In such an atmosphere, the specialist, caught between
public opinion and self-esteem, had no choice but to specialize further. The assurance of
the master is all pervasive, and traces of the apprentice hand are very rare.
It was in the mid-seventh century that the sequence of masterpieces
flowers, prototypes in bronze, enamel, and stone having been produced through the
preceding two centuries, paving the way for the last explosion of talent. In the seventh
century, technical perfection and stylistic independence had brought about a new synthesis
of Celtic art forms, and the masterpieces began to appear in all fields.
The Book of Durrow, produced at Durrow monastery in Offaly,
is dated to the second half of the 7th century. Most of the design in the book is
abstract, only rarely do the interlacings turn into interlocking beasts, as, for instance
in the fifth carpet page. Here the animals are deprived of zoological identity, their
bodies replaced by ribbons, the limbs and jaws drawn out like string, reflecting the very
strong influence by Germano-Saxon style of animal ornament.
This Hiberno-Saxon fusion rapidly gives way to the style of
the Books of Kells and Lindisfarne in which a stronger element of realism is imparted to
the labyrinthine creatures... the quadrupeds become recognizable as dogs and felines, and
a new species is added, a bird with long bill and toes.