Medieval art that inspired Game of Thrones by Getty

Call it art history and HBO.

Fighting castles, knights on horseback, wizards in wide robes and long-necked, roaring dragons fill Getty Center galleries this summer. The new exhibition shines at the crossroads of medieval life and pop culture, showcasing ancient medieval artifacts that have inspired decades of literature, television, animation and live-action movies, as well as pop culture performances of the era.

The objects on display in medieval fantasy – from Getty’s permanent collection, as well as loans from various collections in California – include paintings and prints, photographs, and handmade books dating back to the 14th century. One of them, a small prayer book from the 15th century, is leather-bound with egg-based tempera and leaf gold on parchment. Costume and background research on films such as Disney’s 1959 is also on display “Sleeping Beauty” as well as a huge book of props that opened Disney 1963 film “Sword in the stone.” A hand-painted resin item with leather hooks and a metallic diary-like lock was shown in the film over a velvet spread, and its large pages slowly turned to keep pace with the narrator’s musical speech to start the story.

The exhibition was born out of the museum’s popular social media campaign, “Getty of Thrones,” launched in 2014. The campaign first appeared on Tumblr, then on Instagram; The Getty curators summarized the episodes of the TV series “Throne game” using images from the museum’s collections. Continues in it a participatory do-it-yourself spirit, a Part of the exhibition includes personal items borrowed from Getty’s staff. Toys, DVDs, copy swords, hats and Halloween costumes – including Morgan le Fay and Merlin’s Ken and Barbie dolls, dragon Beanie Babies, Dungeons & Dragons miniatures and the board game HeroQuest – show how far pop culture has come. and our focus on consumption extends to the Middle Ages.

“People were really interested in it and they started asking us a lot,” curator Larisa Grollemond of the exhibition says of the “Getty of Thrones” campaign. They wanted to know, ‘What is true here? What is based on history? Is there anything from the actual Middle Ages that appears? ‘Throne game?’ “

The answer is more nuanced than you might expect, Grollemond says. Much of what we think we know from the Middle Ages is based on retelling stories that have happened for centuries, unlike real history. It’s a long series of self-referential and ever-evolving stories, some of which are accurate and much of it full of fantastic tropical types like fairies, trolls and other magical creatures.

The exhibition deals with less individual connections between a particular subject and a particular film or TV show, Grollemond. says, and adds “the way these visual features are Middle Ages transmitted, adapted and translated over time in our culture and the way it becomes pop culture. “

The “Game of Thrones,” a performance inspired by countless sources of medieval narratives, reflects the vast prism of this stratification.

“It’s trying to look historically accurate,” Grollemond says of the show, “because it uses historical places, some of the costumes are based on medieval examples, and the scenery is often based on medieval art – but it’s a work of fantasy.”

Here’s what Grollemond had to say about several of the exhibits that have provided narrative “connective tissue” for centuries, feeding their attachment to medieval life.

Engraving on the column marking

“Stairs of Christ Church” (1879)

(San Francisco Art Museum, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts)

This is a 19th century print of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford – if you are “Harry Potter” fan, you might recognize it as one of the entrances to Hogwarts. This was probably not something the filmmakers looked at directly. In the performance, it represents the long history of these medieval spaces in the visual media. One of the things of particular interest in modern medieval times is that movies and TV shows often depict real medieval art or in real medieval places. And that’s especially true for things like that “Harry Potter” – I think JK Rowling describes Hogwarts in a book as a giant castle with a series of towers and towers, that’s it. So when it came time to bring Hogwarts to life, the medieval English Gothic architecture becomes the architectural fabric of films.

A colorful drawing of a castle on a hilltop that would become Disney's Princess Rose Castle.

Eyvind Earle’s concept art for Walt Disney Productions’ 1959 film “Sleeping Beauty.”

(© Disney Enterprises Inc.)

This is inspired directly by medieval art. It’s a concept study of the background to Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” movie. Artist Eyvind Earle made all the backgrounds for the film. We know he was interested in a medieval script. Here is truly a cadence of medieval art – the flatness, stylized vegetation and large blocks of color that characterized French lighting from the 15th century. There’s a reference to the landscape in the background, but it kind of looks fantastic, unreal. This image is from a 15th-century French manuscript that we know he probably looked at quite closely.

A costume drawing of a woman in a long dress with a robe.

Costume research for Morgan le Fay in the 1948 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”

(Museum Associates / LACMA)

This is a costume study for Morgan le Fay’s character in the 1948 film “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” He is the main character in Arthur’s stories, a wizard or a witch. This study is so interesting that it reads almost like a 30s or 40s women’s fashion magazine – it has elements that refer to a medieval costume or one that has become a well-known medieval costume, such as a flying cloak or detailed embroidery. But the neckline outside the shoulders is something you wouldn’t see in medieval costumes or fancy headdresses. It reads medieval enough For 20th century audiences, but also takes a lot of clues to contemporary American fashion. It speaks of the flexibility of the Middle Ages in the minds of modern creators, but it is also another step in the evolution of the Middle Ages — every new iteration, every new retelling, is a sign of the time and place where it was created. .

Page of the illuminated manuscript.

14th century manuscript “Tristan saves King Arthur” (1320-1340).

(Getty Museum)

This manuscript from our collection tells the story of a roundtable knight, Tristan. I always compare Arthur’s universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the sense that there’s a central group of characters out there and they all get their mark in terms of literary reading and film later. But this script is dedicated to Tristan. It originated in France and is a 14th century copy of the romance of the good knight Tristan. Each script is a unique work of art. In some cases, there are multiple copies of the same story, but none is exactly the same because you get a different artist who makes the pictures, a different scribe who writes the text, so each surviving medieval script is unique. exemplary.

A colorful example of a riding knight fighting a winged dragon.

“St. George and the Dragon,” 1450–1455, Prayer Book.

(Getty Museum)

This is a manuscript from our collection, a small prayer book. I chose it because we think so much of the Middle Ages in this colorful, dramatic place. The scene is that St. George kills the dragon, but he is dressed in this heroic knight who will save this maiden dressed as if the princess had dressed. The castle in the background looks much the same “Cinderella” castle or “Sleeping Beauty” castle. It kind of contributes to this medieval idea that we have been given, but which is already beginning to be present in medieval art. Such a medieval romantic idea appears in movies and television, especially since the 1990s – as e.g. “The First Knight” With Sean Connery. It’s an Arthur story, a retelling of that legend that portrays the Middle Ages as a very nostalgic, romantic place full of heroic knights and girls in need.

An example of a knight in a robe on a horse's back.

Page of Howard Pyle’s “The Happy Adventures of the Blessed Robin Hood in Nottinghamshire” (1883).

(Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA)

Robin Hood is a story that has been moved from medieval literature and then repackaged, popular with new audiences. This is an illustrated version of Howard Pyle from the early 20th century. It is becoming really popular especially among children. It kind of transforms the medieval story and the centuries-old retelling by adding these great illustrations and simplifying the language. And it awakens the new popularity of these medieval stories among children in the early 20th century. This version of the story reinforces Robin Hood’s character and the characters around him for a new generation, who then takes the idea and repackages it into a Disney story. And we still have so many versions of Robin Hood in modern film.

“Medieval Fantasy”

Where: Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles

When: 10:00 to 17:30 Tuesdays to Sundays. Ends September 11th.

Publishing: Free booking

Information: getty.edu/art/exhibitions/fantasy



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