Gothic and Early Renaissance Art


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Gothic and Early Renaissance
Villard de Honnecourt
Illuminated Manuscripts

Simone Martini
Pietro Lorenzetti
Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Francesco Traini
Giovanni da Milano
Jean Pucelle
Melchior Broederlam
Limbourg brothers
Gentile da Fabriano
Illuminated Manuscripts    
Stefan Lochner
Nicolas Bataille
Bonaventura Berlinghieri
Altichiero da Zevio
Beauneveu Andre
Andrea da Firenze
Barnaba da Modena
Lippo Memmi
Fra Angelico
Konrad of Soest

Bartolo di Fredi
Hubert van Eyck
Jan van Eyck
Bernat Martorell

Hans Memling
Rogier van der Weyden
Hugo van der Goes
Gerard David
Antonello da Messina

Piero della Francesca
Pedro Berruguete
Jaume Huguet
Nicolas Froment

Robert Campin
Konrad Witz

Derick Baegert
Master E.S.
Martin Schongauer
Israhel van Meckenem

Bartolome Bermejo
Fernando Gallego

Hans Multscher

Barthelemy d'Eyck
Dieric Bouts

Andrea Mantegna
Hans Holbein the Elder

Michael Pacher

Quentin Massys
Lorenzo Monaco
Jean Fouquet
Jacopo Bellini
Mr of the Glatz Madonna
Mr Theodoric
Torriti Jacopo
Mr Bertram of Munden Maso di Banco
Taddeo Gaddi
Mr of the Kaufmann Crucifixion
Tommaso da Modena
Mr of Wittingau
Mr of the Narbonne Parament
Malouel Jean
Mr of the Wilton Dyptych
Borrassa Lluis
Mr of the Ortenberg Altar
Filippo Brunelleschi
Joos van Gent
Mr of the Westminster Altar
Mr of the of Robert de Lisle
Mr of Cologne Workshop
Mr of St. Veronica 
Mr of the Paradise Garden Westphalian Master
Mr of the Schloss Tirol Altar
Norwegian Master
Lukas Moser
Master of the Albrecht Altar
Frances Nicolas
Lluis Dalmau
Marco Zoppo
Mr of the Rohan Book of Hours
Mr of Alkmaar
Mr Francke
Bernat Martorell Nuno Goncalves
Martinus Opifex
Juan de Levi
Mr of the Lower Saxon Workshop

Master of the Glatz Madonna

Master Theodoric

Torriti Jacopo


The Gothic era opens a new chapter in the history of art, one which marks the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance and the beginning of secular painting. In contrast to the Middle Ages, whose imagery was rooted entirely in the realms of the hereafter, the artists of the Gothic era looked to the present for their inspiration and thereby arrived at a new realism. Their discovery of a new, material world also led them to a more joyful vision of reality which placed greater emphasis upon feeling.
With the development of court society and the rise of civic culture, the Gothic style blossomed. Art was infused with a new sophistication and elegance. Loving attention to detail, animated use of line, a luminous palette and a masterly technique were typical features of the new style which would quickly take Europe by storm. Gothic art reached its high point in the frescos and panel paintings of Giotto, Duccio, the Lorenzetti brothers, Simone Martini and Fra Angelico in Florence and Siena, in stained glass in France, in the altarpieces of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden in the Netherlands, in the exquisite illuminations executed by the Limburg brothers and other miniaturists, in the panels issuing from the courts of Prague and Vienna, and in the Soft Style of the North German masters and the graceful works of Stefan Lochner.

Gothic was originally a term of contempt. Only much later would it emerge as the name of an epoch. It was unknown to the masters of Gothic painting. It was coined by the Italian theoreticians of the 15 th century - as a potent byword for something that needed to be quashed. Even Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) traced the style explicitly back to the Goths, in his eyes the most heinous of criminals imaginable.

It was they, supposedly, who had razed the classical edifices of the Romans and killed their architects, and then filled all Italy with their accursed buildings. They brought with them a German order whose ornamentation and proportions differed drastically from those of classical antiquity.

They were shunned by good artists as monstrous and barbaric. Theirs was a style which, even though it had swamped the world, was characterized not by measure and degree, but by confusion and chaos.

Giorgio Vasari
Painter, architect and writer
Arezzo 1511- Florence1574

  Spread and impact of the Gothic style

A more temperate opinion was not to be expected from Vasari, the 16th-century Florentine patriot. Although we are indebted to his biographies of famous artists of the Renaissance for their endless wealth of information, his errors of judgement continue to colour our thinking even today. In truth, there are such fundamental differences between Italy and the rest of western Europe that it is highly questionable whether Giotto (c. 1270-1337) and his followers - for Vasari the heralds of a rebirth of art in the spirit of antiquity — can be subsumed under the overall heading of "Gothic". Of the thousands of paintings which have survived from this period, it is clear in all but a handful of cases from which side of the Alps their artists came. Even the terms used to describe the different phases within the era are very different, with artistic developments in Italy still being known by their century — as Dugento or Due-cento, Trecento and Quattrocento.
Leaving aside the phenomenon of the so-called International Gothic or International Style of c. 1400, which we shall be discussing later, the Gothic style never really took root in Italy. A hundred years later, artistic developments in the North and the South had diverged even further than before and around 1300. While the High Renaissance triumphed in the latter in the shape of Raphael (1483—1520) and Leonardo (1452—1519), the Late Gothic masters of Nuremberg, Cologne, Bruges, Antwerp, Barcelona, Burgos, Lisbon and even Paris allowed themselves to be influenced at most only superficially by the new art. On the Iberian peninsula, still closely tied to the arabesques and surface ornament of Islamic art, the Gothic style would remain dominant until well into the 16th century, and from there even gain a foothold in the new colonies. In Spain and Portugal, as partly also in England and Germany, the Gothic was so strong that it was able to absorb the forms of the Renaissance without relinquishing its own fundamental structures. In certain places where the Renaissance had never really taken hold, it was thus able, after 1600, to pass almost unnoticed into the vocabulary of the Baroque.
The Gothic thereby remained the prevailing style in very different parts of Europe for well over 300 years - longer than the Romanesque before it, and considerably longer than both the Baroque which came after and the second International Style of the 20th century, the three other artistic trends which dominated all Europe and, latterly too, those overseas cultures strongly stamped by the Old World. The power it continued to house was reflected in the Gothic Revival which arose in England after the decline of the Baroque, and which spread to Germany and ultimately to the USA and even Australia.

Characteristics of Gothic painting

What makes up the Gothic style is not quite so easy to grasp in painting as it is in architecture, where pointed arches, rib vaults and multiple-rib pillars usually offer rapid points of reference. What distinguishes Gothic painting is first of all a predominance of line, be it scrolling, undulating or fractured, and ultimately an ornament tied to the plane.
This calligraphic element may be seen as a fundamental constituent of the Gothic style. It is found in its purest form in the gently undulating hems of robes in French painting and sculpture towards 1300, and above all in the
draperies which fall in cascades, like thickly waving locks of hair, from the bent arms of figures viewed side on. The style rapidly spread across a broad geographical area; it can be seen in Sweden and Norway  by the first third of the 14th century.



The rich play of draperies reaches its high point in the years around 1400. Granted a presence virtually of their own by their emphasis and size, they now frame figures viewed frontally.
Draperies in the preceding Early and High Gothic periods assume — again in painting as in sculpture — a far greater variety of expressions. Predominant, however, are thinner, more close-fitting robes with long, parallel folds. Narrow pleats are common. In the final phase of the Gothic style, which follows a "Baroque" phase of overspilling, rounded folds, one stereotype replaces another. While robes remain lavishly cut, their folds now assume a crystalline sharpness. Analogous to the draperies, hairstyles and beards are characterized by thick, regular curls.
This emphasis upon line in the Gothic figure is paralleled by a symbolic and ultimately unnatural stylization of the human body itself. The contours of even the earliest Gothic figures are lent a rhythmic sweep. Particularly characteristic of this trend are the frequently very high-waisted figures of the 14th century, whose silhouettes often trace a decidedly S-shaped curve. This love affair with line cannot be entirely divorced from another constituent of the Gothic ideal, namely the very slender, oval facial type which remains a constant throughout the entire period, regardless of all new trends and changing ideals.
Such pointers can only highlight the most obvious features of an epoch; they cannot do justice to all its individual expressions. Thus within High Gothic sculpture there exists a small group of works which come extraordinarily close to the harmonious proportions of the classical human figure. In the midst of the extremely refined art of the French court in the years around 1300, there suddenly appear flat faces of strikingly broad and angular outline, which subsequently became one of the most distinctive features of Lotharingian Madonna statues. In painting, Master Theoderic (doc. from 1359-c. 1381) set himself apart from the overrefinement and stylization of the Master Hohenfurt (active c. 1350) and the Bohemian Master of the Glatz Madonna (active c. 1345) of just ten years earlier with the powerful, heavy heads of his massive, thickset saints. Here, as never before in Western art, they are people of real flesh and blood. One of his colleagues, later known as Master Bertram of Minden (c. 1340—1414/15), emulated him to some degree, but overall Theoderic's excursion into powerful individualization was carried no further.


Master of the Glatz Madonna
Berlin, Gemaldedalerie


Master Theodoric

( fl third quarter of the 14th century).
Bohemian painter.

The only court painter to Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, whose work can be identified, he is first documented in 1359, when he already held the position, with a house in Hradcany, Prague.

His origins and early career are obscure, though he may be the Master Theodoric who in 1348 was elected Master of the newly founded Prague Brotherhood of Painters.

Master Theodoric
St Jerome
National Gallery, Prague
Master Theodoric
St Gregory
National Gallery, Prague


Circle of Master Theoderic
c. 1370
(from the Na Slovanech Emmaus monastery, Prague)
Narodni Galeri, Prague




  The birth of the new style

Even more problematic than the term "Gothic" itself is the precise dating of the period to which it was posthumously applied. Its regional variations, too, demand more specific differentiation. In contrast to what Vasari would have us believe, the Gothic style had its origins not in the Germanic north, but in France, where large numbers of classical buildings were in fact still standing in Vasari's own day. It was the intensive study of these very remains - and not some anti-classical reaction - that inspired the development of Gothic forms of ornament and a new image of man. Thus some of the most impressive examples of French cathedral sculpture owe their origins to this appraisal of antiquity — decades before, towards the end of the 13th century in Rome, the painters Pietro Cavallini (c. 1240/50?-after 1330), Jacopo Torriti (active c. 1270-1300) and Filippo Rusiti (active c. 1297-1317) turned their attention to their classical heritage and thereby laid the foundations for Giotto's revolution.
In St Denis, even before 1150, Abbot Suger (c. 1081—1151) "invented" the ribbed vault which, with its pointed arches and large windows, would lay down the ground plan for the ambulatories of Gothic cathedrals. Elsewhere, however, much remained indebted to the Romanesque style. Even as High Gothic architecture in the region around Paris entered its classical phase with the construction of Chartres at the start of the 13th century, in neighbouring countries, on the Rhine and in Spain, buildings were still springing up in the excessively ornamented style of the Late Romanesque. The new style was not embraced synchronously by all of Europe at once, but rather was adopted by different disciplines of art at different points in time. Even amongst the painters of the French court, old Byzantine traditions persisted into the 13th century. Only towards the middle of the century does a genuinely Gothic style become palpable in painting - an entire century later than in architecture. German and Italian painting, meanwhile, were being swept at the very same time by a fresh wave of Byzantine influence.
On the other hand, this Late Romanesque phase bore the appearance, in Germany in particular, of a rearguard action. The more naturalistic proportions being employed in the portrayal of the human figure and its draperies by their French neighbours had not escaped the notice of the German painters. Instead of adopting this new development directly, however, they took its powerfully animated robes and stylized them — in a Byzantine manner — with crystalline folds, arriving at what has been aptly termed the zigzag style. This style is found in England, too, although the country's close artistic ties to France also produced more naturalistic forms.
Torriti Jacopo

( fl c. 1270–1300). Italian painter and mosaicist. Two mosaics in Rome are signed by him: one, on the apse of S Giovanni in Laterano, that once bore the date 1291 (or, according to some sources, 1290 or 1292); and another on the apse and triumphal arch of S Maria Maggiore, now replaced by a 19th-century restoration but at one time dated 1295 or 1296. Torriti is also known to have executed a mosaic for Arnolfo di Cambio’s tomb of Pope Boniface VIII (1296) in Old St Peter’s, Rome. Torriti was active during the same period as Cimabue and Giotto, Pietro Cavallini and Arnolfo di Cambio, but his fame has been obscured by theirs, no doubt because of his closer links with Byzantine art. He was nevertheless one of the most important artists working in Rome during the papacy of Nicholas IV (1288–92) and was entrusted with some of the most prestigious commissions of the day. 

Torriti Jacopo
The Creation of Eve
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi



Torriti Jacopo
Creation of the World
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi



Torriti Jacopo
The Construction of the Ark
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi



Torriti Jacopo
The Marriage at Cana
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi



Torriti Jacopo
Christ Crowning the Virgin
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome