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Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Riddle of the Image

The Secret Science of Medieval Art

From monumental church mosaics to fresco wall-paintings, the medieval period produced some of the most impressive art in history. But how, in a world without the array of technology and access to materials that we now have, did artists produce such incredible works, often on an unbelievably large scale? In The Riddle of the Image, research scientist and art restorer Spike Bucklow discovers the actual materials and methods that lie behind the production of historical paintings.
Examining the science of the tools and resources, as well as the techniques of medieval artists, Bucklow adds new layers to our understanding and appreciation of paintings in particular and medieval art more generally. He uses case studies—including The Wilton Diptych, one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery in London and the altarpiece in front of which English monarchs were crowned for centuries—and analyses of these works, presenting previously unpublished technical details that shed new light on the mysteries of medieval artists. The first account to examine this subject in depth for a general audience, The Riddle of the Image is a beautifully illustrated look at the production of medieval paintings.

256 pages | 50 color plates | 6 x 8 | © 2014

Art: Art Criticism

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Table of Contents


1. Lead White: Strange Matter

2. The Metz Pontifical: Official Matter

3. The Macclesfield Psalter: Personal Matter

4. The Wilton Diptych: Heaven and Earth

5. The Westminster Retable: Heaven on Earth, Part 1

6. The Thornham Parva Retable: Heaven on Earth, Part 2





Photo Acknowledgements


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