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Northern Europe Fifteenth Century Key Ideas Prosperous capitalist society inspired a cultural growth and expansion in Flanders and Holland Important secular.

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Presentation on theme: "Northern Europe Fifteenth Century Key Ideas Prosperous capitalist society inspired a cultural growth and expansion in Flanders and Holland Important secular."— Presentation transcript:


2 Northern Europe Fifteenth Century Key Ideas Prosperous capitalist society inspired a cultural growth and expansion in Flanders and Holland Important secular works of architecture are influenced by Gothic church architecture The International Gothic style dominates Northern European painting in the early fifteenth century

3 Key Ideas of fifteenth century Northern Europe Flemish painting has symbolically rich layers of meaning applied to crowded compositions with high horizon lines Secular art becomes increasingly important The introduction of printmaking, the first mass-produced art form, radically transforms art history

4 Historical background The prosperous commercial and mercantile interests in the affluent trading towns of Flanders supported interest in the arts. Successful capitalism was displayed everywhere. The first stock exchange in Antwerp in 1460 to the marketing and trading of artworks was the direct result of this affluent capitalism. Cities vied with one another for the most sumptuously designed cathedrals, town halls, and altarpieces.

5 Architecture in fifteenth century Northern Europe The popularity of the flamboyant Gothic style extended beyond church architecture into the secular society. Elements of Gothic church architecture were grafted onto secular buildings, turning them into monastically inspired buildings for the rich and famous.

6 Street façade of the House of Jacques Coeur, 1443-1451, Bourges, France Home of a rich entrepreneurial merchant who amassed a fortune First floor houses business section of the house, storage areas, servant quarters, shops Upper floors for family and entertaining

7 Interior courtyard of House of Jacques Couer, 1443-51, Bourges, France Many Gothic details in window frames, tracery, arches House surrounds an open interior courtyard Uneven irregular plan Expression of new spirit of capitalism and development

8 Another view of the interior courtyard

9 Artistic Innovations of Northern Europe 1400-1500 Moveable type ( printing press ) by Johann Gutenberg. Early books words were printed and artists illustrated the pages by hand (Limbourg brothers) for wealthy patrons Soon woodcuts, engravings and etchings took the place of hand painted illustrations Artist’s fame would spread more quickly to a wider area, where paintings only stayed with a single owner

10 Innovations Widespread use of oil paint Prior to this, wall paintings were done in fresco and panel paintings were done in tempera Fresco never took hold in Northern Europe Oil paints preserved well in wet climates Oil paint takes a long time to dry therefore allowing the artist to make changes Oil paint allows for more accurate imitation of hues and details

11 Characteristics of Northern European Painting and Sculpture Italian altarpieces were large enough to be seen from a distance, sat behind the altar accessible to only a few. Northern European altarpieces were cupboards rather than screens that opened with wings that folded into one another when closed Central panel was the most important, sometimes carved (sculpture was considered a higher art form)

12 Characteristics of Northern European Painting and Sculpture Altarpieces usually have a scene painted on the outside, visible during the week. On Sundays during key services, the inside of the altarpiece was exposed. Some altarpieces had a third view that was opened on holidays International Gothic style: Elegant, courtly; began by Italian Simone Martini; lasted until 1450

13 International Gothic style: Thin graceful figures, S shaped curve like Late Gothic sculpture Detailed costumes of latest fashions and fabrics Gold was used extensively to indicate the wealth of the patrons sponsoring the art Architecture was rendered in great detail, with wall opening up to interior ( stage setting) Had elaborate frames

14 Characteristics of Northern European Painting and Sculpture Figures are encased by the room not in proportion to their surroundings Ground lines, table tops, virtually any flat surface tilt up dramatically High horizon lines Symbolism is a strong component of Northern European art

15 Limbourg Brothers, October from The Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry, 1413-1416, ink on vellum, Musee’ Conde’, Chantilly International Gothic style Each manuscript page is an illustration of the months of the year for a Book of Hours Top: astrological signs associated each month, Apollo riding a chariot bringing up the dawn Main scenes: Labors of the month: Feb. is warming oneself by a cozy fire with snow covering the landscape: July is peasants harvesting wheat and shearing sheep, Oct. is planting winter wheat

16 Naturalism of details: meticulously rendered castles Separation of the classes strictly emphasized by placement of serfs and nobility in different areas of the painting


18 Robert Campin ( Master of Fle’malle), The Me’rode Altarpiece, 1425- 1428, oil on wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

19 Left panel: donors, middle-class people kneeling before the holy cross Center panel: Annunciation taking place in an everyday Flemish interior

20 Symbolism Towels and water are Mary’s purity: water is a symbol of baptism Flowers have three buds symbolizing the Trinity, the unopened bud is the unborn Jesus Mary seated on the floor symbolizing her humility Mary blocks the fireplace or the entrance to hell Candlestick: Mary holds Christ in the womb Angel with a cross come in through a window, the divine birth

21 Humanization of traditional themes: no halos, domestic interiors, view into a Flemish cityscape Right panel: Joseph in his carpentry workshop; mousetrap symbolizes the capturing of the devil Meticulous handling of paint, intricate details Steeply rising ground line; figures too large for the architecture they sit in


23 Jan Van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, oil on wood, St. Bravo Cathedral, Belgium Polyptych placed on an altar of St. Bravo Great detail and extreme realism

24 Interior Top: God the Father in center sits in majesty wearing the pope’s crown surrounded by Mary and John the Baptist; choirs of angels flank them; Adam and Eve appear in the corners Interior Bottom: The Lamb of God in the center with a continuous landscape containing medieval knights and clergy

25 Exterior top: Annunciation; prophets who foretell Christ’s coming Exterior bottom: two figures painted in grisaille in center; two donors kneeling in outside niches

26 Jan van Eyck, Arnolfini Wedding, 1434, oil on wood, National Gallery, London Traditionally assumed to be the wedding portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami. Symbols of weddings abound: custom of burning a candle on the first night of a wedding; shoes cast off to indicate standing on holy ground; prayerful promising pose of groom

27 Dog symbolizes fidelity or carnality Two witnesses in the convex mirror, perhaps Jan van Eyck himself, since the inscription reads “Jan van Eyck was here 1434” Wife pulls up dress to symbolize childbirth, although she is not pregnant Meticulous handling of paint; great concentration of minute details



30 Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition, 1435, oil on wood, Prado, Madrid Shallow stage for figures jambed into a confining space Great attention to details Strong emotional impact of the scene Patrons of the archer’s guild symbolized by the crossbows in the spandrels Figures in mirrored compositions: Christ and Mary; two end figures have similar poses; similar for Nicodemus (in printed drapery) and the figure holding Mary.

31 Hugo van der Goes, Portinari Altarpiece, 1476, tempera and oil on wood, Uffizzi, Florence Placed in the family chapel of Sant’Egidio in Florence, functioned as the chapel for Florences’s largest hospital Placement in a maternity hospital chapel influences imagery

32 Mary, as the mother of Christ, is centeral: St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, is in the right wing; Christ’s thin appearance simulates a newborn Christ places a sheaf of wheat that symbolizes the sacredness of the Eucharist Plants in foregrond have medicinal value and symbolic associations Continuous landscape throughout the three panels Fiogures at different scales, some very large, some much smaller

33 Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, 1505-1510, oil on wood, Prado, Madrid

34 Left panel; Garden of Eden; the state of humans in an ideal world; however, even here there are signs of the evils to come- animals are violent, eating one another; Adam and Eve are thin, insubstantial nudes who lack backbone and resolve and act only on impulses

35 Central panel: the Garden of Earthly Delights- the result of Adam and Eve’s sin; primitive humanity indulging in sexual play; eating sexually suggestive berries and fruits; idleness; sexually suggestive towers and wading pool; animals suggest sexual perversity

36 Right panel: hell; the results of the activities in the central panel; souls are tormented by demons and made to pay for their excesses on earth; musical instruments, which can arouse passions, abound as symbols of torture Altarpiece probably symbolized the four stages of alchemy: the bringing together of opposite elements (left panel), purification process by fire (right panel), cleansing of the elements (outside panel, not shown)

37 Figures are light and nonsubstantial, lacking individuality and will, having no minds of their own. High horizons pack many details in the paintings

38 Martin Schongauer, Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons, 1480-1490, engraving Saint Anthony, a fourth century saint, was a hermit who spent most of his life in solitude. When he was about twenty he went into the wilderness to spend time in prayer, study, and manual labor, where he underwent violent temptations, both spiritual and physical, but overcame them.

39 Horrifying demons and spirits of all types beset Saint Anthony, torturing him almost beyond edurance. Precise details; tight, vibrant forms; thin emaciated figures

40 Northern Europe 15 th century sculpture Northern European sculpture continues the Gothic progression of having figures move away from the surrounding wall, although complete independence is not achieved as quickly as it is in Italy, Classicizing drapery and contrapposto emerges in the works of Claus Sluter

41 Claus Sluter, The Well of Moses, 1395-1406, limestone, Dijon, France Large sculptural fountain with a Crucifixion ( now destroyed) located over the well Six old Testament figures surrounding the well Water symbolically represented the blood of Christ washing over and cleansing the figures around the well.

42 The well supplied water for a monastery Drapery cascadesin solid, heavy waves down the figures Rounded solid volumes Moses holds a copy of his writings; holds the position as intermediary between God and his people

43 Vocabulary Altarpiece Book of Hours Donor Engraving Etching Grisaille Polyptych Triptych Woodcut

44 Short Essay Critic Robert Hughes has said about Jan van Eyck, “Thus each object, each face and body in Jan van Eyck’s work is spiritualized by its almost total detail; his scrutiny goes beyond the concrete and waits for our symbolic imagination to catch up with it. The objects themselves are charged with symbolism; Jan van Eyck’s attitude to nature was medieval in that he seems to have regarded each created thing as symbol of the workings of God’s mind, and the universe as immense structure of metaphors.” Robert Hughes, The Complete Paintings of The Van Eyks. Harry Abrams: New York, 1968. p.6 Defend or reject Hughes’s assertion by referring to at least one painting by van Eyck. Use one side of a sheet of lined paper to write your essay

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