The Art of the Picts

Sculpture and Metalwork in Early Medieval Scotland


The definitive book on Pictish art by two of the world’s leading authorities on medieval art


ISBN: 9780500289631 Categories: ,

George Henderson, Isabel Henderson


Using art-historical tools and drawing upon two lifetimes’ experience and expertise in the field, George and Isabel Henderson dissect and scrutinize one of the great genuine enigmas of early medieval art: the sculpture and metalwork of the Picts, inhabitants of north-east Britain.

Marginalized and dismissed for many years by art historians as inchoate and provincial, the large surviving Pictish corpus of cross-slabs, incised stones and metalwork remained until recently the territory of archaeologists and those bewitched by the mysterious, unfathomable symbols found in so much of the art. Through the careful comparison and skilful observations, however, the authors show how the art of the Picts both interacted with the currents of ‘Insular’ art, and – contrary to received wisdom – was produced by a sophisticated society capable of sustaining large-scale art programmes.

A masterpiece of scholarship and deduction, the book is organized around eight thematic chapters dealing with the characteristics of Insular art, the ‘Pictishness’ of Pictish art, Pictish metalwork, themes and programmes in Pictish art, the form and function of the sculpture and a discussion of the impact of losses, illustrated with over three hundred photographs, six maps and specially commissioned line drawings. Throughout, the Hendersons give strong consideration to the formal qualities and the iconography of the works, throwing new light onto some of the more intractable problems associated with the Picts – not least the meaning of the supposedly ‘pagan’ symbols.

In its acute analysis of Insular art, and its relentless questioning of the function and meaning of Pictish art, this book will be of great value to art historians, archaeologists, those interested in the history of the early Church, and medievalists of all disciplines, and is arguably the most important publication on this subject for over a century.

Additional information

Weight 1324 g
Dimensions 22 x 28 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 1 October 2011
Number of pages 256
Format Paperback / softback
Dimensions 22 x 28 cm
Weight 1324 g


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George Henderson is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Art at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Isabel Henderson is a Fellow and Tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge. Working with her husband Geroge Henderson they have written numerous books between them, including Durrow to Kells (George Henderson) and The Picts (Isabel Henderson).