To today’s audiences, medieval art can look outright bizarre. Before the stylistic shifts that defined the Renaissance, medieval illustrations often featured flat, unrealistic figures and fantastical scenes. But the details that make these drawings so baffling are also uniquely endearing.
A lot of it is about showing characters, people or creatures in medieval art that jump out of the page and have their own personality,” Swarthout tells Artnet’s Min Chen. “Humor is a really big part of it. I think it’s what makes people connect with it—they want to be in on the joke.”