Celtic Art

The historic peoples today called “Celts” talked a group of languages that had a well-known origin in the Indo-European code recognised as Common Celtic or Proto-Celtic. This shared linguistic origin was when generally accepted by scholars to indicate peoples with a well-known hereditary origin in southwest Europe, who had spread their culture by emigration and invasion. Archaeologists identified different cultural traits of these peoples, including designs of art, and traced the culture to the earlier Hallstatt culture and La Tne culture. More latest research have indicated that many Celtic groups never all have shared ancestry, and have recommended a diffusion and spread of the culture without automatically involving noticeable movement of peoples.[citation needed]

The expression “Celt” was chosen in traditional instances as a synonym for the Gauls (, Celtae). Its English shape is contemporary, attested from 1607. In the late 17th century the function of scholars including Edward Lhuyd brought educational attention to the historical hyperlinks between Gaulish as well as the Brythonicnd Goidelicpeaking peoples, from which point the expression was used not only to continental Celts but those in Britain and Ireland. Then in the 18th century the interest in “primitivism”, which led to the idea of the “noble savage”, brought a wave of enthusiasm for all items Celtic and Druidic. The “Irish revival” came after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 as a aware attempt to demonstrate an Irish nationwide identity, and with its counterpart in alternative nations subsequently became the “Celtic revival”.

Stone Age

Dolmens, or cromlechs, appear throughout the British Isles and are remnants of Stone Age culture. These structures are correctly called pre-Celtic, because they pre-date the arrival of the Celtic peoples, but are notable for their possible influence on Celtic art like the standing stones.


There are around 150 surviving dolmens in Wales, including the notable Pentre Ifan in Preseli, Pembrokeshire. The bluestones which shape Stonehenge additionally come from Preseli, recommending not just the creative and cultural hyperlinks amongst the lands which might become Wales and England, and – due to the extended distance that the stones travelled – that these stones may have been considered sacred by the builders. These structures are regarded as the oldest human-made lasting structures in the globe, even surpassing the Egyptian pyramids in age.

Bronze Age

This section needs expansion with:

Bronze Age affects on Celtic art.

Iron Age

Parade Helmet, Agris, France. 350 BC.

This section needs expansion with:

Hallstat, La Tene and British/Irish traditions.

Early Middle Ages

Main article: Insular art

Ardagh Chalice, silver and millefiori glass. Irish. Early 8th century AD.

Folio 27r within the Lindisfarne Gospels contains the incipit Liber generationis of the Gospel of Matthew. Compare this page with all the related page within the Book of Kells (see here), specifically the shape of the Lib monogram

Book of Kells Gospel of Matthew

Christ in Majesty, Book of Kells.

Celtic art in the Middle Ages was practiced by the Celtic talking individuals of Ireland and Britain in the 700 year period within the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, to the establishment of Romanesque art in the 12th century. Through the Hiberno-Scottish mission the fashion was influential in the development of art throughout Northern Europe.


In Ireland an unbroken Celtic history existed from before and throughout the Roman era of Britain, which had not reached the island, and therefore the 5th to 7th decades were mostly a continuation of late Iron Age La Tne art. In the 7th and 8th centuries Irish art mixed with Germanic traditions through Irish missionary contacts with all the Anglo-Saxons, creating what exactly is called the Hiberno-Saxon design. Late in the period Scandinavian affects were added through the Vikings, then authentic Celtic function came to end with all the Norman invasion in 11691170 and next introduction of the Romanesque design.

In the 7th and 9th centuries Irish Celtic missionaries journeyed to Northumbria in Britain and brought with them the Irish custom of manuscript illumination, which came into contact with Anglo-Saxon metalworking knowledge and motifs. In the monasteries of Northumbria these abilities fused and were possibly sent back to Scotland and Ireland from there, furthermore influencing the Anglo-Saxon art of the rest of England. The product of the Celtic and Germanic fusion is known as Insular art or the Hiberno-Saxon fashion. Some of the masterpieces built include the Tara Brooch, the Ardagh Chalice as well as the Derrynaflan Chalice. New techniques employed were filigree and chip carving, while unique motifs included interlace patterns and animal ornamentation. The Book of Durrow is the earliest complete insular script illuminated Gospel Book and by about 700, with all the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Hiberno-Saxon fashion was completely developed with detailed carpet pages that appear to glow with a broad palette of colors. The art shape reached its peak in the late 8th century with all the Book of Kells, the many sophisticated Insular manuscript. Anti-classical Insular creative designs were carried to mission centres found on the Continent and had a continuing impact on Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic art for the rest of the Middle Ages.

In the 9th and 11th century plain silver became a common medium in Anglo-Saxon England, possibly as a result of the improved amount in circulation due to Viking trading and raiding, and it was during this time a amount of splendid silver brooches were built in Ireland. Around the same time manuscript manufacturing started to decline, and although it has usually been blamed found on the Vikings, this really is debatable provided the decline started before the Vikings arrived. Sculpture started to thrive in the shape of the “excellent cross”, big stone crosses that held biblical scenes in carved relief. This art shape reached its apex in the early 10th century and has left countless fine examples like Muiredach’s Cross at Monasterboice as well as the Ahenny High Cross.

The impact of the Vikings on Irish art is not watched until the late 11th century when Irish metal function starts to imitate the Scandinavian Ringerike and Urnes designs, for illustration the Cross of Cong. These affects were found not only in the Norse centre of Dublin, but throughout the countryside in stone monuments including the Dorty Cross at Kilfenora and crosses at the Rock of Cashel.

Picts (Scotland)

From the 5th to the mid-9th centuries, the art of the Picts is mainly recognized through stone sculpture, although some metalwork exists. There are no recognized illuminated manuscripts.

Pictish stones are assigned by scholars to 3 classes. Class I Pictish stones are unshaped standing stones incised with a series of about 35 symbols such as abstract designs (provided descriptive names like crescent and V-rod, double disk and Z-rod, ‘flower’ etc by researchers); carvings of recognisable animals (bull, eagle, salmon, adder and others), and objects from daily lifetime (a comb, a mirror). The symbols virtually usually happen in pairs, with in about 1 3rd of instances the addition of the mirror, or mirror and comb, signal, below the others. This really is frequently taken to symbolise a girl. Apart from 1 or 2 outliers, these stone are found only in north-east Scotland within the Firth of Forth to Shetland. These are typically especially popular in Angus, Aberdeenshire, Sutherland and Orkney. Great examples include the Dunnichen and Aberlemno stones (Angus), as well as the Brandsbutt and Tillytarmont stones (Aberdeenshire).

Class II stones are shaped cross-slabs carved in relief, or in a mixture of incision and relief, with a prominent cross on 1, or in uncommon situations 2, encounters. The crosses are elaborately decorated wllith interlace, key-pattern or scrollwork, in the Insular design. On the secondary face of the stone, Pictish symbols appear, frequently themselves elaborately decorated, accompanied by figures of individuals (notably horsemen), animals both realistic and great, and alternative scenes. Hunting scenes are usual, Biblical motifs less thus. The symbols frequently appear to ‘label’ among the human figures. Scenes of battle or fight between guys and great beasts can be scenes from Pictish mythology. Great examples include slabs from Dunfallandy and Meigle (Perthshire), Aberlemno (Angus), Nigg, Shandwick and Hilton of Cadboll (Easter Ross).

Class III stones are in the Pictish design, but shortage the characteristic symbols. Many are cross-slabs, though there are equally recumbent stones with sockets for an inserted cross or tiny cross-slab (eg at Meigle, Perthshire). These stones can date mostly to after the Scottish takeover of the Pictish kingdom in the mid 9th century. Examples include the sarcophagus as well as the big assortment of cross-slabs at St Andrews (Fife).

The Book of Kells is many possibly an 8th century product of a Iona scriptorium, started there and moved to Kells in Ireland during the 9th century in reaction to Viking raids, where it was completed (for different theories see Book of Kells). Elements of its ornamentation reflect Pictish affects.

The following museums have significant collections of Pictish stones: Meigle (Perthshire), St Vigeans (Angus) and St Andrew’s Cathedral (Fife) (all Historic Scotland), the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh (which additionally displays all the main pieces of surviving Pictish metalwork), the Meffan Institute, Forfar (Angus), Inverness Museum, Groam Home Museum, Rosemarkie and Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack (both Easter Ross) and Tankerness Home Museum, Kirkwall, Orkney.


A 6th century fragment of the Penannular Brooch from Dinas Powys, shown with an artist’s reconstruction.


Standing stones happen frequently found on the land of Wales. Reflecting the change from Romanized Britain to sub-Roman Britain and cultural contact with Ireland, these stones juxtapose Roman capitals, half-uncials,first utilized in N. Africa, then spreading to Italy, Gaul, Wales, then Ireland. Unlike Irish High Cross and Pictish stones, early Welsh stones primarily employ geometric patterns and words, instead of figure representation; nonetheless, 10th century stones represents Christ and different saints.


Little metalwork survives within the early period of the 5th-9th decades in Wales. But, archaeological websites at Dinas Powys have revealed different artifacts including penannular brooches and different pieces of jewellery. Similar brooches have been noticed a website at Penycorddyn-mawr,Denbighshire, dating to the 8th century.


Lichfield Gospels

The Hereford Gospels, circa 780, illustrating the Gospel of John

The Ricemarch Psalter, circa 1080, the begin of Psalm 1:”Beatus vir…”

Some scholars recommend that 2 8th century illustrated manuscripts in the Hiberno-Saxon design were yielded in Wales, namely the Lichfield Gospels as well as the Hereford Gospels. In the later period, the illuminated Ricemarch Psalter within the 11th century was created in Wales and contains synonymous Hiberno-Saxon affects. A 15th century text, The Black Book of Basingwerk, is another Welsh illuminated manuscript containing a translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae into Welsh. The latest The Saint John’s Bible was yielded at the Saint John’s University scriptorium, that is placed in Monmouth, Wales.

Celtic revival

Since the Romantic era, there has been a significant revival of interest in every details Celtic, including the graphic arts. Many painters, calligraphers, and additional artists have worked with all the themes drawn from historic or medieval Celtic art, or otherwise inspired by Celtic literary themes. Some of the function has stayed quite close to the fashion of La Tne or illuminated manuscript originals, but much of it has a distinctly brand-new feel. Modern Celtic-themed art is enjoyed now in a variety of logos, jewellery, crafts, postcards, and so forth.

Celtic art kinds and terms

Hanging bowl. These were produced by Celtic craftsmen during the time of the Anglo-Saxon conquests of England. They were based on a Roman shape, commonly made from copper with 3 or 4 suspension loops over the top rim, from which they were tailored to be hung from within a tripod. Some of the best examples are found in the horde at Sutton Hoo (625) that are enameled. The knowledge of their manufacture spread to Scotland and Ireland in the 8th century.

Carpet page. An illuminated manuscript page decorated completely in ornamentation. In Hiberno-Saxon custom this became a standard feature of Gospel books, with 1 page as an introduction to each Gospel. Usually produced in a geometric or interlace pattern, usually framing a central cross. The earliest recognized illustration is the 7th century Bobbio Orosius.

High cross. A tall stone standing cross, generally of Celtic cross shape. Decoration is abstract frequently with figures in carved relief, incredibly crucifixions, in some instances complex multi-scene schemes. Most widespread in Ireland, and in Great Britain and close continental mission centres.

Pictish stone. A cross-slab rectangular slab of rock with a cross carved in relief found on the slab face, with different photos and shapes carved throughout. Organised into 3 Classes, based on period of origin.

Insular art or the Hiberno-Saxon design, within the 6th to 9th centuries. The fusion of pre-Christian Celtic and Anglo-Saxon metalworking designs, used to the modern shape of the religious illuminated manuscript, in addition to sculpture and secular and church metalwork. Also involves affects from post-classical Europe, and later Viking decorative designs. The peak of the fashion in manuscripts happened when Irish Celtic missionaries journeyed to Northumbria in the 7th and 8th centuries. Produced a few of the many great Celtic art of the Middle Ages in illuminated manuscripts, metalworking and sculpture.

Celtic calendar. The oldest information Celtic calendar is the fragmented Gaulish Coligny calendar within the initial century BC or AD.

See also

History of Ireland

Early history of Ireland

Hallstatt culture

La Tne culture

List of Hiberno-Saxon illustrated manuscripts

Gundestrup cauldron

Celtic maze


^ BBC: Wales History of religion: before the Romans

^ James A. Graham-Campbell (1983), “Celtic art”, Dictionary of the Middle Ages, amount 3, page 223.

^ Peter Lord, Medieval Vision: The Visual Culture of Wales. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2003, pg. 25; see the Wikipedia articles found on the 2 manuscripts for further references.

^ The National Library of Wales

Ruth and Vincent Megaw (2001). Celtic Art. ISBN 0-500-28265-X

Lloyd and Jenifer Laing. Art of the Celts, Thames and Hudson, London 1992 ISBN 0-500-20256-7

Further reading

Boltin, Lee, ed.: Treasures of Early Irish Art, 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D.: From the Collections of the National Museum of Ireland, Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College, Dublin, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977, ISBN 0-8709-9164-7.

Bain, George: Celtic Art, The Methods of Construction, Lavishly Illustrated with Line Drawings and Photographs: Dover Publishing, NY, 1973, ISBN 0-486-22923-8, that is an unabridged republication of the function initially published by William MacLellan & Co., Ltd., Glasgow, 1951.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media connected to: Celtic art

Celtic Art & Culture within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Celtic Art (Archived 2009-10-31), Microsoft Encarta

Celtic Tattoo Designs

Example pieces of Irish Celtic Art

The influence of Celtic art on contemporary tattoo designs.

Illustrated post by Peter Hubert found on the origins of interlace sculpture.

Sample page of George Bain’s book.

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Ancient Celts

Celtic studies


Names  Gaels  Britons  Picts  Gauls  Celtiberians


ire  Dlriata / Alba  Iron Age Britain / Roman Britain / Sub-Roman Britain

Iron Age Gaul / Roman Gaul  Galatia  Gallaecia


Polytheism  Christianity


Irish  Scottish  Welsh  British  Breton


Calendar  Law  Gaelic clothing and fashion  Gaelic warfare  Celtic warfare  Coinage


Insular art  Triple spiral  Knot  High cross  Maze  Pictish  Interlace  Wheel

Modern Celts

Celtic Revival

Modern Celtic countries  Pan-Celticism (Celtic Congress  Celtic League)  Music  Neopaganism (Reconstructionist)


Proto-Celtic  Insular Celtic (Brythonic  Goidelic)  Continental Celtic (Celtiberian  Gaulish  Galatian  Lepontic  Noric)


Samhain/Calan Gaeaf  Imbolc/Gyl Fair  Beltane/Calan Mai  Lughnasadh/Calan Awst

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