Art: A Sweet Wind Out of the Dark

THE year 1200 marks a high point in the millennium between the fall of Rome and the rise of the Renaissance. Around that time, a sweet wind of humanism swept across the dark face of Europe, bringing with it a new interest in Latin classics and Greek philosophy, a delight in racy troubadour songs and epic verse, and a keener awareness of the dignity of man. The Magna Carta was signed, and the great Gothic cathedrals of Chartres, Notre Dame and Reims were begun.

For all these exceptional accomplishments, however, art historians have traditionally...

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