A description of a work of art that associates it with a defined style, historical period, group, school, or movement whose characteristics are represented in the work.



Styles/Periods/Groups/Movements - Description


A prose description of the salient characteristics of a work of art in relation to a particular style, historical period, group, school, or movement.


"Vases in the Kerch style take their name from an area on the Black Sea where numerous examples have been found. The style is characterized by an elaborate and often flamboyant use of polychromy, gilding, and relief work to augment the simple red-on-black scheme of earlier Attic vases ..." [1] [Figure 9]

This eclectic style is purely Roman, with references to works by 4th-century BC Greek sculptors such as Skopas and Lysippos [Figure 5].

"The gardens of Versailles represent the culmination of a development that started more than a hundred years earlier. The Early Renaissance garden still retained its medieval character of hortus conclusus. It was, however, geometrized to express the idea of an ideal nature, forming thereby a complement to the ideal city of the epoch. During the sixteenth century, this concept of static perfection was substituted by the idea of a mysterious and fantastic world consisting of a variety of 'places.' " [2]

"In the early 1870s Manet, at the height of his career, suddenly gave up his flat style, and adopted both the brilliant palette and the broken brushwork of the Impressionists. Some of his later pictures are well-nigh indistinguishable from theirs. But the most memorable of these, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, painted in 1881-82, ... is a brilliant restatement -- in Impressionist terms -- of Manet's interest in the human figure." [3]

The erotic theme with half-length figures and rich coloring is typical of David's history paintings done in Brussels following his exile from France in 1816. The vivid colors and realistic flesh tones that were inspired by the art of Rubens combined with Greek-inspired forms are characteristic of late Neoclassicism [Figure 6].

"The evolution of Duccio's style from the Crevole Madonna to the Madonna of the Franciscans is most apparent in the heightened realism of the figures. The strongly geometricized face and the pattern-like arrangement of hands and striations of the Crevole Madonna are indebted to Guido da Siena and, perhaps, other artists of his generation. The Madonna of the Franciscans seems somewhat more mature. In it one sees for the first time the graceful, refined Duccio who endows his figures with vibrant personalities..." [4]


This category contains a description of the work of art in terms of the style, period, group, or movement whose aesthetic it reflects. This description is then broken out into indexing terms that characterize the work, and to associate it with other similar works. Stylistic terminology epitomizes a work's salient characteristics, placing it in the context of other works created in the same or similar style. It also acts as an aid to the reader when it is not possible to see the work first hand.

Distinguishing between terms for styles, periods, groups, and movements is problematic. The terminology used in the field of art history is sometimes vague and is often the subject of much debate. Even when the terminology is accepted, definitions may not be shared. For example, Pre-Raphaelite can be used to refer to a broad range of work, from that created by the original seven members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood between 1848 and about 1853, through all those who were influenced by them, or adopted their characteristic style. Futurism as a movement differs from futurist as a general style. Some terms such as Nazca are also used broadly to define "stylistical periods," i.e., the time during which a certain style was in broad use or favor. The meaning of a specific term may also vary over time, making it important to record the source of the concepts represented by each term, and the source for the vocabulary itself. [5]

A single term, such as Baroque, can have many meanings; for example, it may be used broadly to refer to the art of the seventeenth century in general, or more narrowly to refer specifically to the style of Pietro da Cortona when seen in opposition with the seventeenth-century classicism of Poussin.

Certain broad terms, such as Ancient, Medieval, or Renaissance, have a readily accepted chronological meaning, and are subdivided into well-known secondary eras: archaic, classical, Hellenistic; Old Kingdom, New Kingdom; High Renaissance. The same can be said of certain broad stylistic designations, such as Byzantine or Baroque, which encompass styles such as Theodosian, Comnenian, and Paleologan. While not defined by specific dates, these terms are familiar enough to be understood by most advanced students and professionals. The order and structure offered by such designations makes them useful pedagogical and communication tools.

Some expressions for temporal periods, such as Napoleon III, also have a stylistic designation attached to them, in this case Second Empire, but these terms are rarely synonymous. The time spans referred to by different styles and periods often overlap, as do Neoclassical and Georgian. Other terms, such as Renaissance, can refer to both a style and a period.

The definition and parameters of certain terms, such as Mannerist, Rococo, Neoclassical, and Romantic, and their applicability to a particular period or style, have been debated. The meaning of these terms is nebulous, as are their dates and parameters. These ambiguities open their meaning to a variety of interpretations. Nevertheless, such terms are commonly used, as they often provide a useful way to link otherwise diverse or disparate material.

Stylistic or period terms may be based on historical events, and therefore have a chronological as well as a visual meaning. Period designations are most often linked to historical eras designated by rulers or governments. Dynasties are used for China, Japan, and Egypt, sometimes with subdivisions. Ruling families provide names such as Tudor, Stuart, or Ming. There are also periods associated with the style of art contemporary with the reign of a specific monarch, such as Louis XIV, Napoleonic, Victorian, or Ptolemaic.

Often styles or periods take their names from a technique used in a particular place at a certain time. Terms such as red figure or black figure are examples of technically based styles, as is Pointillism.

While tempting, it is not possible to attach a strictly chronological definition to a stylistic or period term. This is best illustrated by works that fall on the cusp of such definitions or are stylistically retardatory. These historically complex examples include the furniture made for Mme DuBarry's house at Louveciennes, which dates to the Louis XVI period but is Louis XV in style, or the Georgian silver made early in Victoria's reign. In Chinese art, archaism, or the choice of a style from an earlier period, can be an aesthetic statement. Works outside the "mainstream" of Western culture, such as provincial work, or works from geographic areas that are more distant from the historic centers of artistic production, such as Magna Graecia or Colonial America, will show stylistic characteristics that may be associated with an earlier time.

Some terms, such as Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Surrealist, refer only to a style or artistic movement. The output of such an artistic group may be less visually homogeneous if the links between its members are primarily philosophical. Often, in the twentieth century, these designations overlap chronologically, and therefore cannot be said to define periods. Style and period terms, therefore, should not be used to sort or order works chronologically.

Styles or periods may also be used to separate the work of a particular artist into distinct groups, such as Picasso's Rose Period or Blue Period. These terms are very specific, and have little relevance beyond the study of that artist's oeuvre.

Stylistic similarities also form the basis for the idea of "school," which has been used, for example, to group related late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century works under terms such as the School of Paris or the New York School. "School" has also been used more loosely to refer to a group of artists who exhibited together, such as the Ashcan School, or to artistic families (some of which continued for centuries) such as the Kano School in Japan. These terms are recorded when the object represents the visual characteristics associated with the work of a particular "school."


The identification and analysis of style constitute a significant part of the art-historical literature. The scholar or cataloger of the object will be able to draw upon these studies, but will rarely find the work at hand discussed in detail. It is more likely that terms will be assigned on the basis of comparison of the object to other known examples. Associating a specific work with a stylistic term will continue to be a matter of judgment and open to debate.


Style and period terms are used to group similar works in order to examine the development of an artistic idea. In some traditions, such as the study of Indian art, stylistic analysis is the prime source of information about a work, providing clues to its origins, creation, and dating.

Style and period terms should not be used to order or sort works chronologically. The CREATION - DATE subcategory serves this function.


The style should be accessible in INDEXING TERMS. Researchers may wish to locate all works of a particular style or period. This type of criterion may be combined with other characteristics of the object, to formulate a query to find, for example, Mannerist drawings where the subject portrays Rome.

Since different terms can be used to refer to the same style (e.g., Mannerist and Maniera), connections between alternate forms of terms referring to styles, groups, movements, or periods should be established.

This category should be able to accommodate varying degrees of specificity, in order to make it possible for researchers to formulate broader or narrower queries on the information contained in it. For example, while one researcher may want to find works from the Medieval period, another may wish to find examples of Gothic or High Gothic works; or one researcher may be interested in Colonial African works in general, while another may wish to find Afro-Portuguese works, and a third Bini-Portuguese works.


The actual date when the object was created should be specified in CREATION - DATE.

Characteristics of the creator of the work, including culture and nationality, should be included in the subcategory CREATION - CREATOR - IDENTITY.

The subcategory CREATION - DATE should be used to order objects chronologically; it should not be used to provide numerical equivalents for period terms.

When a work is created using a technique that has also given its name to a style, such as a painting by Seurat, the technique, pointillism, should be indicated in the category MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES, and the style, Pointillism or Neo-Impressionism, should be given in this category.

Styles/Periods/Groups/Movements - Indexing Terms


The term or terms identifying a style, historical period, school, or art movement whose characteristics are represented by the work of art.


Old Kingdom
Louis XVI


This subcategory breaks out the individual terms contained in the prose description provided at the category level, thus providing rapid, direct access to information on a work's style or period, and making it possible to formulate specific queries.

Indexing terms can consist of a single word, multiple words, or a numeric code. They may be those used by a scholar in an article or book, or may be drawn from a controlled vocabulary.

Many different terms may apply to the same object.


Style or period terms are assigned on the basis of the secondary literature and, whenever possible, a direct examination of the object. Stylistic characterization may also be based on primary sources.


As the same style or period may have more than one name, access on variant terms is recommended. Likewise, as some styles or periods, such as Byzantine, can be further broken down into styles such as Comnenian or Palaeologan, access on both broader and narrower terms enhances retrieval.


The use of controlled vocabularies is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Styles and Periods hierarchy), the Index of Jewish Art, or Villard's Système déscriptif des antiquités classiques.

Styles/Periods/Groups/Movements - Remarks


Additional notes on the style or period of a work, including a summary of the source where a stylistic association was found, or a justification of the stylistic or period term chosen.

Styles/Periods/Groups/Movements - Citations


A reference to the bibliographic source or unpublished document that provides the basis upon which a stylistic or period term was assigned to or associated with the object.



1 The J. Paul Getty Museum: Handbook of the Collections (Malibu, California: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991) p. 50.

2 Christian Norberg-Schulz, Baroque Architecture (New York: Electa/Rizzoli, 1979) p. 60.

3 Frederick Hartt, Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 3rd, ed.,1989) p. 847.

4 Bruce Cole, Sienese Painting: From Its Origins to the Fifteenth Century (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1980) p. 37.

5 The AAT outlines the scope of the Styles and Periods hierarchy in this way: "Names of peoples, cultures, individuals, and sites are included only if they designate distinct styles or periods (e.g., Yoruba, Louis XIV). Geographic descriptors are included only for broad cultural regions." (AAT, 2nd ed., vol. 1, p. 336).