Quote of the Week: Kenneth Clark, “Civilisation”

NPG P1153; Kenneth Clark, Baron Clark by Bernard Lee ('Bern') SchwartzHistorians usually consider the tenth century almost as dark and barbarous as the seventh. That is because they look at it from the point of view of political history and the written word. If we read what Ruskin called the book of its art, we get a very different impression, because, contrary to all expectation, the tenth century produced work as splendid and as technically skillful, even as delicate, as any other age. Not for the last time in studying civilisation one learns how hard it is to equate art and society. The amount of art is astonishing. The princely patrons like Lothar and Charles the Bold commissioned quantities of manuscripts, with jeweled book covers, and sent them as gifts to their fellow rulers or to important ecclesiastics. An age when these beautify things could be valued as instruments of persuasion could not have been wholly barbarous.”

▪ Sir Kenneth Clark, Civilisation (John Murray, 1969) extract from page 24.

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