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History The representations of Death in Medieval European Art - Essay Example

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History The representations of Death in Medieval European Art

(Cartwright, 1972) It is popularly known as the Plague, Black Death or Black Plague although the medical term for it is Bubonic Plague.
Throughout history, plague has riddled many civilizations, causing remarkable changes in the social construction, economic disposition and religious beliefs, resulting in the change of their representation in art and architecture. There have been recording of massive health epidemics striking Asia, Africa, and Europe where it is believed that at one point there were not enough alive to bury the victims of the Black Death. (, 3/12/2007) In such civilizations, the progress of medical studies was not near enough to study the outbreaks and analyze them in a scientific manor; in reaction, the people usually assumed they were divine punishment brought down from god or the gods for whatever reason the leading religious figure of the region and time would provide. This caused even further panic and chaos. In many cases, innocent groups of people would be blamed for the disaster and massive witch hunt like behavior would take place where the group would be hunted down and tortured or even killed in the belief that it would end the ordeal. Plagues have been repetitive in history and sometimes with no specific pattern. The Bubonic Plague of 1347 made appearances repeatedly afterwards throughout Europe and the Middle East, though not on as much of a large scale, the last of which ended in 1844. (Watts, 1997) Even in modern society the fear of people resides; at the hint of an outbreak, such as the bird flue of 2004, global economies have been affected and many industries have suffered. The Black Death holds the greatest number of victims in such a short time span than any other plague in history and this resulted in economic, social and political affects that have lasted for centuries and played a major role in the art and painting to follow.

14th Century: The Century of Changing European civilization and Fine Arts
Medieval Europe was under an extreme burden at the turn of the century. The demographics of medieval Europe grew to an unprecedented scale. The population had grown to the brink of starvation. Only under the best conditions would the fields' yield enough to feed the population. The Black Death struck in 1347 and decimated the European population. The Black Death was a necessity to prevent overpopulation and economic decline. The economy of the fourteenth century was in a state of decline. The population boom along with the shortage of food was leading Europe down a road to starvation. The climate in Western Europe also was beginning to change at the turn of the fourteenth century. This caused a very wet climate and greatly adversely ...Show more


According to the WorldNet Princeton dictionary, a Plague is, "a serious (sometimes fatal) infection of rodents caused by Yersinia pestis and accidentally transmitted to humans by the bite of a flea that has bitten an infected animal." (, 3/12/2007) Among the several other definitions it provides, it also states that it is, "any large scale calamity (especially when thought to be sent by God)." (, 3/12/2007) This is relevant on more than one level when studying the Black Death specifically and its short and long term influence on society and the arts…
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History The representations of Death in Medieval European Art essay example
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