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MDVL 2000G: Finding Medieval Images

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This guide provides instructions for locating images of medieval Christian art.
     -- Locate images in the Booth Library book collection
     -- Locate images in the Oxford Art Online database
     -- Locate images in museum collections online

Need more guidance?
     -- Ask a friendly librarian for assistance
     -- Learn how to write about art
Find images in museum catalogs at EIU Library
For this assignment, we'll use the advanced search page of the EIU Library Catalog to do subject heading searches.

Subject heading searches will return results that have been tagged with a particular term. These materials (books, ebooks, etc.) are about or have a major focus on that topic (subject). For example, a subject search on Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint--Art yields 63 results that are about artistic representations of the Virgin Mary.

Only particular words are used as subject headings; you'll need to use this special vocabulary to do subject searches.

Below are some subject words that are useful for this assignment, along with the call number range generally associated with them. Use the call number to browse the bookshelves to find books on that particular subject.


Books on medieval art, in general, are shelved near the fish bowl computer lab on the fourth floor of the library: view map.

Use the subject heading Catalogs in combination with any of the below subjects. The term "catalogs" will retrieve museum and exhibition catalogs -- books with images of artwork along with descriptions and commentary about the pieces.

- Jesus Christ--Art (Call number: N8050+)
- Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint--Art (Call number: N8070+)
- Christian art and symbolism (Call number: N7810-N8189.6 range)
- Christian art and symbolism--Medieval, 500-1500 (Call number: N7850+)
  · geographical subdivision may be used between heading and chronological subdivision, e.g., Christian art and symbolism--Italy--Florence--Medieval, 500-1500
- Art, Medieval (Call number: N5970+ and by geographic area, e.g., French medieval art is at N6843)
  · see also narrower periods such as:
          Art, Early Christian
          Art, Byzantine
          Art, Carolingian
          Art, Ottonian
          Art, Romanesque
          Art, Gothic

Narrower terms include headings for specific scenes, e.g., Pietà
  · also specific religious orders, e.g., Cistercian art

In addition to the N class (visual arts in general, more than one medium):
  · NB for sculpture
  · ND for painting
Across all media, call numbers are more often assigned according to geography (region or country, suborganized by period or century) rather than chronology.

***Two important ways to limit your search results***

Just like you can narrow your results when shopping online (by size, color, price, etc.), you can limit your results in the EIU Online Catalog using options in the right-hand column of your search results page.

For this assignment, do the following:

choose only Circulating Books (items you may check out and take home with you) as the location...

... and Fine Arts as the subject area.



Search using the subjects Catalogs and Christian saints in art and apply the limits to your results as instructed above (narrow to only Circulating books and Fine arts).

Some of the books in your search results will include female saints, such as Mary Magdalene, St. Catherine, and Joan of Arc.
Find images in the Oxford Art Online database
Access Oxford Art Online here.

Use the search box in the right-hand corner of the page. Make sure to check the box to search only images! See the sample search:

After you have clicked on one of the images in your search results, notice the Referenced By section at the bottom of the page. Link(s) listed here will take you to articles that mention the artwork, and may include a description or commentary about the piece.

Find images online
Some museums make portions of their collections available to search online. Here are a few museum websites to consider for this assignment.

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, MD

Once you have clicked on a result, note the Description and Inscription (if present) for details about the artwork.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Try searching on name variants, the Virgin Mary or Madonna, in the title of the work. There is no option to limit by time period in this search, but search results include the year the pieces were created.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA

Scroll down the page and expand the Advanced Search section. For Jesus Christ, try also searching either Christ or Jesus.

On the search results page, limit by date range. The dates might change slightly from what you type in based on the dates of the pieces in your results (e.g., I typed in 500 - 1500 AD). You can also change the Sort Order to display results in chronological order.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Type in your search words, then narrow by Object Type and Era. Limit to artworks with image, and sort by date, if desired.

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During the Spring 2017 semester, the Reference Desk is open until 10pm Sunday-Thursday and until 5pm Friday and Saturday.

Stop by in person or call us at 217-581-6072.
Writing about art
Want some guidance in constructing your essay? Try one of these books.

A short guide to writing about art
Call number: N7476 .B37 2000

Writing about art
Call number: N7476 .S29 1989

Writing for the visual arts
Call number: N7476 .B47 2001