Home » London Book Review - Non Fiction » Book Review : Masterpiec​es of Early Medieval Art by Sonja Marzinzik

Book Review : Masterpiec​es of Early Medieval Art by Sonja Marzinzik


Early Medieval Art by Sonja Marzinzik

The recent opening of the new Sutton Hoo Gallery  at the British Museum has allowed the Museum to find a fitting new home for many of their Early Medieval masterpieces. This book Masterpieces, Early Medieval Art has been published as a companion piece  to the new gallery and tells some of the stories behind the  treasures of the collection. Lavishly illustrated, the stunning photography is complemented by in depth analysis of each object and providing insight into the artefacts creation and its significance in the Early Medieval world. LycurgusCup

The Lycurgus Cup (Roman) c.AD 290 – 325

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The book covers the period from AD 300 and 1100 between the late Roman world and the early Middle ages but is divided into thematic sections which provides historical geographic context for the artefacts.

The first section discusses some of the treasures of the late Roman world, perhaps the most iconic artefact from this era in the collection is the Lycurgus Cup. The extremely rare and precious glass object whose colour changes from green to red when light shines though it  is likely to have been owned by an high status Roman in AD 290 -325.


Marriage Ring (Late Roman or early Byzantine) Late 4th to early 5th century AD

© The Trustees of the British Museum

 The next section is the Byzantium section which considers the period where East meets West and religious subjects created by  skilled goldsmiths and silversmiths are increasingly popular amongst the power elites in Europe and beyond. OpenworkPlaque

Openwork Plaque (Late Roman/early Byzantine) 4th century AD

© The Trustees of the British Museum

 The Anglo Saxon section illustrates the remarkable flowering of high quality craftsmanship in jewellery, weaponry and carvings. The remarkable finds at Sutton Hoo  have provided evidence of the incredible wealth accumulated by the Anglo Saxon power elites.

The next section entitled the Great Migration consider how the migrations of tribal groups not only had a physical effect but was a transmission of ideas that created  multiple influences in Art and Crafts.

The penultimate section  consider how the Vikings beliefs often influenced their Art and how Viking Hoards reflect the looting from a number of religious institutions all over Europe.

The final section looks at the way  the Celtic sphere produced some of the some of the most stunning art from the period. The importance of books such as this is they provide evidence to dispel the myths that this period were the “Dark Ages” and populated by Barbarians.

Another  particular interesting aspect of the book is it relates where many of the artefacts were found and how they made their  way to the British Museum. What it also confirms is that the wonderful collection illustrated in this book should be celebrated as Masterpieces of any age, never mind the Early Medieval period.

If you are interested in this period and considering a visit the new gallery, this book is an invaluable resource with over 250 illustrations  and in depth essays on over 150 objects.

It will also appeal to general readers who will be entertained by the incredible range of artefacts which express all aspects of Early Medieval life.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you want to buy a copy of the Book press here


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow me on Twitter


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: