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Architectural Polychromy and the Painters' Trade in Medieval Spain

Melissa R. Katz
Gesta
Vol. 41, No. 1, Artistic Identity in the Late Middle Ages (2002), pp. 3-14
DOI: 10.2307/767201
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767201
Page Count: 13
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Architectural Polychromy and the Painters' Trade in Medieval Spain
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Abstract

Bridging the crafts of panel painting, wall painting, sculpture, and architecture, architectural polychromy once provided steady employment for medieval painters. Teams of workers were required to decorate vast expanses of carved façades, sculpted portals, and vaulted interiors. Little exterior polychromy has survived, owing to factors as diverse as changing tastes, religious disapprobation, and exposure to the elements. This loss distorts our impression of medieval architectural sculpture and prevents us from grasping the integral relationship between sculpted form and colored surface in medieval art. In addition, the heterogeneous character of medieval painters' tasks is obscured. This paper explores the role of medieval painters in the decoration of architectural sculpture and other carved images. The polychromed portal of the Collegiate Church of Toro, painted somewhere between 1284 and 1295, serves as the starting point for an investigation into artistic practices and workshop organization in central Spain in the thirteenth century and later. Contemporary guild regulations, inventories, chancery records, and manuscript illumination also provide evidence concerning the late medieval painters' trade.

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