The art of the medieval era was primarily executed in the service of the Church and is often perceived as serious in message. In this lavishly illustrated book, Janetta Rebold Benton overturns this notion, revealing the amusing, unexpected, and even risque elements that coloured medieval art and architecture.
From the carving of a poacher being cooked on a spit by a rabbit to a spoon painted with a fox preaching to geese; from the sculpture of a man squashed under the weight of a pillar to a tapestry showing a unicorn sticking out its tongue, the art and architecture of the Middle Ages teem with humour. Stonemasons and woodcarvers were able to leave their very personal mark and find expression for their native wit in the huge buildings of medieval Europe. Their mischief could be artfully camouflaged among pious and noble images, and there was clearly enjoyment in poking fun at the establishment. Yet the purpose of these clever images was unlikely to be limited to amusement. For a largely illiterate population, visual messages were far more potent than the written word. The Church was certainly aware of this, using art such as the carving on Atun Cathedral of an angel and a devil weighing souls - and both cheating - to instruct their congregation.
Janetta Rebold Benton offers rich and revealing insights into the medieval mentality, sense of humour and approach to life, bringing together some of the most delightful examples of medieval visual humour in a collection that will continue to amuse and entertain today.