The Celtic Art Essay

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The term "Celts" refers to a group of people who resided in Europe and spoke the same language. The regions of Ireland and Britain were populated. They had a lot in common because they spoke the same language and had similar cultural backgrounds, which effectively bound their social fiber. The earliest progenitors of the people in Ireland were the Celts. Their beliefs and worldviews were very different from those of the invaders who eventually took control of Ireland during the Dark Ages. Their code of conduct and laws, the definitions of the structure of the society, and their styles of art have stood the test of time as they have been upheld in the Irish community in the current times. The mystification and the mythology that arose in the around the Celts in the twentieth century made people perceive the people as superhuman or supernatural and hence exacerbating a superiority complex between the Celts and their invaders. The various aspects of the Celtic culture and the art that has managed to have a significant influence on the way of life of the Irish people and the neighbors will be investigated and the factors that enhanced their impact determined (Mitchell, Sebastian).

Celts shared a language that had a common etymology in the Indo-European set-up. The language was basically referred to as proto-Celtic. Research from numerous scholars has it that the people who resided in the Southwest Europe had a similar origin. They propagated their culture and believes through induced or forced invasions and emigrations. The archaeologists noted well-pronounced cultural features that made the Celts stand out from the crowd. Such characteristics were artistic styles, a culture that could be traced to the Hallstatt culture and the culture of La Tene that had exquisite traits that demarcated the Celtics from the rest of the inhabitants of Europe. Celtic art has a direct link to the Celts since it stems out of the community hence Celtic art. The key players in the Celtic art actually employed the Celtic language from the medieval time up to the current period. The similar language that the people shared enabled them to avoid the cases of a language barrier and hence the information pertaining to the Celtic art could be spread from one individual to the earth in a more efficient and appropriate manner and to the right parties. Edward Lhuyd was the pacesetter in driving attention into the issue of Brythonic, Goidelic, and Gaulish speakers and the correlation that existed among them. The research culminated in the umbrella use of the term “Celts” for the individuals lived not only in the Continental Celts territory but also those who resided in Britain and Ireland (Rose, Samuel). The immense interest and urge to investighate4 “primitivism” resulted in the discovery of the “noble savage” notion. This sparked off a good deal of enthusiasm for all intents and contents. It never mattered whether the whole idea touched on Celtic or druidic concepts. The concept was consumed collectively so that all the people involved. The Act of Catholic Emancipation of 1829 culminated in the “Irish Revival” or Renaissance that was an attempt that was conscientiously made in a bid to underpin the aspect of Irish National Identity. The counterparts who happened to be in the neighborhood shared the same “Celtic Revival.”

Celtic art had an extreme geographical coverage whereby different individuals made both positive and negative interactions that resulted in the exchange of cultures and art. There have thorough studies and research undertaken in Europe from the Bronze Age and the preceding to the Neolithic era. The case study undertaken by archaeologists covered the Iron Age of Europe from 1000 BC thenceforth. The period was then interrupted and punctuated by Roman Empire conquest which affected the largest part of the territory. Celtic art has been well documented by the archaeologist in the realms of art from the fifth and the fifth to the first Centuries before Christ. The ancient Celtic art that was employed in that epoch in Britain stretched up to 150 Anno Domini. The art underwent a lot of evolution over a long period of time among the people who spoke English. The information was manifested in the production of the book called Book of Kellis and other classic art that was created at that very time. The resultant product of that evolution was generally termed as the “Insular art” in the realms of the history of art. This encapsulated the Pictish art. Both kinds of art were significantly influenced by the sources of stimuli that were non-Celtic but the preference for geometrical decoration was retained. The figurative subjects were frequently overly stylized when they did appear. The narrative scenarios surfaced as a result of influence from outside. The strong and sturdy circular forms, spirals, and triskeles are the characteristics of the Celtic art. Majority of the surviving evidence that is used to substantiate the art exist in materials that are made of precious stone (de Vegvar, Carol). The presence of large sculptures of monuments, the high insular crosses coupled with the decorative carvings. There is a small number of figures representing males that can be found currently. One exquisite example is the “Warrior of Hirschlenden” and the famous “Lord of Glaubeg.” They encompass the visual art of the revival of the Celts ranging from the 18th Century to the current times. That commenced as a conscious effort of the modern Celts majorly those who are located in the geographical areas of the British Isles in a bid to express their nationalism and self-identification. The art spread far and wide beyond the Celtic nations and its popularity took root until it can be manifested in many areas outside the Celtic region. The evidence of the insurmountable influence is depicted by the interlace tattoos and the funerary monuments of the Celtic cross.

The Celtic art is more or less ornamental and hence there is the avoidance of the use of the straight lines. There is the occasional employment of symmetry. There is no imitation of nature which is crucial to the classical traditions. That often inculcates a lot of symbolism. The Celtic artwork fuses and integrates other cultures in their knotwork, key patterning, spirals, lettering, zoomorphic, human figures, and the plant forms. The renowned chief archaeologist called Catherine Johns state4d that there was an exquisite sense of balanced that did exist in the development of patterns and the layout of the Celtic art over a wide range. The curvilinear forms that are presented help in taking care of the negative and positive impacts of the prevailing situation. This is because they managed to fill every space and areas and hence forming a complete whole with a good deal of harmony. There is evidence that there were extreme caution and care that was employed in trying to do the relief and surface texturing. The awkward and irregularly shaped surfaces were done using the complex curvilinear patterns designed and tailored to ensure that the outcome could be handsome (Ciosáin, Niall Ó). There were elaborate stone sculptures that had an excellent representation of reliefs that was obtained from the South of France at a place referred to as Roquepertuse and Entremont. These locations were discovered to have been in close proximity to areas that were colonized by the Greeks. Roquepertuse portrayed evidence of having served as a sanctuary for religious purposes. Its stonework enshrined what was perceived to be niches where the skulls or the heads of foes were kept. The evidence dated back to the third century before the birth of Christ (Squire, Michael).

There were numerous sword and torcs that were recovered that were of the La Tene style. The swords were more than three thousand. The shoe plaques that were obtained from Hochdorf and the Waterloo Helmet were some of the great finds that were recovered by archaeologists.The Style of La Tene

The name was derived from the site where the artistic material was recovered in Switzerland in 500 before the birth of Christ. The artifact appeared accidentally or coincidentally due to the event when there was a feud that pitted the members of the society which involved a change in the chief centers in North West manner. The centers that were rich in the archaeological material pertaining the La Tene style were situated in Germany and to the northern part of France. The style was propagated far and beyond up to Hungary, Italy, and Ireland. The rate of spread of the style was equally fast where the Celts were aggressive raiders and invaders because of the pressure that was unleashed on them towards their enemies. The so-called foes were forced to embrace the style since they had an alternative but to accept the inevitable. On the other hand, the La Tene style of art spread at a relatively intermittent rate as a result of the gradual movement of people from one area to the other. Previously, La Tene art had embraced motifs that were ornamentals that hailed from cultures from abroad or foreign to the land. That resulted in products that were the completely different type of art. Such a complex blend of influences represented even the Scythian art and that of the Etruscans and the Greeks. It turns out as an excellently styled curvilinear art that is based majorly on the classical foliage and vegetable motifs. The motifs are, for instance, leaf palmate forms, tendrils, vines, lotus with the flowering part together with the spirals, lyre, s-scrolls and trumpet shapes.

Most of the expensive and precious commodities that are made of imperishable mettle find their way into safe custody since they have the value which is crucial to the economy of the individuals. Torc was considered to be a sign of class of class and status of a given individual. It was worn by many individuals far and wide. The torc was made using different kinds of metals and hence that reflected the financial potential of an individual. The people who happened to have such accessories hailed from well-to-do family backgrounds. The quantity of wealth one had was determined from the kind of adornment they had. Armlets and bracelets were very common among the population. Small curved figures of body parts or whole human figures have been recovered and they are believed to have been votive offerings that represent the character and the direction of the ailment of the supplicant. The biggest of that is situated at Source-de-la-Roche, at Chamalires based in France. There were more than ten thousand fragments, majorly ant Clermont-Ferrand. The numerous facets of the styles are assigned alphabetic and numeric (De Navarro) values. The very first phase is termed as the De Navarro I whereby the motifs have been imported and their ability to be recognized is retained. That is then followed by the De Navarro II which is sometimes called “vegetal”. The ornament is typically dominated by perpetually moving tendrils that are of various kinds. The tendrils turn and twist in a motion that portrays restlessness across the given surface.

Hallstatt culture was the very first type that was derived from the European Iron Age that dated ca 800 to 450 B.C. All the other types of art stemmed from that and the continuity of the activities that pertained Celtic art was quite conspicuous. That has been reflected emphatically through the recent wave of “celticization” that has been conducted through scholarships and though acculturation process that transpires with a more or less static population. This differs significantly from the ancient concept that the culture could only be propagated through invasions and migrations and hence a crucial evidence of evolution in the way the Celtic art and culture has transitioned. Majority of the numerous remains are situated in Europe especially in the Neolithic Boyne Valley that is located the Republic of Ireland. The place is situated within a small distance from the centers that served the early Medieval Insular art in a period of 4000 years thereafter. Brittany center is one of the areas that are considered the cradle of Celtic art to date. There have been myriad other correspondence that provides information on the large golden collars and gold lunules of the Bronze Age in Europe and Ireland. The torcs made in the Iron Age were worn around the neck as elaborate and exquisite ornamentation that conferred prestige and nobility among the members of the Celtic Society. Different types of Bronze had trumpet-shaped terminations in the making of the Irish jewelry and that was reminiscent of the popular motifs in Celtic decoration that came later.

The Iron Age came that bore heavily on the nature of the Celtic art. Numerous fortified settlements in which some were fairly large were featured in the Iron Age that was well pronounced in the continental Celtic culture. The concept was dubbed “oppidum” which meant “town” in the Roman context. The noble families who had blue blood running through their veins had the capacity to order and purchase products from foreign countries due to their strong financial potential. They imported colossal quantities of expensive wares and hence acquired monumental wealth that made them stand prominently among their peers. They happened to acquire clearly flashy material from the cultures that neighbored them some of which were obtained from graves. Hallstatt culture was marked with the creation of art that had geometric ornamentation but with straight lines and rectangles predominating. That deviated significantly from the accessories that had much of its products covered with curves. The patterning in many cases filled all the space that was available in a modest and intricate manner. That led to the Celtic styles that followed later on. Hallstatt increasingly became enriched from the interactions of various cultures that intercepted with one another through trade missions and other social functions. The hybrid product that resulted from the interactions was way off the Celtic culture that was initially witnessed but rather a perfect blend of the various cultures. The Celtic culture had a significant influence on the Mediterranean cultures and the importation of the various wares from foreign places had a significant effect on the original Celtic art. That was manifested in the effect of the Chinese silks. Some of the concrete evidence that substantiates the idea is the Greek Krater that was obtained from the Vix Grave in Burgundy. It had been made in Magna Graecia which had a strong affinity to the Greek culture as a result of the proximity to the South of Italy in 530 B.C. Some decades later, the accessory was deposited there. It was cast from huge bronze and it was employed in mixing wine. It had the capacity of 1100 liters. .Hochdorf Chieftain’s Grave which was a vessel of a Greece origin was adorned with three recumbent lions that were in a lying position on the rim. One of that had been replaced by a Celtic artist and that was geared towards imitating the Greek style of art. The human and animal figures predominantly appear on the surface especially when that had a religious connotation ("Celtic Art & Cultures"). That could be derived from the “Cult-wagon” which was a fairly huge bronze that had wheels. It contained a multitude of standing figures and in some cases, the figures have a huge bowl mounted on a given shaft which is located at the center of the platform. All that was meant for giving offerings to the gods.


The Celtic art is a fertile basis for the current art that has spread all over the globe. Its impact can be witnessed in various aspects of art that is manifested in the daily life. The wide use of tattoos among the current generation borrows heavily from the Celtic art and that portrays the gravity of the effect of the Celtic art across the globe. It is a rich heritage for the Irish people. The world population owes credit to the pioneers of the Celtic art due to its significance in the current times.

Works Cited

"Celtic Art & Cultures." Choice Reviews Online, vol 43, no. 05, 2006, pp. 43-2540-43-2540. American Library Association, doi:10.5860/choice.43-2540.

Ciosáin, Niall Ó. "The Print Cultures Of The Celtic Languages, 1700–1900." Cultural And Social History, vol 10, no. 3, 2013, pp. 347-367. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.2752/147800413x13661166397184.

de Vegvar, Carol. "Carol Neuman De Vegvar. Review Of "European Influence On Celtic Art: Patrons And Artists" By Lloyd Laing.." Caa.Reviews, 2012, College Art Association, doi:10.3202/

Mitchell, Sebastian. "Celtic Postmodernism: Ossian And Contemporary Art." Translation And Literature, vol 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 401-435. Edinburgh University Press, doi:10.3366/tal.2013.0130.

Rose, Samuel. "Expanding Art History." Art History, vol 36, no. 2, 2013, pp. 455-457. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/1467-8365.12011.

Squire, Michael. "Animating Classical Art History." Art History, vol 36, no. 5, 2013, pp. 1077-1080. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/1467-8365.12050.

July 07, 2023

Art History


Medieval Europe

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Artwork Visual Arts Dark Ages

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Expertise Dark Ages
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