 That said, there are certainly other, more positive reasons for the exceptional longevity of Schapiro’s work: his attention to art’s visual qualities, an attention accompanied by an empathy for the artist’s struggle to make his or her marks meaningful; the broad array of approaches he used to explore art’s relationship to its social context; and, finally, the discursive, open-ended nature of his work.
It may seem odd to praise an art historian for attending to the visual qualities of art, for many would take this as the discipline’s central task. And it is the centrality of that task, the fact that all art historians address it to a greater or lesser degree, that makes Schapiro’s example so widely relevant and prized. But one must note that Schapiro’s attention was also of a special sort that the study of medieval and modern art demanded during the formative stages of his career. Today, with these two periods securely fixed in the art-historical canon, scholars do not have to justify their study by explaining that their forms make sense. This was not always the case.
Schapiro’s work on modern art is filled with examples of analytic advocacy, responding to critics who regarded the work of this era as formless, chaotic, or meaningless. His famous visit to Willem de Kooning’s studio during the prolonged creation of Woman I is a case in point. De Kooning had been working on the painting for more than a year and, dissatisfied, had put it aside prior to Schapiro’s visit. Discussing the unfinished canvas with Schapiro, de Kooning was persuaded that this work was indeed viable; according to Thomas Hess, de Kooning declared himself satisfied with it soon after.6 Similarly, writing of Piet Mondrian, Schapiro specifically engages with early critics who saw the painter’s work as “extremely rigid, more a product of theory than of feeling.”7 Similarly, one of his most important articles on medieval art, “On the Aesthetic Attitude in Romanesque Art,” is cast as a response to opponents of modernism who used a romanticized notion of the devout medieval artist serving the church to criticize modern artists for their aloofness from society at large.8
Because the act of overcoming initial hostility or incomprehension is a required stage of modernism’s epic history, the demands Schapiro met here are still relatively clear today. It is easier to forget that he faced similar challenges in appraising medieval art’s formal qualities. The dominant mode for studying medieval art at the time remained iconographic, and formal questions had only recently become interesting. A decade before Schapiro’s birth, in his groundbreaking stylistic study of Gothic sculpture, Wilhelm Vöge had been compelled to ask, “What gives them their peculiar beauty? Why are they so odd, so deviant/degenerate? Why so hideous?”9 Thus, Schapiro’s early studies of medieval art were in part a rehabilitation project, requiring extended formal analysis and new stylistic criteria. His analytic advocacy is clearest in his studies of the sculpture of Souillac and the Mozarabic Beatus manuscript of Silos, works of doubtful canonicity even within medieval art. In his examinations of these works, Schapiro demonstrated that the very features which earlier art historians had considered as clumsy, accidental, or primitive were instead among the works’ most meaningful elements. Supplying both a grammar and dictionary, Schapiro’s convincing formal analyses offered unprecedented understanding of the visual languages of Romanesque and Mozarabic style. Paradoxically, their persuasiveness helped insure that Schapiro’s approach had few followers. No longer required to argue that these styles were valid, later art historians have not felt it necessary to subject them to a similarly extended visual analysis.
This is too bad, for the way Schapiro uses his detailed visual analyses to link form to content relies on assumptions about the making, meaning, and viewing of medieval art that deserve extended critical reflection. Michael Baxandall has demonstrated that different periods have different habits in attending to works of art, and Schapiro’s analyses result from a very modern attention to the objects. His careful regard of every visual detail as a discrete contribution to the composition and significance of the whole has evident ties to modern art produced in Surrealism’s wake, when the privileging of the automatic and the random made every mark in a work equally meaningful. In short, accidents were no longer accidental. Schapiro similarly avoids resorting to chance or ineptitude to explain the strangely irregular appearance of Souillac’s tympanum or the reductive forms of the Beatus. Indeed, his salvaging of these monuments allows us to imagine how, in his conversation with de Kooning, he demonstrated the meaningful interrelationship of different parts of Woman I. But that paintings is a very different sort of artifact than a Romanesque tympanum or a Mozarabic manuscript; postwar painters in New York worked with a very different understanding of artistic intention than twelfth-century sculptors or a monastic illuminators, and medieval viewers may have looked at their own objects in different ways. Thus, Schapiro’s groundbreaking attempt to link form and content invites further work on artistic production, intention, and reception in the Middle Ages.
Writing in the 1930s, Schapiro was not alone in his appreciation of the novel power of Romanesque style. In France, for example, his formal concerns were shared by Henri Focillon.10 Schapiro’s searching visual analysis of Romanesque and Mozarabic art, however, was closer in intent and sophistication to Riegl’s rehabilitation of late antique art. Schapiro had read Riegl and was very interested in Riegl’s heirs of the New Vienna School, whose Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen he reviewed in The Art Bulletin.11 Schapiro praised the group for “the intensity and intelligence with which they examine formal arrangements and invent new terms for describing them.”12 However, Schapiro also criticized these scholars for failing to situate their formal analyses in a historical context: “The authors often tend to isolate forms from the historical conditions of their development, to propel them by mythical, racial-psychological constants, or to give them an independent, self-evolving career. Entities like race, spirit, will, and idea are substituted in an animistic manner for a real analysis of historical factors.”13
This critical appraisal of the New Vienna School might be taken for the manifesto Schapiro never wrote, for his most important and ambitious work combines an intense and intelligent formal examination with a “real analysis of [the] historical factors” that informed a work’s creation. Schapiro’s recognition that form, content, and context had to be assessed together engaged him in an exceptionally wide range of methods and approaches, including iconology, Marxist social history, psychoanalysis, and semiotics. This methodological breadth is the second major reason for his appeal today, for it has allowed his work to endure and even profit from the dramatic changes art history has undergone in recent decades. As various approaches rise and fall from favor, different facets of his work move to the foreground.
For example, when the iconological approach traditionally associated with Panofsky dominated research in fifteenth-century art, Schapiro’s article on Robert Campin’s Mérode altar stood out.14 He starts by linking the mousetrap Joseph fashions to the patristic idea that Christ’s humanity was a trap for the devil. This use of earlier texts to interpret the representation of an everyday object as a theological symbol is common in iconological analysis. However, Schapiro then frames this symbolic interpretation in its social context by considering Joseph’s importance in the late Middle Ages, as well as the mousetrap’s broader connotations of cleanliness and sexuality. The result is a finely nuanced interpretation of the painting where “the different layers of meaning sustain each other: the domestic world furnishes the objects for the poetic and theological symbols of Mary’s purity and the miraculous presence of God; the religious-social conception of the family provides the ascetic figure and occupation of Joseph; the theologian’s metaphor of redemption, the mousetrap, is, at the same time, a rich condensation of symbols of the diabolical and the erotic and their repression; the trap is both a female object and the means of destroying sexual temptation.”15 This article is a wonderful iconological study. It is particularly noteworthy that by considering the domestic significance of the mousetrap Schapiro attains the seldom-reached third level of iconology set out by Panofsky that deals not with the work’s primary and conventional subject matter, but with “its intrinsic meaning or content.”16 Schapiro also avoids the sterile pillaging of Jacques-Paul Migne’s Patrologia Latina for which later iconologists have been criticized. Nevertheless, if all of his articles followed the iconological approach exemplified in this article, his work, like iconology, would now be in eclipse.
But Schapiro was a fox, not a hedgehog, and iconology was not the only quiver in his bow. As a Marxist, Schapiro was interested in historical conflicts and tensions within society, and contemporary Marxist debates about the proper style for a revolutionary art had also sensitized him to art’s role in these clashes.17 Thus, some of his most adventurous articles on medieval art see it as expressing social tension and conflict. For Schapiro this clash is essentially between ecclesiastical and secular understandings of the world: the former static and aiming for eternity, the latter temporal, mutable, and down-to-earth. Schapiro associates the secular worldview with the class of burghers and town-dwellers, which Marxism identifies as the engine of historical development in this period. Schapiro also assigns artists a primary role in developing and depicting this outlook (not surprisingly, given his own socialist politics and famous empathy for artists).
This approach is manifest in Schapiro’s study of Souillac. This building’s tympanum portrays the Legend of Theophilus and is supported by a trumeau composed of the regularly interlaced bodies of ferocious, devouring beasts. Schapiro notes that the tympanum’s depiction of Theophilus is very unusual, such prominent locations usually being reserved for images of Christ. Additionally, the tympanum’s three-part narrative is equally unorthodox, as is the “discoordinate” composition’s negation of traditional axial symmetry. For Schapiro, these departures from the traditional hierarchies of medieval art indicate an ecclesiastical attempt to use sculpture to harness and contain the secular energy generated by the region’s developing economy. “The decentralizing episodic forms and discoordinate schemes, the antithetic mobility of the figures, the concreteness and energy of presentation, in contrast to the traditional centralized, symbolic designs, presuppose the broader conception of the active, morally divided individual, at once Christian and secular, whose struggles are resolved in the religious legends of the church. The social and economic development which indirectly evoked the new programs of imagery in the church also promoted the freedom of the sculptor, and suggested to him within the framework of spiritualistic and ascetic conceptions more naturalistic forms, a more articulated and flexible composition, to satisfy the new norms of lay experience.”18
Schapiro’s study of the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos adds a new element to the tension between the sacred and the secular. He is concerned with two works produced there in the same years: a Beatus manuscript painted in the Mozarabic style traditional in early medieval Spain, and the cloister sculpture carved in a Romanesque style introduced during the Reconquista. Schapiro posits that the presence of an archaic style alongside a new one in the monastery indicates that style was a vehicle for larger social allegiances. Therefore, Mozarabic style was preserved as a conservative gesture of ecclesiastical continuity at a time when Spain’s liturgy, script, and art were being displaced in favor of new models from the other side of the Pyrenees. The recognition that style was a matter of conscious individual choice and not a historical inevitability is tremendously important. It acknowledges artists as the creators of style, instead of treating them as mere vehicles for an impersonal kunstwollen; additionally, Schapiro’s account suggests how styles can have a political utility.
In retrospect, of course, these articles are not flawless. Werckmeister points out that the clash between secular and church interests is described in “vague” terms that lack the specificity of Schapiro’s discussion of style or iconography. Additionally, Werckmeister notes that “Schapiro’s incessant invocation of burghers and artisans, towns and communes as the driving force of artistic progress is matched by his silence about the monks as a social group. The social group for which the art…was made becomes invisible behind the contending abstractions of ‘church’ and ‘secular interests.’”19
That Schapiro himself was aware that his opposition of the church to the secular might have been too clear-cut is suggested by the more careful use of the terms in his “The Image of the Disappearing Christ.” This article documents the Anglo-Saxon invention of the ascension iconography that shows Christ rising into a cloud which obscures all but his lower legs.20 This new iconography replaced earlier, more hieratic depictions of the event that portrayed Christ’s entire body surrounded by a mandorla. For Schapiro, the new iconography indicates a lively interest in how events actually looked. Schapiro believed that this attention to optical phenomena was a timeless hallmark of the artist, and his unstinting admiration for all forms of visual creativity led him to credit Anglo-Saxon illuminators with an inventive and “precocious” empiricism. Linking it with novel, anecdotal details included in other illustrations of sacred history, he sees here “a real emancipation of art, a widening of its scope and possibilities, since each of these little details stands in contrast to the older method of envisaging the material of the artist and marks a fresh conquest of experience.”21 Schapiro situates this development with extraordinary nuance and precision: “The empirical and the vernacular here are not identical…with the secular, by which they are so largely conditioned, nor are they antithetic to the religious as such, though opposed to certain of its forms; for it is within religious art and religious life that these new attitudes operate.”22 This balanced appraisal, and the refusal to make overly bold claims, are also hallmarks of his work.
Nonetheless, recent research reveals that this analysis is to some degree an anachronistic idealization. Robert Deshman has argued that the iconography was devised for exactly opposite intentions.23 Drawing on medieval theology, he points out that by removing his physical human body from view, Christ’s ascension enabled his followers to recognize his immaterial divine being. For Deshman, then, the image is about the weakness, not the power, of corporeal vision.
Werckmeister’s and Deshman’s critiques raise the question whether Schapiro committed some of the same faults he criticized in the New Vienna School: Did he replace their ahistorical notions of race or nation with an equally ahistorical notion of a struggle between ecclesiastical and secular interests and worldviews? In short, the answer is no. While some of Schapiro’s connections between the works and contemporary cultural stresses may now be regarded as oversimplified, his emphasis that form and iconography were best understood in their immediate and concrete contemporary context is an enduring contribution to art history. As he wrote in his Silos study, “A more comprehensive study might lead us to change the conclusions; but it would have to follow the method employed here, the critical correlation of the forms and meanings in the images with historical conditions of the same period and region.”24 History bears him out. His political understanding of style remains current in medieval art history and has obvious significance for postcolonial studies as well.25 Additionally, Schapiro’s study of art as a site for conflicting social viewpoints also serves as a precedent for many recent art-historical studies.26
One final aspect of Schapiro’s scholarship has kept it young: his intellectual equipoise, which is coupled with a willingness to admit what is not known (this discursive, open-ended nature of his work is often lost in historiographic essays like mine).27 “Style” offers the best example of his even-handed openness. Having reviewed many important earlier attempts to explain style, Schapiro concludes: “A theory of style adequate to the psychological and historical problem has still to be created.”28 Identifying gaps in our understanding and inviting rather than foreclosing further debate and questions, papers like his reward multiple readings and never grow old.
Having outlined some of the intellectual reasons for Schapiro’s continuing presence in art history, it is worth concluding by thinking about his other meanings to medieval art history. I noted earlier the celebratory tone of much writing about Schapiro. This tone suggests that he is more than just a great art historian; he is also a hero figure, with a certain talismanic quality.
For example, Schapiro’s work provides a comforting alternative genealogy for much contemporary art history. Just as the evaluation of Marcel Duchamp’s significance to modern art changes in reaction to current artistic production, so too has Schapiro’s standing risen in the last two decades, as his methodological commitments appeared to pave the way for a more explicitly theoretical art history. Thus, Schapiro’s writings provide historiographic roots for medievalists who would not connect themselves with traditional formalist or iconographic approaches that once dominated the discipline.29
Additionally, the connections that Schapiro forged between medieval and modern art help reassure medievalists that their work has a contemporary meaning. This function is suggested by the oft-repeated story of Schapiro taking artists (among them Matta and Fernand Léger) to see the Morgan Beatus manuscript. Matta based a painting on the visit, and Schapiro claimed to see the effects of the visit on Léger’s art.30 Imagine: a medievalist, accustomed to working on dead anonymous artists, using his old, old subject to inspire celebrated living artists! On the one hand, the example is an inspiration to medievalists, suggesting that our field and subject is not an obscure academic byway, but can truly speak to the present. On the other hand, the example is as likely to dismay as inspire; Michael Camille, for one, noted that the art world’s increased geographic and cultural spread prevents any medievalist today from playing a similar role, even if he or she had the capability or desire.31
Art history has grown as well; its increased scale and diversity have diminished medieval art’s importance to the field at large. In this way, too, the prominence Schapiro enjoyed outside the field of medieval studies may inspire melancholy in today’s medievalists by suggesting that their specialty has been shunted aside—like Christ from Souillac—by new and competing voices. However, Schapiro’s work does offer a cure for this melancholy. Studying the role of medieval art in his corpus of publications suggests the shape of an hourglass or, perhaps, the mystic mill on a twelfth-century capital at Vézelay. From the very beginning of his career he was clearly reading widely, as his review of the New Vienna School demonstrates, with the goal of understanding the specialized field of medieval art. His insight here undoubtedly benefits from that wide reading, but it also profits when tested on and against medieval art. Schapiro’s medieval studies refined what he had read and paved the way for essays such as “Style” and “On Some Problems in the Semiotics of Visual Art: Field and Vehicle in Image-Signs”32 and his book, Words, Script, and Pictures: Semiotics of Visual Language.33 Though these are broad, synthetic essays addressed to art history as a whole, they owe much of their power and insight to their author’s earlier work on problems posed with particular acuity in medieval art.34 In Words, Script, and Pictures, for instance, the larger theoretical problem is treated with specific medieval examples, and it was indeed the confrontation with these objects that probably prompted this investigation. Similarly, while the schematic horizontal and vertical rectangles in “On Some Problems in the Semiotics of Visual Art” suggest blueprints for Minimalist sculpture, similarly “non-mimetic” elements figure prominently in the medieval manuscripts Schapiro studied. In addition, medieval art, more than any other, denaturalizes the rectangular frame that has dominated painting since the Renaissance. Here, then, Schapiro demonstrates that the study of medieval art speaks to art-historical issues that are at once fundamental and current.
1 T. J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 3–5; John Pope-Hennessy, Learning to Look (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 266–67, 306–7.
2 “The Sculptures of Souillac,” Medieval Studies in Honor of A. Kingsley Porter, ed. W. R. W. Koehler, (Cambridge, MA, 1939), reprinted in his Romanesque Art (New York: George Braziller, 1977), 102–30, is discussed in Crow’s The Intelligence of Art (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 1–23.
3 The most important exception to this rule is Otto Karl Werckmeister’s review of the papers collected in Schapiro’s Romanesque Art, Art Quarterly (Spring 1979): 211–18.
4 Schapiro’s article was first published in The Art Bulletin 21 (1939) and reprinted in Romanesque Art, 27–101. Werckmeister cites it in “Jugglers in a Monastery,” Oxford Art Journal 17 (1994): 61.
5 “The New Viennese School,” The Art Bulletin 18 (1936): 258–66, reprinted in Christopher S. Wood, The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s (New York: Zone Books, 2000), 453–85, at 458.
6 Thomas B. Hess, “De Kooning Paints a Picture,” Artnews 52 (1953): 20–33, 64; Thomas B. Hess, “Sketch for a Portrait of the Art Historian Among Artists,” Social Research 45 (1978): 11–12; Marla Prather, “Catalogue,” in David Sylvester, Richard Schiff, and Marla Prather, Willem de Kooning Paintings (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 128.
7 “Mondrian. Order and Randomness in Abstract Painting,” in Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries (New York: George Braziller, 1978), 233.
8 In K. Bharatha Iyer, ed., Art and Thought: Issued in Honor of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday (London: Luzac and Company Ltd., 1947), reprinted in Romanesque Art, 1–27.
9 Die Anfänge des monumentalen Stiles im Mittelalter. Eine Untersuchung über die erste Blütezeit der französischen Plastik (Strasbourg: J. Heitz, 1894), quoted in Willibald Sauerländer, Gothic Sculpture in France 1140–1270, trans. J. Sondheimer (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1972), 7. For Vöge, see Kathryn Brush, The Shaping of Art History: Wilhelm Vöge, Adolph Goldschmidt, and the Study of Medieval Art (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 57–114.
10 Schapiro’s “On Geometrical Schematism in Romanesque Art” (originally published in German in Kritische Berichte zur Kunstgeschichtlichen Literatur [1932–33] and reprinted in Romanesque Art, 265–84, is a very critical review of a book by Focillon’s student Jurgis Baltrusaitis, La Stylistique Ornementale dans la Sculpture Romane. The review may be considered a response to Focillon’s method, and it is clear that Focillon certainly thought of it that way. See Walter B. Cahn, “Schapiro and Focillon,” Gesta 41 (2002): 129–36, Werckmeister’s review of Schapiro’s Romanesque Art, 212, and Michael Camille “ ‘How New York Stole the Idea of Romanesque Art’: Medieval, Modern, and Postmodern in Meyer Schapiro,” Oxford Art Journal 17 (1994): 67.
11 “New Viennese School,” 453–85.
12 “New Viennese School,” 453.
13 “New Viennese School,” 459. Schapiro objected in particular to the idea of constant racial or national traits. For Schapiro’s correspondence with Otto Pächt on this subject, see Jonathan J. G. Alexander, “Medieval Art and Modern Nationalism,” in Gale R. Owen-Crocker and Timothy Graham, eds., Medieval Art: Recent Perspectives. A memorial tribute to C. R. Dodwell (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), 217–20. Schapiro makes a similar critique in “Style,” originally published in A. L. Kroeber, ed., Anthropology Today: An Encyclopedic Inventory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 287–312, reprinted in Schapiro, Theory and Philosophy of Art: Style, Artist, and Society (New York: George Braziller, 1994), 51–102, esp. 86–89.
14 “ ‘Muscipula Diaboli,’ The Symbolism of The Mérode Altarpiece,” The Art Bulletin 27 (1945): 182–87, reprinted in Late Antique, Early Christian, and Medieval Art (New York: George Braziller, 1979), 1–11.
15 “ ‘Muscipula Diaboli,’ The Symbolism of The Mérode Altarpiece,” 9.
16 Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939, reprinted New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 7. Although Panofsky and Schapiro worked in close geographic and disciplinary proximity, at first glance their careers appear to be largely independent from each other. Some connections, however, are visible. Schapiro’s essay on the Mérode altar cites Panofsky’s famous article on van Eyck’s Arnolfini portrait (18 n. 31), and Panofsky in turn praises Schapiro’s interpretation as “brilliant” in his Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), 164–65. The two were also in personal contact: for example, Panofsky thanks Schapiro for a bibliographic reference in his Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of Saint Denis and its Art Treasures (first published in 1946, 2nd ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 231. More suggestively, in the same work Panofsky praises Bernard of Clairvaux’s Apologia as an acute description of Romanesque sculpture, saying that “a modern art historian would thank God on his knees for the ability to write…so truly evocatory a description of a decorative ensemble in the ‘Cluniac manner’; the one phrase deformis formositas ac formosa deformitas tells us more about the spirit of Romanesque sculpture than many pages of stylistic analysis,” 25. Though Schapiro is not named, it is tempting to think that he was at least one of the “modern” art historians whom Panofsky had in mind, as he more than any other was famous at this point for his “many pages of stylistic analysis” of Romanesque sculpture. And Schapiro’s article “On the Aesthetic Attitude in Romanesque Art,” published the following year, accords Bernard’s text a crucial place, with special attention to the phrase Panofsky had singled out, 6–10; the same essay also cites Panofsky’s “admirable” translation of Suger, 26, n. 20. Panofsky again thanks Schapiro for a reference in his Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (Latrobe, PA: Saint Vincent Archabbey, 1951), 101, n. 35. Two years later, Schapiro refers to Panofsky’s book indirectly in “Style,” writing that “the attempts to derive style from thought are often too vague to yield more than suggestive aperçus: the method breeds analogical speculations which do not hold up under detailed critical study. The history of the analogy between the Gothic cathedral and scholastic theology is an example. The common element in these two contemporary creations has been found in their rationalism and their irrationality, their idealism and their naturalism, their encyclopedic completeness and their striving for infinity, and recently in their dialectical method [this last clause refers to Panofsky’s work],” 85. These points of contact suggest that we could use a study of the relationship between the two scholars, following the model of Cahn’s article on Schapiro and Focillon. Since the two were the two most important art historians in the United States at the time, such a study might tell us a great deal about American art history in the middle of the twentieth century.
17 Andrew Hemingway, “Meyer Schapiro and Marxism in the 1930s,” Oxford Art Journal 17 (1994): 13–29.
18 “Sculptures of Souillac,” 122–23.
19 Werckmeister, review of Romanesque Art, 215. Werckmeister discusses the Silos Beatus in a specifically monastic context in “The Image of the ‘Jugglers’ in the Beatus of Silos,” in Elizabeth Sears and Thelma K. Thomas, eds., Reading Medieval Images: The Art Historian and the Object (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 128–39.
20 Gazette des Beaux-Arts Series 6, 23 (1943), 135–52, reprinted in Late Antique, Early Christian, and Medieval Art (New York: George Braziller, 1979), 266–87.
21 “Disappearing Christ,” 281.
22 “Disappearing Christ,” 285.
23 “Another Look at the Disappearing Christ: Corporeal and Spiritual Vision in Early Medieval Images,” The Art Bulletin 79 (1997): 518–46.
25 Caroline Bruzelius, “Ad modum franciae: Charles of Anjou and Gothic Architecture in the Kingdom of Sicily,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 50 (1991): 402–20.
26 To cite but two representative examples, Barbara Abou-El-Haj, “Bury St Edmunds Abbey between 1070 and 1124: A History of Property, Privilege, and Monastic Over-Production,” Art History 6 (1983): 1–29; Michael Camille, “Labouring for the Lord: The Ploughman and the Social Order in the Luttrell Psalter,” Art History 10 (1987): 423–54.
27 John Plummer’s essay on Schapiro gives a good account of the open-ended nature of his work, “Insight and Outlook,” Social Research 45 (1978): 164–75.
28 “Style,” 100.
29 Like postmodern art historians, Schapiro criticized American art history for its “disinterest” in theory, lamenting in his essay on the New Vienna School that “it is notorious how little American writing on art history has been touched by the progressive work of our psychologists, philosophers, and ethnologists,” in Wood, Vienna School, 462. At the same time, Schapiro’s very success argues against an overly reductive understanding of American art history in these years.
30 Schapiro, “The Beatus Apocalypse of Gerona,” Artnews 61 (1963), reprinted in Late Antique, Early Christian and Medieval Art, 326. See also Helen Epstein, “Meyer Schapiro: A Passion to Know and Make Known,” ARTnews 82 no. 5 (1983): 61–62, Hess, “Sketch for a Portrait,” 7 and Charles Pierce, “Preface,” in John Williams, A Spanish Apocalypse The Morgan Beatus Manuscript (New York: George Braziller, 1991), 7.
31 “How New York Stole the Idea of Romanesque Art,” 69.
32 Semiotica 1 (1969), reprinted in Theory and Philosophy of Art, 1–32.
33 New York: George Braziller, 1996.
34 Thus, while Camille (1994) and Werckmeister (1979) have argued that these late works break from Schapiro’s political interpretation of art, the essays also continue the investigation of how form creates and carries meaning that animated Schapiro’s first art historical studies.
Please send comments about this review to firstname.lastname@example.org.