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Ottonian art


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Term applied to art of the Holy Roman empire in the 10th century and most of the 11th century. The period is named after Otto the Great, who was crowned king of the Germans in 936 and was Holy Roman emperor from 963 until his death in 973. He re-established a strong royal authority after the fall of the Carolingian empire. The Ottonian period saw the revival of large-scale bronze casting (see Bernward of Hildesheim) and of life-size sculpture (in the celebrated Gero Crucifix of c.970 in Cologne Cathedral), but the most typical sculptural products of the time were in ivory and metalwork, notably for book covers and altar reliefs. Though wall paintings still survive, the character of Ottonian art is better seen in a rich store of illuminated manuscripts. In spite of differences in local schools, all Ottonian illumination has certain things in common, notably the prominence given to the human figure, which is often imbued with strong expression and marked by exaggerated gestures. Ottonian art was one of the sources out of which Romanesque grew.


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