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15th Century Art in Northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula


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15th Century Art in Northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula

  1. 1. 15th Century Art in Northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula 1400-1500 Where? Flanders (Belgium), Holland, Germany, and France
  2. 2. So what’s going on in 15th century art • Active, prosperous capitalist society = strength • Secular (non-religious) works of architecture are inspired by Gothic church architecture • International Gothic style dominates painting • Flemish painting = symbolically rich layers of meaning in crowded composition with high horizon lines • Secular art/architecture becomes more important • Printmaking introduced – art can be massproduced! This is revolutionary!
  3. 3. Historical Background: • Trading/merchants – bring affluence to trading towns, especially Flanders – stimulates interest in the arts • First stock exchange established in Antwerp in 1460 • Artwork is marketed and traded • Cities competed with one another for the most elaborate cathedrals, town halls, and altarpieces • Everyone is trying to be the best in Europe!
  4. 4. • Rich middle class supported scholarship, literature, and the arts • Their patronage leads to an explosion of learning and creativity –RENAISSANCE (French for “rebirth”) • The RENAISSANCE is based on Petrarch and other 14th century scholars who believe in HUMANISM – the power and potential of human beings • The art we look at here can be called EARLY RENAISSANCE
  5. 5. Architecture • Flamboyant Gothic architecture is so popular that it is used in secular buildings now • Monastically-inspired buildings for the rich and famous of Northern Europe
  6. 6. House of Jacques Coeur 1443-1451 (15th cen.) Bourges, France
  7. 7. • Home of a rich entrepreneurial merchant who amassed $$$$$$ • First floor: Business area of the house, storage areas, servant quarters, shops • Upper floors: for family and entertaining
  8. 8. • Gothic details: window frames, tracery, arches • House surrounds an open interior courtyard • Uneven, irregular plan • Expression of capitalism and development – let’s spend $$$! COURTYARD
  9. 9. Street façade, House of Jacques Coeur
  10. 10. Remember SaintMaclou in Rouen, France? Flamboyant!
  11. 11. Time for paintings! • Johann Gutenberg – invents movable type – has huge impact! - could mass produce books and make them available to nearly anyone – circulated print on a large scale • Gutenberg’s first book, The Bible (surprise surprise) was printed mechanically, but the decorative flourishes (initial letters before each chapter, for example) were hand painted by calligraphers • Some people don’t like printed books, though. They missed the fancy handmade ones • The Limbourg Brothers continued to make handmade books for wealthy patrons
  12. 12. Movable type inspires other mass-produced prints: • WOODCUT: printmaking process by which a wooden tablet is carved into with a tool, leaving the design raised and the background cut away (like a rubber stamp). Ink is rolled onto the raised portion, and an impression is made when paper is applied to the surface – has strong angular surfaces and sharply delineated lines.
  13. 13. • ENGRAVINGS: a printmaking process in which a tool called a BURIN is used to carve into a metal plate, causing impressions to be made in the surface. Ink is passed into the crevices of the plate and then paper is applied – results in a print with remarkable details and finely shaded contours
  14. 14. • ETCHING: a metal plate is covered with a layer of wax. The artist uses a sharp tool to cut into the wax to leave the plate exposed. The plate goes into an acid bath – eats away the exposed portions of the plate. Plate is cleaned, ink put in the crevices caused by the acid. Paper is applied, an impression is made – the finest detail of the three types of early print This etching is from the Italian Renaissance… More about this in the next chapter…
  15. 15. • Cons of prints: not as “fancy” as hand-made books/images, not as “original” when multiple people have the same thing, • Pros of prints: cheaper to buy, artist still made profits on reproductions, fame spreads more quickly with prints because the products went everywhere (but a painting is just with one owner) • And speaking of paintings… Oil paint becomes widespread (before this, tempera was common) • Oil paint was developed as an alternative in a part of Europe in which fresco was never that popular (it doesn’t work for fresco)
  16. 16. So what’s so great about oil paint? • • • • • • • Developed in Flanders in early Renaissance Super rich colors Accurately imitates natural hues and tones Good for achieving fine details Preserves well in wet climates Retains its luster for a long time Dries slowly – allows the artist to make changes over time (tempera and fresco dry super fast) • Has remained the medium of choice for most artists even today (like Mrs. Smolinski!)
  17. 17. • Painted altarpieces were a big deal – artists take pride in them since they’re on public display in very conspicuous locations • Italian altarpieces from the age of Giotto tend to be flat paintings that stand directly behind an altar, often with gabled tops, such as….
  18. 18. Madonna Enthroned by: Cimabue 1280-1290 (13th cen.) tempera on panel (yes, you already saw this in a prior chapter)
  19. 19. • Sometimes Italian altarpieces had reverse sides that were illustrated with stories from the New Testament, such as…
  20. 20. MAESTA by Duccio, 1308-1311 (14th cen.), tempera on panel, in Siena Cathedral
  21. 21. Reverse side of MAESTA -shows the life of Mary AND the life of Christ in 43 small scenes Back and front – two for one!
  22. 22. • Northern European altarpieces are cupboards rather than screens • They have wings that open and close and fold into one another • Large central scene is most important – sometimes carved rather than painted • Let’s see some examples…
  23. 23. THE MERODE TRIPTYCH by Robert Campin (?) (The Master of Flemalle), 1425-1428 (15th cen.), oil on wood. It’s at the Met in NYC!
  24. 24. •Built to be portable (as are other small altarpieces) •Meticulous handling of paint, intricate details •Steeply rising ground line (floor looks tilted up) •Figures too large for architecture they sit in!
  25. 25. •Left panel: donors, middleclass people kneeling before the holy scene
  26. 26. •Right panel: Joseph in his carpentry shop, mousetrap symbolizes the capturing of evil (I know, it’s a stretch…)
  27. 27. •Center panel: Annunciation taking place in everyday Flemish interior •Humanizing of traditional themes – no halos, domestic interior, view into a Flemish cityscape
  28. 28. •There’s a LOT of symbolism here: •Towels and water are Mary’s purity –water = baptism •Flowers have three buds symbolizing the Trinity – unopened bud is the unborn Jesus (lilies = purity)
  29. 29. •Mary seated on the floor – shows her humility •Mary blocks the fireplace (entrance to hell!) •Candlestick – Christ is the light of the world (in Mary’s womb)
  30. 30. THE GHENT ALTARPIECE, by Jan van Eyck, 1432, oil on wood, St. Bavo Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium
  31. 31. •Like other large altarpieces, it’s meant to be housed in an elaborate Gothic frame that enclosed the main scenes
  32. 32. •Altarpieces like this one usually have a painted scene on the outside, visible during the week. •On Sundays, the interior of the altarpiece is exposed to view •Some elaborate altarpieces have a third view for holidays
  33. 33. This is a view of the interior
  34. 34. •Interior top: God the Father in center sits in majesty wearing pope’s crown, surrounded by Mary and John the Baptist, choirs of angels flank them, Adam and Eve in corners
  35. 35. •Interior bottom: The Lamb of God in the center with continuous landscape containing medieval knights and clergy
  36. 36. •This is the EXTERIOR of the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck
  37. 37. •Exterior top: Annunciation with prophets and sibyls who foretell Christ’s coming
  38. 38. •Exterior bottom: two figures painted in “grisaille” (grayscale) in center (St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist); two donors knelling outside in niches
  39. 39. •Northern European artists liked International Gothic painting – a courtly, elegant art form (like Martini, in the 14th century) •Thin, graceful figures with S-shaped curve (like Late Gothic sculpture) •Natural looking, fine details •Splendid costumes, latest fashions, fine fabrics •Gold used a lot – indicates wealth of figures and patrons who sponsored the artwork •Carefully rendered architecture – walls of buildings open up so viewer can look into the interior •Paintings often have elaborate frames that match the fancy painting style
  40. 40. Back to the MERODE TRIPTYCH See how the wall space is opened up so we can see into the room? See how proportions aren’t quite right? Tops of flat surfaces tilt up – high horizon line
  41. 41. PORTINARI ALTARPIECE, by Hugo van der Goes, 1476 (15th century) tempera and oil paint on wood
  42. 42. •Placed in the family chapel of Sant’ Egidio in Florence, Florence’s largest hospital •Placement in a maternity hospital chapel influences subject matter •Continuous landscape throughout the three panels
  43. 43. •Mary is central, St. Margaret (patron saint of childbirth…mental note…) is in the right wing •Baby Jesus appears thin – simulates a newborn •Christ lies on a sheaf of wheat – symbolizes the sacredness of the Eucharist
  44. 44. •Plants in foreground have medicinal value and symbolic associations •Figures are different scales – some large, some small •Symbolism is a BIG deal in Northern European paintings like this one (scholars continue debates)
  45. 45. MAY from THE VERY RICH HOURS OF THE DUKE OF BERRY By: Limbourg Brothers 1413-1416 (15th cen.) Ink on vellum
  46. 46. •International Gothic •Full page illustrations contain the months of the year for a Book of Hours •Limbourg Brothers kept making illustrated books, even after print was possible
  47. 47. •Top: astrological signs associated with each month – for May, Apollo is riding a chariot bringing up the dawn •Naturalism of details: meticulously rendered castles, cast shadows •Nobility and serfs strictly emphasized – they’re in different areas of the painting
  48. 48. •Other scenes: •FEB: peasants warming themselves by fire •MAY: nobles on horseback in May Day parade (seen here) •JULY: peasants harvesting wheat and shearing sheep •OCT: peasants planting winter wheat
  49. 49. ARNOLFINI WEDDING By: Jan van Eyck (he worked mostly in Antwerp, Belgium) 1434 (15th cen.) Oil on wood Go see it at the National Gallery in London
  50. 50. •Tradition says this is the wedding portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami – but now some art historians think this it may be a memorial to a deceased wife, a legal contract scene, or simply a wedding betrothal. Hmmmm.
  51. 51. •Symbols galore! •One burning candle in chandelier – custom of burning a candle on the first night of a wedding •Shoes off – standing on holy ground •Prayerful, promising pose of groom •Dog = fidelity or carnality
  52. 52. •Two figures (witnesses) in the mirror – maybe the artist himself – Jan van Eyck – the inscription above mirror reads “Jan van Eyck was here 1434” •Wife pulls up dress to symbolize childbirth, but she’s not pregnant
  53. 53. •Statue of St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, appears on the bedpost •Man closer to window – he makes a living in the outside world. Woman is farther in the room – she’s a homemaker
  54. 54. •Paint is meticulously applied •Great concentration of minute details •Let’s see another one by van Eyck…
  55. 55. MAN IN A RED TURBAN By: Jan van Eyck 1433 (15th cen.) Oil on wood
  56. 56. •Maybe a self portrait of Jan van Eyck? •Inscription on top of frame (not shown): “As I can”, and on bottom of frame, “Jan van Eyck made me 1433, 21 October” •Looks at the viewer with an unbroken stare
  57. 57. •Naturalistic portrait – he even has beard stubble, wrinkles •Dramatic turban draped over the head •Acceptance of independent selfportraits implies an increased secular society (ie: not EVERYTHING has to have Christian meaning!)
  58. 58. Deposition by:Rogier van der Weyden 1435 (15th cen.) Oil on wood
  59. 59. Shallow stage – figures are squished into a confined space •Great attention to detail, strong emotional impact
  60. 60. Patrons of the archers’ guild symbolized by the crossbows in the spandrels Notice anything about the figures’ positions?
  61. 61. Figures are in a mirrored composition: Positions of Christ and Mary (look!) Two end figures have similar poses, Nicodemus and figure holding Mary have similar poses
  62. 62. LAST SUPPER By: Dirk Bouts 1464-1468 (15th cen.) Oil on wood
  63. 63. •Influence of Italian painting = the development of one-point perspective in Northern art (perspective seen here – not bad!
  64. 64. •Biblical drama of the Last Supper •The focus here is on the seriousness of the sacrament being created – Christ shares bread and wine with his disciples (becomes his body and blood)
  65. 65. •Figures in contemporary dress appear as servants – maybe they are the patrons of the painting? •Figures seem detached and impassive
  66. 66. Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons By: Martin Schongauer 1480-1490 (15th cen.) engraving
  67. 67. •St. Anthony was a 4th century saint – a hermit who spent most of his life in solitude •At 20, he went into the wilderness to spend time in prayer, to study, and to do manual labor (sounds like fun!). He underwent and overcame violent spiritual and physical temptations
  68. 68. •Horrifying demons and spirits of all types tormented St. Anthony – tortured him close to the breaking point •Precise details, vibrant forms – thin, emaciated figures
  69. 69. Let’s see some sculpture for good measure… THE WELL OF MOSES 1395-1406 (turn of the 14th/15th century) limestone
  70. 70. •Large sculptural fountain with a Crucifixion (destroyed) located over the well •Six Old Testament figures surround the well •Water symbolically represents the blood of Christ washing over and cleansing the figures around the well
  71. 71. •The well supplied water for a royally established monastery •Drapery cascades in solid, heavy waves down the figures •Rounded solid forms •Moses holds a copy of his writings; holds the position as messenger between God and his people
  72. 72. I’ve saved one of my favorites for last…
  73. 73. UNICORN IS FOUND AT THE FOUNTAIN From the HUNT OF THE UNICORN tapestry series 1495-1505 (turn of the 15th and 16th century) Wool, silk, and metallic thread. It’s about 12’x12’ Check it out at the Cloisters Museum in NYC! It’s so awesome!
  74. 74. •The tapestries in HUNT OF THE UNICORN series show many people and animals in a dense field of trees and flowers. We can see a castle/town far off in the distance •The rich colors are even better in person – the series is in really good condition…
  75. 75. “The Start of the Hunt” Look out, unicorn!
  76. 76. “The Unicorn is Found at the Fountain ”
  77. 77. “The Unicorn Leaps Out of the Stream” Oh no!
  78. 78. “The Unicorn At Bay” You go, unicorn!
  79. 79. “The Unicorn in Captivity” 
  80. 80. “The Unicorn Is Killed and Brought to the Castle”
  81. 81. Two fragments of a lost tapestry in the series
  82. 82. •The unicorn was said to be supernaturally swift and (according to Medieval tradition) could only be captured by a virgin, to whom it would come willingly •Unicorn = symbol of the Incarnation (Christ is the unicorn captured by the Virgin Mary), and also a metaphor for romance and love. •Unicorn – important animal in the Medieval “bestiary” – encyclopedia of real and imaginary animals that had moral/practical value
  83. 83. •People back then thought unicorns were real, and that their horn (narwhal’s horn) was an antidote to poison •The unicorn below dips its horn in the fountain to purify the water •Unicorn is just doing something nice, and the people capture and kill it – parallel to Christ’s death on the cross to save humanity •Red roses growing behind unicorn may be symbols of Mary and the Passion (Christ’s death) – the tapestries might be celebrating Christianity (or be a wedding gift?)
  84. 84. •Other animals have symbolism: •Lions = valor, faith, courage, mercy, and Resurrection of Christ (because they breathe life into their cubs, aww) •Stag = the Resurrection (it sheds and grows its antlers – rebirth!), and protector against poisonous serpents and general evil. •Rabbits = fertility (that makes sense) •Dogs = fidelity •Pair of pheasants = human love and marriage •Goldfinch = fertility and the Passion of Christ
  85. 85. •What are the ducks for? Who knows! •Flowers and trees = protection and curative powers, each has religious and secular meaning •Strawberries = sexual love •Periwinkle = cures •Pansy = remembrance jealously •Oak tree = fidelity •Beech = nobility •Holly = protection against evil •Hawthorn = power of love •Pomegranate and orange = fertility
  86. 86. •“You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed” – biblical love poem that inspired the park-like setting with its fountain front and center. The hunt for the unicorn was a common theme in late Medieval and Renaissance works of art and literature.
  87. 87. VOCABULARY •ALTARPIECE: a painted or sculpted panel set on an altar of a church •BOOK OF HOURS: a book of prayers to be said at different times of day, days of the year •DONOR: a patron of a work of art, who is often seen in that work •ENGRAVING: a printmaking process in which a tool called a BURIN is used to carve into a metal plate, causing impressions to be made in the surface. Ink is passed into the crevices of the plate and paper is applied. The result is a print with remarkable details and finely shaded contours
  88. 88. •ETCHING: a printmaking process in which a metal plate is covered with a layer of wax. The artist uses a tool to cut into the wax to leave the plate exposed. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath, which eats away the exposed portions of the plate. The plate is removed from the acid, cleaned, and ink is filled into the crevices caused by the acid. Paper is applied and an impression is made. Etching produces the finest detail of the three types of early prints. •GRISAILLE: (pronounced “gri-zahy”) a painting done in neutral shades of gray to simulate the look of sculpture
  89. 89. •POLYPTYCH: a many-paneled altarpiece •TRIPTYCH: a three-paneled painting or sculpture •WOODCUT: a printmaking process by which a wooden table is carved into with a tool, leaving the design raised and the background cut away (like a rubber stamp). Ink is rolled onto the raised portions, and an impression is made when paper is applied to the surface. Woodcuts have strong angular surfaces with sharply delineated lines.
  90. 90. FIN