Benedictine author of the De diversis artibus; fl. early 12th century. The results of modern research on the man and his work have been incorporated into the critical edition of the De diversis artibus by C. R. Dodwell (1961). On the basis of internal evidence, Theophilus was a German Benedictine monk and priest of the early 12th century. His name in religion was Rugerus or Rogerus, Theophilus having been assumed as a pseudonym. There is a strong probability that he should be identified with Roger of Helmarshausen, also a monk, who lived in the early 12th century and was a specialist in metal work. A comparison of the De diversis artibus with Eraclius, De coloribus et artibus Romanorum (11th or 12th century), and with the Lumen animae, a kind of encyclopedia of the arts (early 14th century), reveals its essential independence and superiority. In three books it covers a wide range of medieval arts and crafts and describes techniques with a businesslike detail that could come only from firsthand familiarity. But the work is unique in another respect, i.e., in that it presents a philosophy, or rather a theology, of art, especially in the preface to bk. 3. The artist's skill is considered a gift of God, and an inheritance of the abilities man enjoyed perfectly before the Fall and that he continues to retain. For Theophilus the artist serves the basic purpose of man, namely, to give glory to God. The skill of the artist is directed in a special way by each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Art in itself not only produces works of beauty, but constitutes an act of piety and worship. Through his adornment of a church the artist gives men cause to praise their Creator and proclaim Him wondrous in His works.
Bibliography: theophilus, De diversis artibus, ed. c. r. dodwell (London and New York 1961), tr. from the Lat. with introd., nn, and bibliog.; On Divers Arts: The Treatise of Theophilus, ed. and tr. j. g. hawthorne and c. s. smith (Chicago 1963), tr. from the medieval Lat. with introd. and nn; a new tr. without Latin text, but fuller bibliog. 16 plates and 27 figs. l. thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science 1:760–774. e. de bruyne, Études d'esthétique médiévale, 3 v. (Bruges 1946) 2:413–417, his date for T., however, is too early.
[m. r. p. mcguire]