TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  Art Timeline  
 
 
  1 c. 15000 - 5000 BC Prehistoric Art
  2 5000 BC - 5ОО BC The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms of Egypt - Aegean Art
  3-4 5ОО вс - 12th century The Art of the Greeks
  5-6 5ОО вс - 12th century Italic Art
  7-8-9 12th century (1100-1199) The Early Christians  Art - Byzantine Art
  10-11 13th century (1200-1299) Gothic Art
  12 14th century (1300-1399) Gothic Art - International Style
  13 15th century (1400-1499) The Early Renaissance
  14 16th century (1500-1599) The High Renaissance
  15-16 16th century (1500-1599) Mannerism
  17-18-19-20 17th century (1600-1699) Baroque
  21-22 18th century (1700-1799) Rococo
  23-24-25-26-27-28-29 19th century(1800–1899) Neoclassical - Romanticism
    19th century (1863-1899) Impressionism Timeline
    19th century (1860-1899) Simbolism
    20th century(1900-1999) ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
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14th century (1300-1399)

Gothic Art - International Style
 
 
 
     
  The Age of Great Cathedrals

(timeline)
     
 
 
 
     
  Gothic Art

Architecture-Sculpture-Stained Glass-Painting
     
 
 
 
     
 
Gothic & Early Renaissance Art

Painting
 
     
 
 
 
13th century (1200-1299)
 
Nicola Pisano
Antelami Benedetto
Master of Naumburg
Cimabue
Arnolfo di Cambio
Giovanni Pisano
Cavallini
1255
Duccio
1266
Giotto
Andrea Pisano
Bonaventura Berlinghieri
Lorenzo Maitani
Tino di Camaino
Pietro Lorenzetti
1284
Simone Martini
Lippo Memmi
Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Giovanni di Balduccio
 
 
 
     
 
Art of the Apocalypse
     
 
 
 
     
  Late Gothic & Early Renaissance

Architecture  Sculpture  Painting
     
 
 
 
14th century (1300-1399)
 
 
Manesse Codex
Agostino di Giovanni
Maso di Banco
Tadeo Gaddi
Tommaso da Modena
Bartolo di Fredi
Altichiero da Zevio
Andre Beauneveu
Sluter
Andrea da Firenze
Giovanni da Milano
Jean Pucelle
Hubert van Eyck
1375
Lorenzo Monaco
Gentile da Fabriano
Jacopo della Quercia
Robert Campin
Lorenzo Chiberti
Lluis Borrassa
Melchior Broederlam
Jacobello and Pierpaolo dalle Masegne
Masolino
Alain Chartier
Limbourg brothers
Barnaba da Modena
1387
Fra Angelico
1395
Jan van Eyck
Sassetta
Pisanello
 
 
 
Gothic Art - International Style
 
 
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 15th 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.
 
 

Master of the Glatz Madonna
1343-44
Berlin, Gemaldedalerie
 
 
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.

 
 

Torriti Jacopo
Christ Crowning the Virgin
1296
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
 
 
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.

 
 
 
The Gothic style and Italy

The Italian works included in this volume also commence with the end of the 13th century. Although they do not fall under the heading of Gothic painting as such, they exerted an enduring influence upon the Gothic style from almost the very start — and did not remain untouched in return. Their artistic starting-point was the Byzantine Empire, which began on the eastern shores of the Adriatic and which enjoyed close political and cultural links with many of Italy's cities. A series of four Madonna panels, one by the Sienese artist Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255- c. 1319), two by the Florentine Cimabue (c. 1240— after 1302), and one by his compatriot Giotto, might almost have been deliberately designed to illustrate the magnitude of the development which took place within just one generation. Three of them hang in the same room in the Uffizi in Florence.

In all four pictures, the Virgin is seated on an elaborate throne. In the Duccio and the earlier of the two Cimabue paintings, this tapers illogically towards the foreground; a vague attempt at the perspectival effects achieved by earlier generations - right back to classical antiquity. In the two later works, on the other hand, the throne vanishes towards the background. The three earlier thones are ornately fashioned of wood, while Giotto's throne is constructed out of costly stone. We are suddenly confronted with an entirely new vocabulary of form. Above the sides and back of the throne, Giotto deploys pointed arches, trefoil tracery, finials and crockets - the language of Gothic architecture, in other words, already in use in France for over a hundred years, but still very new to Italy. The facades of Siena and Orvieto cathedrals, built during this same period, feature very similar elements and also employ a wealth of coloured marble and costly inlay. While Giotto's throne draws upon the decorative motifs of Islamic art, its curling leaves and scrolling tendrils simultaneously anticipate the ornament which three centuries later would fill the pilasters of the Renaissance.
The very similar poses adopted by the Virgin and Child in the and the earlier Cimabue suggest that both works looked back to the same Byzantine model. The later Cimabue painting adopts a similar basic format, although the Madonna is seated slightly differently. In the Duccio and both Cimabue paintings, the figures are detailed with extreme care and the folds of their robes rendered with great subtlety. The calligraphic fluency with which Duccio drew the edges of the Virgin's cloak is underlined by the gilding. Despite their angled poses, however, with their knees bent at different heights, the three earlier Madonnas ultimately lack true physical substance. They appear to float like cutouts against their lavish backgrounds. Once again, Giotto does something entirely new. A solid body fills out the draperies; languid, delicate fingers become firm and fleshy. Where robe and body once formed an elegant unity detached from the world, so here a very earthly mother seems to have donned her costly robe purely and uncomfortably for ceremony's sake. Both feet are planted side by side firmly on the ground. In the two earliest paintings, in particular, the Virgin's face reveals the same overly wide bridge of the nose and a mouth which is much too small in relation to the almond-shaped eyes. The modelling of the face has a very graphic quality; line dominates. Thus the artist even draws in the side of the nose upon which the light falls. In Giotto this gives way to blurring shadow; a delicate gauze lies around the eyes, the forehead broadens, the veil sits higher on the head.

While their closely pleated draperies reflect the ethereal remoteness of the earlier Madonnas, in Giotto both the figures and the fabrics have become heavy and solid. The Virgin's cloak falls into just a few, large folds. Although the three earlier paintings also attempt to differentiate between raised and sunken areas of fabric, the gold on and between the ridges of the red shawl draped around Duccio's infant Christ, and on the Virgin's robes in the later Cimabue, only serve to accentuate the flatness of the overall effect. Giotto, by contrast, already makes highly convincing use of light and shade, limiting gold to the no longer capriciously undulating, but largely flat hems of the Madonna's cloak. What is true of the Virgin and Child is also very much true of Giotto's angels. They are no longer surface decoration, but large, serious figures who, for all their wings, stand or kneel with their full weight on the ground. The lilies and other carefully rendered flowers in their hands also introduce, over and above their symbolic significance, a very robust, earthly element into the exalted heavenly sphere.
The fact that Cimabue and Duccio had already freed themselves significantly from the dominant Byzantine style, and had arrived at a more naturalistic treatment of movement, draperies and the distribution of light and shade, is entirely obscured by the force of the revolution wrought by Giotto. His radical change of direction continues to astonish the modern viewer - how much more profoundly it must have shaken his contemporaries. Notwithstanding its Roman predecessors and the influences of antiquity and the French Gothic style, it remains one of the great acts of creation in the history of art.

It was improved upon even in Giotto's own lifetime in the work of the barely less important Sienese artist, Simone Martini (c. 1280/85-1344). In comparison with Giotto's sculptural, block-like figures, with their often correspondingly stiff, awkward, even clumsy gestures, Duccio was already painting with a greater subtlety. Where Giotto portrays raw size, Duccio's figures, more heavily indebted to Byzantine tradition, exhibit greater feeling- Duccio's colours, often deeply shaded, shimmer like costly enamel. Although the early works of Simone Martini, born barely twenty years after Giotto, were still characterized by such Byzantine features as the broad bridge of the nose and draperies overlaid with gold leaf, he went on to marry Duccio's achievements both with the new physical type introduced by Giotto and with Giotto's revolutionary understanding of space and architecture.
Simone's enormous Maesta fresco in Siena's town hall, depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned and surrounded by saints, is distinguished by a particular elegance and beauty of line. Movements are freer, and faces — highly sensitive and often very serious - are more finely modelled and strongly expressive than those of Giotto. While the bearded heads are still largely indebted to Duccio, the slender youthful heads, many of them with half-length hair curling in on itself at the bottom in line with the fashion of the day, are often more "Gothic" than Giotto's. Simone's draperies are again thinner than Giotto's, and their folds more angular. Compared with the plainness of the Florentine master, what is striking overall is the wealth of detail in both the costumes and the setting.


Simone Martini
Maesta (detail)




Italy and Bohemia

The innovations pioneered by Giotto and Simone are not simply milestones within the history of Italian art. They serve to illustrate the interplay of mutual influences within non-Byzantine art as a whole, as well as the phenomenon of chronologically staggered developments. Just as Giotto and Simone had absorbed influences from France, so they in turn helped steer painting north of the Alps down entirely new avenues. Even before Giotto's death in 1337, one of the four panels making up the altarpiece for Klosterneuburg near Vienna, completed around 1331, quotes literally from the frescos which Giotto executed in 1304—1306 for the Arena Chapel in Padua — one of the first Italian cities which travellers reached after crossing the Alps .
The remaining three Klosterneuburg panels also testify to the influence of the great Florentine master in their angular faces, austere gestures and in the foreshortening and decoration of their furnishings. That their anonymous artist was nevertheless rooted in the contemporary trends of the North is demonstrated, on the other hand, by the greater animation and curvilinear silhouettes of his figures, and above all by the loose draperies with their richly undulating hems in which they are clad.
A good ten years later we encounter Italian influences again, this time a little further north in Prague, Bohemia, which under Charles IV (1316-1378) became the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor and thus the political as well as the cultural capital of the entire empire. The Bohemian Master of the Glatz Madonna and his somewhat weaker follower, the Master Hohenfurt cite Italian head types more faithfully than the Klosterneuburg artist, while the folds of their draperies continue to reflect the tastes of the North. As the Kaufmann Crucifixion demonstrates, an exquisite palette featuring striking orange accents becomes characteristic of the Bohemian school, although it could also be seen as a reference to earlier Sienese paintings. The same might be true of the sumptuous detailing of the draperies of the Christ, donor and angels in the Glatz picture. The large panel was originally surrounded by smaller scenes from Christ's childhood, as was the convention in Italy. This was no coincidence: to underline his imperial status, Charles IV was quite blatantly seeking to compete with the leading artistic centres of his day — which meant Tuscany and Paris — and if possible even to surpass them.


Master of the Kaufmann Crucifixion
c. 1340
Berlin, Gemaldedalerie



Italy and France

The Italian influences finding their way into the Klosterneuburg altar were also being felt strongly in Paris, where the French court was the most spoilt for artists of any in Europe. In 1309, under pressure from the French king Philip the Fair, Pope Clement V (1305-1314) moved his residence from Rome to Avignon, which was closely allied to the French crown lands. He was followed not just by cardinals and the papal court, but also by Italian artists, including for a short time possibly even Giotto himself. Simone Martini certainly spent time in Avignon. He was destined for employment at court not only by the extremely sophisticated elegance of his art, but also by the close contacts he had developed, while still in Italy, with the Anjou family, the then rulers of Naples.
The panel paintings which Simone executed after 1336 are now scattered, but important fragments of his mural decorations for the palace chapel have survived in situ. As a result of conservation measures undertaken in this century, it is even possible to distinguish between the various stages of their execution. The rather damaged frescos themselves have been detached from the detailed preparatory drawings, or sinopie, underneath and these separated in turn from the original sketch, which remains in its old place. The sinopie, hidden for six hundred years, thereby reveal the delicacy and freedom of Simone's drawing more directly than the finished painting.
From Avignon, the exquisite linearity and powerful, delicate colours of the Sienese artists exerted their influence not only upon the Paris court, where Pucelle Jean (active c. 1319—1335) drew upon them to arrive at a new plasticity and sought to achieve a uniform perspective, but also upon nearby Aragon across the Pyrenees. Even the Sienese elements of Bohemian court art may have reached Prague via Avignon rather than a more direct source - men such as the bishop who commissioned the Glatz Madonna were bound to have spent time at the papal court. Nor should we underestimate, in this context, the extent of the artistic exchanges taking place in Avignon itself. According to records, the Italians were working alongside English, Catalan and, in particular of course, French artists.

 
 
 

Master of Wittingau
The Resurrection
c. 1380-1390
(from the altar of the Augustinian Canons' church of St Aegidius)
Narodni Galeri, Prague
 
 
Pathways to the International Style

Even as an important basis was here being established for the extraordinarily homogeneous style that would stamp itself upon the art of western and central Europe around 1400, so in Tuscany Giotto and Simone Martini had set standards which were almost impossible to surpass. For their contemporaries and followers, consequently, it was a matter of consolidating what had been achieved rather than of embarking upon something new. In Siena, such important painters as Lippo Memmi (active 1317-c. 1350) and Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1280/90-1348) further developed the art of Simone, while in Florence Taddeo Gaddi (active c. 1325—1366) and others embraced the legacy of Giotto. A certain artistic paralysis now set in. A contributory factor here was the outbreak in 1348/49 of the Black Death, which spread throughout Europe in just a few months and in some places carried off over half the population, including many artists — Pietro Lorenzetti perhaps among them. Stagnation and increasingly empty routine would make the Italian artists only too eager to embrace the new trends of the International Gothic towards the end of the century.
New impetus would eventually come from the northern centres of Paris and Prague. While the trauma of 1348 continued to be processed in many places in extremely expressive Crucifixions and Lamentations, the forerunners of the International Gothic were already formulating the new style which, around 1400, would dominate the whole of non-Byzantine Europe. At almost the same time as Theoderic was painting his monumental, melancholy saints for Karlstein castle - the crystallization-point of Charles IV's cultural, political and religious ambitions - the Prague sculptors were unveiling their quite different art, its figures more stereotypical than individual, more elegant than earthly. Their influence immediately began radiating out to neighbouring Silesia, which belonged to Bohemia, and on to Salzburg.
There were enough branches of the Parler dynasty of artists alone to ensure close exchanges with the Rhineland. Characteristic features of this Prague school include Lamentations and, above all, the aptly-named Schone Madonnen ("Beautiful Madonnas"). Alongside their technical perfection, these latter are distinguished by the dynamic sweep of their bodies, an affected pose, faces of an almost saccharine sweetness and in particular a volume of draperies arranged with consummate skill, which tumble down the sides in rich cascades and conclude in a virtuoso sea of undulating hems.
Judging by the quality, number and geographical spread of the works which followed, this aesthetic revolution must have captivated other artists of the day as far away as Italy and even distant Spain. At home, it was translated into painting by the Master of Wittingau (active c. 1380-1390), the last great artist which the Bohemian school, which flow ered for just a few decades, would produce. He underlines once again the importance of the new style not just for Bohemia, but for Europe as a whole: almost all the elements which would be central to European painting around 1400 are present in his Wittingau Altar.

Theoderic's ample figures are reduced to an almost painful thinness: extremities, faces, all are now elongated and fragile; fingers resemble spider's legs. The slender silhouettes are clad all the more expressively in thin, generously cut robes. In a similar fashion to the sculptures mentioned above, the Christ in the Resurrection is enveloped in a cascade of folds ending in a rich swirling hem. Anecdotal details have assumed much greater importance — even where, as in the case of the many birds in the Resurrection, there is little obvious justification for their inclusion in the scene.
The quality of the execution struggles to match the inventiveness of the composition, however. As in the case of the Hohenfurth Altar, the paintings that have come down to us are perhaps only indirect reflections of the true, but now lost masterpieces of their day. There is another striking feature about the Wittingau Altar. As remained the convention in various regions up to the 16th century, the majestic gold ground is restricted to the interior panels, which in Wittingau are reserved — again in line with convention — for standing figures of saints. The narrative scenes on the altar's exterior, on the other hand, employ a red ground dotted with gold stars, which engages in a powerfully expressive interplay with the red of certain draperies. The impression made by the landscape, with its individual elements executed in such particular detail, is also intensified by the complementary colour of the background. There may have been earlier instances of this phenomenon, too, in works that are now lost.
This style had its roots in the Paris court art of the years around 1300, where its forms battled against more abstract tendencies throughout the 14th century. Years before the Wittingau Altar, the Parisian Master of the Narbonne Parament (active c. 1375— um 1400) had demonstrated, in the work which gave him his name, his familiarity with the elegant flow of movement, slender silhouettes and the exuberant undulation of fabric hems.
 
 

Master of the Narbonne Parament
Paramentdoration of the Child
c. 1390
(miniature from the Tres Belles Heures de Notre-Dame)
Museo Civico d'Arte Antica, Turin
 
 
 
A uniform style throughout western Europe

In the thirty years following the completion of the Wittingau Altar, non-Byzantine painters everywhere competed in their striving towards an ever more exquisite palette and ever more fluid draperies; not without reason is the International Gothic also known as the Soft or Beautiful Style. For the first time, lovingly detailed landscapes became a major element of the composition. For the last time before the Baroque, western European painters shared the same vocabulary, the same aesthetic ideals. Even Italy, entrenched in its old traditions, eagerly embraced the new trend, to the regret of later Renaissance theoreticians of the school of Vasari; the supposedly unbroken line of development from Giotto to Michelangelo (1475—1564) is a later myth. Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370— 1427;) and Pisanello (before 1395-1455) were leading figures in both Italian and Gothic art. It is no coincidence that Milan cathedral dates from precisely this period, as a symbol of the triumph of Northern form. There are sociological reasons, too, behind this broad-based stylistic uniformity: the ruling houses of the day were dominated by very similar courtly ideals, which were also finding their way into literature.
What is so truly astonishing about this epoch is the fact that the style was practised so widely, including by many unknown and second-rate artists. But it was also embraced by some of the greatest names in Gothic painting. Apart from Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello, these included Jean Malouel (c. 1365— 1419) and Melchior Broederlam (doc. 1381—1409) in Paris and the Burgundian capital of Dijon, the Master of the Wilton Dyptych (doc. c. 1390-1395) in London, Lluis Borrassa (doc. from 1380-c. 1425/26) in Catalonia and, in the wealthy Hanseatic city of Dortmund, Konrad of Soest (c. 1370 — after 1422), who would exert an enormous influence upon west and north German art for decades to come. All of these artists sought to place their own stamp upon the universal style.

 
 

Malouel Jean
Calvary and the Martyrdom of St Denis
1416
Musee du Louvre, Paris
 
 
 
New departures in Florence and the Netherlands

It was clear by the 1420s at the latest that this rare parallelism would not be a lasting phenomenon. While the Soft Style reached its final flowering in a work such as the Ortenberg Altar — admittedly accompanied by an increasing hardening and stylization of the heads - artists elsewhere had already made a sudden, apparently unexpected break with the past which, like the new departures of Suger and Giotto, would be followed by a period of consolidation and relative quiet. In Florence, Masaccio (1401—1428) and Masolino (1383—after 1435) were laying the foundations of the art of the Renaissance, by infusing Giotto's forgotten compositional formulae with a greater realism and a previously unknown monumentality, derived in turn from a deeper study of antiquity and a closer observation of their own surroundings and the human form. The fragile bodies of the International Gothic are filled with new volume, stances become heavy, profiles broad, shadows deep. In the southern Netherlands, meanwhile, the second great centre of power in western Europe was starting to emerge. Towards the end of the 14th century, Netherlandish artists were already exerting a decisive influence upon developments in Paris, up till then the artistic capital of the North.
Parallel with the new developments in Florence, the brothers Hubert (c. 1370—1426) and Jan van Eyck (c. 1395—1441) - the most important Netherlandish artists of the age - were also turning to the naked human body and lending it a realism unseen since antiquity. The paths they followed to the same goal were very different, however. In the case of Masaccio, it was a highly intellectual process. His image of humankind is concentrated into archetypes. He is more interested in basic form, flow of movement and volumes than in the surface of things. It was the accurate observation of such surfaces, however, which formed the foundation of Eyckian realism, but which also contained its limitations. Jan van Eyck described the effects of movement without actually understanding them. Thanks to this same eye for detail, however, he succeeded in lending his figures an anatomical quality whose impact was felt even in Italy. Only van Eyck discovered the dimple on Adam's hip, only he described the muscles and sinews around Adam's knee.

 
 
Netherlandish empiricism went an astonishingly long way. While Jan van Eyck's contemporary, Filippo Brunelleschi (1377—1446), was "inventing" centralized perspective in Florence, his own pictures contain no unified vanishing point. If his spatial settings frequently seem highly "realistic", it should not be forgotten that the mathematical principles of perspective employed by the Italians strictly speaking contradict the workings of the human eye, which sooner perceives slightly curved lines as straight rather than ones which really are straight. Perspective employing a consistent vanishing point would only find its way into Netherlandish art in the second half of the 15 th century.
The Netherlandish love of detail could be celebrated to its fullest in portrayals of untamed nature. Although landscapes as a whole were conceived on a less grandiose scale than in Masaccio, the natural kingdom is portrayed with a precision, technical sophistication and exquisiteness which remain unequalled today. However different in other respects, even the Italian painting of the Quattrocento regularly drew fruitful inspiration from this same source. Thus the young Raphael was not shy of siting his figures again and again within a Netherlandish natural idyll. This influence of the North upon the South nevertheless still tends to attract much less attention in the literature than the exchanges in the opposite direction.
It has, however, long been known that northern works were eagerly collected south of the Alps. On closer inspection, it thus emerges that an astonishingly high proportion of the works of Hans Memling (c. 1430/40—1494) were destined for Italian lovers of art. Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1400-1464) and Hugo van der Goes (c. 1440-1482) both dispatched their paintings across the Alps; Joos van Cleve (c. 1485—1540/41) would later send his biggest altars there. Significantly, a large work by Gerard David (c. 1460—1523) for Liguria even modelled itself on the layout of the Italian altarpiece. Down in the far south of Italy, Antonello da Messina (c. 1430-1479) became the champion of Netherlandish ideas possibly without ever having crossed the Alps. Most exciting of all within this process of exchange are the rare personal meetings between artists, such as the work jointly executed at the court of Urbino by the Italian Piero della Francesca (c. 1415/20—1492), the Flemish artist Joos van Gent (active c. 1460-1480) and the Spaniard Pedro Berruguete (c. 1450-1503?). So close and fruitful was their collaboration that trying to identify exactly who painted what continues to cause headaches even today.
 
 

Master of the Ortenberg Altar
The Holy Kindred
c1425-1430
(central panel of the Ortenberg Altar)
 
 
 
The discovery of nature and landscape

Making an increasing appearance in the North towards the end of the 14th century are backgrounds of plants and flowers, which soon after 1400 reach an at times breath-taking magnificence. The Master of the Paradise Garden renders each different species in loving detail. But whereas he presents the plants one by one as if in a botanical textbook, the van Eyck brothers weave them, barely twenty years later, into an organic whole. Grasses no longer stand out palely against a dark ground, as if on a carpet. Here, at least in places, we sense the rampant, untamed growth of nature, following no human rules.
The development of the portrayal of whole landscapes progressed with similar speed. While Giotto observed people and buildings with great care, the rugged, rocky hillsides of his outdoor settings remain for the most part a backdrop of secondary importance. Although he attempts to differentiate trees and plants by species, they remain something of an abbreviated representation of the riches of nature. At the hands of Simone Martini just one generation later, what was simply a foil becomes luxuriant green gardens within which (and not in front of which) the figures act out their parts. In the frescos in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, panoramas are no longer accessories, but the true protagonists. For all their stylization, they portray familiar real-life landscapes, albeit recognizable more from their architecture and embellishing details than from their barren sugar-loaf hill. When Ambrogio Lorenzetti (c. 1290—um 1348) painted the Effects of Good Government in the same building, also well before the middle of the 14th century, he too chose a realistic landscape over a symbolic or allegorical setting. In a broad panorama, he shows the Tuscan hills with their fields, hedges, olive trees and vineyards.
In the north, it would be over fifty years before the three brothers Paul, Jean and Herman Limburg (active c. 1400— 1415) would produce landscapes painted with the same loving attention to detail, but often much more fantastical in character. As in the Siena frescos, the identifiable buildings within them serve specifically to reflect glory upon the patron of the work of art concerned. Thus in Siena they proclaimed the success and sphere of influence of the city, while in the Tres Riches Heures they reflected the magnificence of the properties owned by the Due de Berry, for whom the manuscript was executed.
Fantastical, too, are the landscapes of Melchior Broederlam in Dijon, which usher in Early Netherlandish painting. Their architecture and rugged cliffs employ formulae which had been developed in Tuscany almost a century earlier, and which had then travelled north, for example via Klosterneuburg and Hohenfurth. Although the Nativity by Robert Campin (c. 1375/80-1444), also executed for Dijon towards 1430, still employs a snaking track to draw the eye into the background, its route is now bordered by set pieces from the 15th-century viewer's world. Pollarded willows, wicker fencing, fields and contemporary buildings lead towards a distant lake. The rocky outcrop blocking the view has moved to a less obtrusive position above the stable, and appears at least a little more realistic with its patches of turf between bands of rock. At the same time, the landscape is no longer seen entirely from above, but is presented in a more accurate relationship to the figures in the foreground.
A good decade would pass before Konrad Witz (c. 1400— 1445) painted, in 1444, a recognizable landscape which no longer relied upon cities and castles for its identification. The following years subsequently saw the give and take relationship between South and North reversed. The stylized landscapes of the North, far removed from realism in the modern sense, were enriched by such a carefully-observed wealth of natural detail that even Raphael was unable to resist their charms.

 
 

Master of the Paradise Garden
Garden of Paradise
c. 1410
Stadelsches Kunstinstitut und Stadtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main
 
 
 
The perfection of technique

Landscape was just one of the temptations drawing collectors to buy Netherlandish art and painters to imitate it. Another was the quality of execution distinguishing its panel paintings, whose standard was never to be equalled. The very wood itself was chosen with particular care. While artists in Italy generally made do with local poplar, and in Spain with pine, in the Netherlands virtually everyone opted for Baltic oak, which was shipped in from far afield. The panels were cut out of the trunk in radial wedges, like slices of cake, in order to prevent any later warping. The softer outermost layers were rejected, so as to forestall any unnecessary extra risk of attack by insects. As a further means of protection, the panels were given solid frames and only then primed, usually on both sides. The wood was thus sealed all round.
As a consequence, the practice of covering the panel with a layer of material, still very common in the 14th century and seen, for example, in the earlier Soest picture, the Kaufmann Crucifixion and the Schloss Tirol Altar, could be largely dropped. On top of the primed panel, whose white ground was intended to shine through the colours laid over it and thereby heighten their luminosity, there was often then executed a detailed preliminary drawing. Only after weeks of preparation, and years even since the original tree had been felled, could painting actually begin. This, too, was an extremely laborious and lengthy process. By no means was the final colour applied straight away (alla prima). Rather, the paint was laid down in several transparent layers (glazes), moving from darker to lighter shades, allowing the underlying layers to shine through. This alone would ensure the tremendous luminosity, durability and exquisite enamel-like sheen of Early Netherlandish panel paintings. Towards the end of the century the number of glazes was gradually reduced, and on occasions in the early 16th century, the white ground or the preliminary drawing was deliberately allowed to shine through.
The paints themselves were naturally not available readymixed. Workshop duties in the late Middle Ages included not just painting, but also grinding the pigments. The degree of fineness of the powder thereby influenced the colour it produced. Thus azurire, the most commonly-used blue pigment of the day, only gave a blue effect if it was not ground too finely. A second, important blue pigment was ultramarine. While it offered a greater and more gem-like luminosity, it was obtained from lapis lazuli, which had to be imported from the Orient, from modern-day Afghanistan, and was thus more expensive than gold. Significantly, it was employed with great regularity by the first generation of Early Netherlandish artists, but only extremely sporadically by the technically less ambitious German artists of the day.
Other than in Cologne or even Italy, the Netherlandish artists had almost entirely dispensed with gold, seeking instead to heighten the illusion of reality with a permanently blue sky over a white haze. Areas of gilding, whether grounds, haloes or drapery details, involved a variety of complex procedures. For example, where they were to be given an additional relief pattern by means of pouncing, in other words the hammering of small indentations into the metal, the layer of primer beneath them had to be considerably thicker. Also required was an intermediary bole ground, usually reddish in colour, to which the wafer-thin leaves of precious metal would adhere.
According to the author of the best-known treatise on artist's materials of his day, the painter Cennino Cennini (c. 1370— c. 1440), pupil of a son of Taddeo Gaddi and thus a "great-grandpupil" of Giotto, one Florentine gold coin yielded a hundred sheets of gold leaf barely the size of the palm of a hand. After the leaf had been laid, it was burnished with a gemstone or a tooth in order to bring out its fascinating sheen. To avoid unnecessary expense, the inclusion of gilded areas within a painting had to be carefully planned in advance. Since the gilding was carried out first, before any actual painting began, the artist had to decide exactly where on his panel the costly material was to go. As a rule, no further gold leaf would then be applied to the remainder of the composition.
Lastly, too, there was the choice of the right binding agent. Since the claim was first made by the art historians of the 16th century, Jan van Eyck has long been credited with the invention of oil painting. The reality is much more complicated. Binders containing oil were known as early as the 13th century, even if they were not yet being deployed with their later sophistication. The fact that they can be found in English and Norwegian (Norwegian Master) paintings in particular suggests that artists were already taking into account external factors such as a damp climate. On the other hand, painters in the Netherlands continued to employ egg tempera long after the van Eyck were dead, not least because some pigments failed to mix well with oily binders, which reduced their luminosity.
At the same time, mixed techniques played a far greater role than is generally assumed today. Finally, artists also had to weigh up the characteristics of the individual binders and in particular the oils they employed, since some of them had major implications for the actual painting process. Oils derived from different plants and in different ways dried at different speeds, which meant that in some cases an artist might have to wait many days before the next layer of paint could be applied. This drying process could be speeded up with the help of specific substances.
The artists of the late Middle Ages, and in particular artists in the Netherlands, thus worked within a time frame which, for a public which has grown up with the notion of the artist genius, is almost impossible to grasp. They possessed a detailed knowledge of natural science which, in the following generations and centuries, would increasingly become the sphere of specialist technicians and today the modern chemical industry. Simple, practical calculations were at this stage far more important than the finer points of style, content or even art theory which interest critics and viewers today. Mechanical tasks such as grinding pigments, mixing up paints or burnishing gold grounds took up a large part of their working day. It is only when we take all this into consideration that we start to appreciate why artist apprenticeships in the late Middle Ages generally lasted four years, with the apprentice simply assisting with general tasks at the beginning.
Pictures of St Luke, the patron saint of artists, painting the Virgin provided numerous 15th-century artists with a welcome opportunity to portray the activities of a contemporary artist's workshop. In these we occasionally see an assistant in the background grinding paints. In the painting by Derick Baegert (c. 1440—1515), an angel is lending the Evangelist a hand.
The techniques and training described above guaranteed the enduringly high standards and astonishing homogeneity of Early Netherlandish painting which continue to captivate the viewer today. Towards 1500, these same qualities also led it to become a major export not just to Italy, but also to Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia. Mass production, however, inevitably brought about a decline in the rigorous standards of execution which had originally made the school so popular.

 
 

Norwegian Master
St Olaf Antependium
1350
Trondheim, Cathedral
 
 
 
Changing motifs and artistic originality

A further consequence of the workshop system was that compositional originality played nowhere near the same role in the Netherlands as it did in later epochs or even in contemporary Italy. In the Netherlands of the 15th century, by contrast, compositional solutions, poses and figural types which were judged to be good were handed down over more than a hundred years. Thus the Last Suppers of the period around 1500, for example, employ elements which were already present in the Last Supper which Konrad of Soest painted for his Bad Wildung altar of 1403. Providing the richest source of all, however, was the oeuvre of Rogier van der Weyden, whose Descent from the Cross in the Madrid Prado became the most influential painting of the Early Netherlandish school — even before the van Eyck' Ghent Altar.
Whereas Jan van Eyck was preoccupied above all with surfaces, Rogier van der Weyden, in this respect more Italian, was interested in structures. As if inspired by fragile marionettes, what is so surprising about Rogier's figures is their - for a Netherlandish artist - astonishingly harmonious proportions and the flexibility of their individual limbs. Whatever other changes might be made, the layout of his Descent, the pose of his Mary Magdalene and the head type of his St John would remain constants until well into the latter phase of the school.
Paradoxically, it was precisely this underdeveloped capacity for free, independent observation and the corresponding perpetuation of long-established formulae from one generation to the next which, along with landscape and technique, met with interest in the South. A decisive intermediary role was played in this context by northern woodcuts and copperplate engravings, which like the paintings themselves were distinguished by their extraordinarily high standard of execution. This made them sought-after collector's items which, in contrast to panel paintings, could transport new compositional solutions smoothly and quickly over hundreds of miles.
This time it was Germany which assumed a leading role. Here the genre was carried to its greatest heights by four artists in particular: Master E.S. (active c. 1450—c. 1467), Martin Schongauer (c. 1435/50-1491), Israhel van Meckenem (active c. 1457-c. 1465/70) and Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), in whose work Raphael was also interested. Schongauer's engravings enjoyed particularly wide distribution, travelling as far as the Iberian peninsula — one of them is supposed to have been coloured by none less than Michelangelo. Durer, meanwhile, would make up for his disappointment at being unable to study under Schongauer in person by becoming an avid collector of the works he left behind. Schongauer played an important intermediary role, too, having at one stage possibly been active in Rogier's workshop. The impact of his own art made itself felt in the Netherlands, where artists produced paintings which can only be described as colour versions of Schongauer's copper engravings - and this on occasions only months after the originals were first printed. The same was true in Spain, where they were similarly copied by Bartolome Bermejo (c. 1430- after 1498) and Fernando Gallego (c. 1440-c. 1507).


Standardization versus observation

The van Eyck's, and many other later Early Netherlandish artists, too, remained indebted to the Middle Ages not just in their working methods. For all the verism they achieved in individual heads, they simply replaced the broad-foreheaded faces of the period around 1400 with their own ideal of an elongated oval. One stylization thus replaced another — thanks not least to Rogier, the master of the type. In other respects, too, until far into the 16th century the only corrections being made were minor adjustments, rather than fundamental changes to composition, proportion, the human figure, draperies or landscape. The innovations being pioneered south of the Alps found their way at best into subsidiary details. Even the tracery, crockets and finials of Gothic decoration remained fundamental not just to built architecture but also to goldsmiths, sculptors and painters.
In complete contrast to developments in Italy, this led in most cases to an even greater proliferation of the old forms, to greater overloading rather than greater simplicity. The Netherlandish, German and Spanish artists were so immersed in the formulae of the past that, even when they adopted a Renaissance motif for a capital, frieze or gable, the composition, proportion and structure of the building or furnishing in question remained entirely beholden to the Gothic style. At the same time, and again in contrast to Italy, virtually no new pictorial genres were evolving. Although the individual portrait was becoming increasingly popular, production continued to be dominated by religious subjects.


Perpetuation of the calligraphic element

For all the brilliance of colour, for all the delights of the pictorial surface, however, supremacy continued to lie with two-dimensional line, as can be seen particularly from the few preparatory drawings that survive from the 15th century. The drawings executed directly on the panel itself, as visible today either through the fading glazes above them or with the help of infra-red light, concentrate primarily upon the detailed positioning of the draperies. Whereas heads, hands and elements of landscape are indicated for the most part with the most fleeting of strokes, the contours of drapery folds are precisely laid down and their hollows shaded with generous hatching. The only thing that changed after 1400 with the van Eyck's and Campin was the style of these folds: softly undulating hems now gave way to sharp fissures. Whereas the painters of the International Gothic had indulged their love of line in the billowing draperies which enfolded their figures, these had now dropped flat to the ground, lying like a front garden at their wearer's feet and gridded with clearly ridged folds.
The Ghent Altar Annunciation can be seen as highly typical of this trend, although it was by no means restricted to kneeling or seated figures. The two Ghent figures are typical in another respect, too. Their draperies are intended to look unstudied, but in truth nothing has been left to chance. In the case of the Virgin, the effect is achieved by the folds which fall first vertically downwards, and which then spill sharply sideways, in a slight overlapping of astonishingly smooth rectangular and trapezoidal planes. Almost more influential would be the numerous triangular forms making up the angel, who is lent additional relief by the wedge-shaped hollows in his robes. No less important than the folds themselves are the strong light and deep shadows which make them visible, and which give the draperies their powerful plasticity.

Impact of the Eyck' innovations

The style of an artist's drapery folds is thus the most reliable criterion by which to determine whether he had come under the spell of the Eyck revolution — more so than broader proportions, more individual faces or the "realistic" representation of plants and other details, aspects which depend more on the individuality of the artist and the subjectivity of the viewer. The impact of the Eyck' innovations upon their contemporaries must have been enormous. When a visit to an exhibition introduces us to a previously unknown direction in art, after leaving the museum we see our surroundings through the eyes of the artist we have just been viewing. The painters who were confronted by the inventions of the van Eyck could no longer see a face, a fold, a fruit tree or a sunset in the same way as before.
Within just five years of the completion of the Ghent Altar, outstanding representatives of this new direction in art had already emerged in various parts of southwest Germany. The Magdalene Altar by Lukas Moser (c. 1390 — after 1434) in Tiefenbronn carries the same 1432 date as the van Eyck own masterpiece, while the Wurzach Altar by the Ulm artist Hans Multscher (c. 1390-c. 1467) is dated 1437. The Albrecht Altar in Vienna must also have arisen around 1437, and the Rottweil artist Konrad Witz appears to have painted his great Mirror of Salvation altarpiece in Basle at about the same time. Six hundred miles further west, Nicolas Frances (c. 1434— c. 1468) had already painted the high altar for Leon cathedral before 1434. They all feature the new realism, the heavy, massive forms and the heavy draperies falling in angular folds.

 
 

Master of the Albrecht Altar
Mary as Queen of the Powers
c. 1437
Museum des Chorherrenstifres, Klosterneuburg
 
 
 
 
The waves of Netherlandish influence

This picture was consolidated over the following decades as "Netherlandicizing" currents increasingly gained ground across Europe. In the 1440s, Barthelemy d'Eyck (doc. from 1444— c. 1476) produced his famous Annunciation triptych for Aix cathedral, while in Naples Colantonio (doc. 1440—1465) made the new style his own. In Barcelona, Lluis Dalmau (doc. c. 1428—1461) set about painting, in his 1444/45 Virgin of the Councillors for Barcelona's town hall, one of the most faithful imitations of a van Eyck anywhere to be found. In Cologne, the most densely populated city in Germany, Stefan Lochner combined Eyck formulae with clear reminiscences of the Soft Style: the hems of the robes in his Virgin of the Rose Garden undulate like waves. Particularly striking here, as in his Darmstadt Presentation in the Temple, are the delicate, extraordinarily sophisticated harmonies of his palette. In the retrograde handling of scale in their figures, however, both panels lag far behind the van Eyck. Pasty, doll-like faces, overly large gold haloes and gilt grounds embossed with ornate decoration complete the picture.
That Lochner was nevertheless very familiar with developments in the Netherlands can be seen from the Patron Saints of Cologne altarpiece which he painted for the chapel in Cologne town hall, and which is today housed in Cologne cathedral. The folds here are far more angular than those of the Virgin of the Rose Garden executed a few years later. The Annunciation on the altar's exterior recalls the Ghent Altar even at the level of individual motifs in the Virgin's spreading draperies. In continuing to deploy elements from the past, however, Lochner was not betraying his incompetence, but was very consciously playing with the motifs and formal canons of different styles and regions - an "un-Gothic", extremely modern approach for which in the 15th century, significantly, parallels existed only in Italy. That we are dealing not with some inferior imitator, but rather with one of the most important Late Gothic artists of all, is surely demonstrated best of all by the fame which he enjoyed for generations to come. His design solutions and nature studies were drawn upon by Schongauer, himself a master of composition, and even Rogier van der Weyden, at that point the most important representative of the Early Netherlandish school. Over half a century after Lochner's death, Albrecht Durer went to the chapel in Cologne town hall in order to admire for himself the masterpiece which still survives today.
It was precisely the freedom with which Lochner created his art that ensured he would remain an isolated phenomenon, however famous. The Cologne painters of the following decades (Master of the Life of the Virgin, Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar) would orientate themselves towards their Netherlandish contemporaries, in the first instance primarily towards Rogier's "successor", Dieric Bouts (c. 1410/20 —1475). Their borrowings were thereby restricted to selected figural, drapery and landscape forms. Their approach to composition and their techniques of preliminary drawing and execution remained entrenched in local tradition — not just with regards to such obvious features as gold grounds and nimbuses. A constant "updating" of forms derived from the Netherlands can be observed in other European regions, too. The latest trends in Bruges and Antwerp were still being adopted even in distant Portugal right up to the early years of the 16th century.

 
 

Colantonio
St Jerome
c. 1445
Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
 
 
 
 
The separate flowering of the German Late Gothic

While painting in broad areas of Germany had been dominated in the 1460s by fairly similar "Netherlandicizing" traits, towards the end of the 15th century artists in the south of the country increasingly began to emancipate themselves from such influences. Production flourished as private individuals and guilds competed with each other to crown all the main and subsidiary altars in their city and parish churches with al-tarpieces. Many cities saw the emergence of specialized workshops of high technical quality. Leading centres such as Vienna, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Nordlin-gen, Mainz and Colmar, not to mention Basle and above all Strasburg, became magnets for artists in their own right. They no longer needed to refer back to the Netherlands, particularly since Cologne lay much closer and the focus across Europe was now shifting towards Italy. Augsburg in particular began to orient itself increasingly towards the South.
 

Training and workshop organization

As the nature of art production in the late Middle Ages implies, gifted apprentices could only realize their fullest potential within workshops of a correspondingly high standard and - also importantly - attracting a healthy volume of well-paying commissions. The notion of the self-taught artist was unthinkable; even in our own century, only few such artists have reached the very top. The actual artistic style of the master remained of secondary concern, however. The importance of technical skills and the structure of urban society favoured the emergence of artist dynasties. Since the possibilities of setting up a new workshop were only limited, existing businesses were passed on if at all possible from father to son. Most artists acquired their basic knowledge of materials in their father's workshop. The majority of leading painters of the day were sons either of painters, such as Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98-1543), or of goldsmiths, such as Schongauer and Durer. Should a master die without leaving a direct heir, his workshop would usually pass, via marriage to his widow, to a particularly gifted pupil or senior journeyman — an arrangement which, in an age with no state welfare system, guaranteed both parties a necessary financial security. Within artisan circles just as between ruling houses, marriages were organized with practical interests in mind - even in this regard, the contrast with the modern image of the Bohemian artist could hardly be greater.
In view of all this, it is hardly surprising that the three greatest artists of their day, Schongauer, Hans Holbein the Younger and Durer, should have grown up in the major centres of Colmar, Basle and Nuremberg. The decision whether to join a town guild, rigid in structure but guaranteeing a secure livelihood, or to try one's luck as an itinerant artist, which carried the possibility of earning far greater sums at some courts even without a master's qualification, was one that every artist then had to make for himself. Schongauer and Durer remained faithful to the cities of their birth — notwithstanding Durer's travels and occasional commissions for the aristocracy.
Despite the rigidity of the guild system, around 1500 the rivalry between the prosperous centres of southern Germany led to the emergence of prominent individuals within the arts. Appreciation of personal styles was growing, as can be seen in certain regions of Italy, even if the lead was being taken by the nobility rather than the civic authorities. Fussy collectors valued originality more than did conservative city notables. Names such as Marco Zoppo (c. 1432—1478), Andrea Mantegna (1431 —1506) and Cosme Tura (1429/30—1495) stand for this new attitude towards the artist, which comes closer to the modern concept of the genius. In the Netherlands, Hugo van der Goes represents an astonishingly similar trend.
 

Durer as Gothic artist

At the pinnacle of the German school stood, without a doubt, Albrecht Durer in Nuremberg. Alongside Rembrandt (1606—1669), Durer was probably the most important graphic artist of all time, and even in his paintings he remained ultimately a draughtsman. In the arabesque-like play of his sweeping lines and gnarled forms, he also remained the last Gothic artist - despite all his trips to Italy, all his grappling with Venetian fleshiness and southern proportion. Not without reason did he find himself confronted in Italy with the criticism that his works were "not in the Antique style" (letter to Pirckheimer, 7.2.1506) — a reproach which would later also be voiced by Vasari. The extremely sophisticated portrait studies and other works by Hans Holbein the Younger point more emphatically towards the new era of the Renaissance. For that reason he is absent from this book, in contrast to his father Hans Holbein the Elder (c. 1465-1524), also a brilliant technician, whose work was influenced by Italy in its motifs rather than its spirit.

 
 

Marco Zoppo
La Vierge et l'Enfant entourιs de huit anges
(1455)
 
 
 
The separate flowering of the German Late Gothic

While painting in broad areas of Germany had been dominated in the 1460s by fairly similar "Netherlandicizing" traits, towards the end of the 15th century artists in the south of the country increasingly began to emancipate themselves from such influences. Production flourished as private individuals and guilds competed with each other to crown all the main and subsidiary altars in their city and parish churches with al-tarpieces. Many cities saw the emergence of specialized workshops of high technical quality. Leading centres such as Vienna, Regensburg, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Nordlin-gen, Mainz and Colmar, not to mention Basle and above all Strasburg, became magnets for artists in their own right. They no longer needed to refer back to the Netherlands, particularly since Cologne lay much closer and the focus across Europe was now shifting towards Italy. Augsburg in particular began to orient itself increasingly towards the South.



Master of the Rohan Book of Hours
Lament over the Dead Christ
c. 1418
Vellum
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris


 

The anonymity of the Gothic artist

An artist's social standing varied considerably even between one German city and another, and in particular between the North and Italy. Just how early on the Italian painters had risen above the status of pure artisans can be seen from the fact that we know almost all the leading artists of the 14th century by name. While Vasari and other early writers on art played their part in this, they themselves lived over 200 years after Giotto and had to rely upon earlier records. They were thereby helped by signatures, which artists in the North were much slower to employ. Although isolated names are known to us from the 14th century (Theodoric, Bertram), the majority of artists — including many of the most prominent — remained nameless even in the final phase of Early Netherlandish painting in the early 16th century.
In order to distinguish between these anonymous artists, about a century ago makeshift names were invented for them, inspired either by the characteristics or, more commonly, the subject (Master of the Life of the Virgin), patron (Master Boucicaut), location, original location or even previous owner of particularly important works. Even amongst museum curators, there is a tendency to choose works by known masters over those by anonymous artists — something for which the works themselves give not the slightest grounds. Without the Master Boucicaut (active 1405—1420) or the Master of the Rohan Book of Hours (active c. 1420-1430), the history of French painting could not be written, not that of Bohemia without the painter of the Glatz Madonna (Master of the Glatz Madonna), the Master Hohenfurt or the Master of Wittingau.

 
 

Master Francke
Vir Dolorum (Man of Sorrows)
c. 1420
Museum der Bildenden Kόnste, Leipzig
 
 
 
 
End of the Gothic era

With the passing of the high point of Early Netherlandish painting in the 16th century, so too the age of the anonymous artist came to an end. This, coupled with the complex nature of the production process, the endurance of the workshop system and the still artisan status of the artist, suggests that the Middle Ages, at least in the North, only ended with Durer. The continuing importance of line, and the fact that paintings were essentially being commissioned for the same purposes and same places as ever, point to the same conclusion. With the advent of the Reformation and iconoclasm, however, all of this would collapse - and with it the economic foundation of the old system.
When Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed up his theses in 1517, it marked the climax of the religious unrest which had already manifested itself in the outbreak of the Hussite Wars in 1419. It especially affected the flourishing centres of the Netherlands. Whether religious reformationists were purging churches of their visible excrescences and aberrations, or whether they were attacking worldliness and love of luxury -art was always amongst the first in the line of fire. The situation was compounded by the greed of certain rulers, such as Henry VIII (1491 —1547), who coveted the treasures previously held by the Church. Artists were hit harder by the religious upheavals than any other secular profession.
In England, Germany and the Netherlands in particular, there was a rapid decline in both production and artistic standards. The chain of compositional solutions and figural types, technical formulae and practical skills which had been handed down through the generations, was abruptly broken. For the artists concerned, this release from old constraints was synonymous with the loss of the basis of their existence. Having previously worked predominantly upon commission, they were now exposed to the tough rules of the free market. Business records confirm that the secular genres of painting, first and foremost the portrait, failed to compensate for this loss of trade. Other than after similar crises in the past, new departures were rare.
Artistic activity was now significantly scaled down and found a niche only amongst the patrician classes in a few towns and cities, and above all in the ever more powerful courts of the nobility. Thus the innovative impulses of the 16th century outside Italy are associated, not without good reason, with the Fontainebleau of Francois I (1494-1547) and, subsequently, with the Prague of Rudolf II (1552-1612). It is a bitter irony that painters — people with a religious sensibility which went beyond the average — at times even played an active part in destroying sacred works of art, and through their positions in civic guilds were involved in the "cleansing" of churches and thus the sealing of their own fate. On the other hand, in view of the radical changes being wrought by Mantegna, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo, it may also be said that the Late Gothic traditions of the North had already had their day.
Art aside, the era marked the final parting from the Middle Ages in other respects, too. In 1492 Christopher Columbus (1451—1506) reached America, and in that same year the last Jews and Muslims were driven out of Spain — marking the end of a thousand years of tolerance and of scholarly exchange between East and West, as the age seemingly so dark to modern eyes had also stood for. In the long term, paradoxically, Luther's action also led to lesser diversity — all over western, northern and southern Europe, nations began to assume solid shape. As they expanded outwards, inquisitions and Protestant rigorism internally were placing ever tighter restrictions upon the freedom of the individual. Thus Henry VIII in England, Francois I in France, Charles V (1500-1558) in Germany and Spain, and later his son Philip II (1527—1598) laid the basis for the absolutism of the 17 th century.


Bernat Martorell
Saint George Killing the Dragon
1430-35
Art Institute of Chicago, ChicagoS

What survived?

Within just a few months of the Reformation, in many European countries the medieval paintings that had hung for centuries in churches, monasteries and even private homes had been all but destroyed. In England, the sculpture and above all panel paintings, frescos and stained glass of the Middle Ages were almost entirely lost thanks to the "reforms" of Henry VIII. Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) later completed the work of destruction. The standard of the few works that remain make the loss all the more painful, since — in their less graceful linearity and their drawing, which tends towards caricature — they fall clearly short of the French art to which they are closely related. The picture was equally bleak in the Switzerland of John Calvin (1509-1564).
In France, after the Huguenots, the Baroque and the Revolution, the situation as regards panel painting looked little better, although some patient detective work reveals that far more works have survived than is generally known. In the Netherlands, by far the larger part of medieval church art fell victim to the iconoclasts of the early 16th century — not just in the overwhelmingly Protestant north, the modern-day Kingdom of the Netherlands, but also in Flanders, Brabant and Hainaut in today's Belgium. Hungary's reserves of medieval art, which the surviving fragments suggest were once so rich, were decimated under Turkish rule.
In Bohemia, the art produced around 1350 at the imperial court at Prague, then the most flourishing art centre in northern Europe, had already been largely destroyed by the Hussites within a hundred years. Germany's regions and cities were affected by the Reformation to widely varying degrees. The Upper Rhine and Lake Constance area was another flourishing artistic centre to meet with widespread devastation. Some works survived, only to fall victim to the ravages of later wars — as in the case of the rich treasures of the Palatinate, savagely attacked by Louis XIV (1638-1715).
In some areas churches suffered the loss of virtually all their works of art, while in others they escaped remarkably unscathed - often, paradoxically, in Protestant areas, where the all-powerful influence of the Baroque was felt less strongly than in Catholic regions. Assisting their survival was the fact that, even though the earlier practice of commissioning and donating an altarpiece had largely fallen out of fashion in Protestant times, people were too reverent or simply too lazy to clear out the old works of art. The volume of surviving works is particularly healthy in Italy — despite the impact of the Baroque and despite the ravages and plunderings of foreign armies, from Charles V to Napoleon I (1769-1821). An astonishing amount has also survived in Spain and — again because of, rather than despite the Reformation - in Scandinavia. Christianity had only recently arrived in Scandinavia, and had brought with it a high demand for church art, which could often only be satisfied by imports. While there was no shortage of funds to pay for such art, thanks to wool production, trade and raiding activities in Scandinavia and to ore mining in Spain, it was not always possible for imported paintings conceived for a less sophisticated public, let alone the works produced by local artists, to compete with works from the leading European centres of art. Popular in Spain were enormous retablo walls extending the full height of the eastern nave. In some cases these were only dismantled in our own century and thereby satisfied the demand for new acquisitions, in particular amongst North American museums, for decades!
Even the poorer quality works on the fringes of Europe frequently allow us to draw meaningful conclusions about what has been lost from the centre, however. Thus the development of English painting can virtually only be reconstructed via its reception in Norway, with which England maintained very close maritime trading links. These peripheral regions often offer thematically very unusual paintings for which no parallels survive in the centre. It would nevertheless be wrong to expect the native artists of such "fringe" countries to be no more than second-rate. Thus the Catalan Bernat Martorell (active from 1427—1452) is a figure of European stature. His Christ and the Samaritan Woman goes beyond all boundaries of time and place to form one of most successful solutions for this subject ever found.
The Alps are a case apart. Waves of both iconoclastic destruction and radical innovation often passed over their inaccessible valleys and conservative inhabitants without a trace. South Tyrol alone offers a quite extraordinary wealth of murals dating from pre-Carolingian times to the Late Gothic era and beyond, many of them of very high artistic quality. In the shape of Michael Pacher (c. 1435-1498), it brought forth one of the central figures of the late Middle Ages. Even his work, however, derives its fascination from its geographical context, namely a region sandwiched between North and South, in which the influences of the two major artistic trends dividing the West are combined in a highly complex fashion.
Thus no region of Europe, however far off the beaten track, has preserved its full complement of medieval art. Even without external catastrophes, wars and iconoclasm, the ravages of countless fires, natural wear and tear, incompetent attempts at restoration or simply industrious woodworms have all taken their toll. Even private collections were not always able to provide a safe haven. The Thirty Years' War (1618—1648) scattered, devastated or utterly destroyed not just cities and landscapes, but also some of Europe's greatest collections of art, including the treasures of Emperor Rudolf II, taken from Prague to Sweden. The Whitehall Fire of 1698 left an irreper-able hole in the collections of the English royal family; Holbein the Younger's masterpiece, Henry VIII's Family, was just one of the many works destroyed. The fire that ravaged the Alcazar in Madrid over Christmas 1734 engulfed 537 paintings, and thereby one third of the royal collections. As an indirect consequence of the Franco-Prussian War, countless art treasures went down with the Tuileries wing of the Louvre in 1871.
In the same war, Prussian troops bombarded Strasburg Library, while in the First World War, the cultural history of the European continent was permanently impoverished by the loss of Louvain University Library. The archives at Tournai were also reduced to ashes, and with these three libraries not just their Illuminated Manuscripts and thus many works of art themselves, but also the last possibility of shedding more light on the lives of such important artists as Gerhaerts, Campin and Rogier van der Weyden. At the start of this century in Berlin, Richard von Kaufmann's precious collection of Early Netherlandish art was destroyed by fire. In 1945, 400 paintings from the Berliner Galerie disappeared perhaps for ever, including works central to the Gothic era. Even though we at least have photographs of them, they have vanished from the public eye.
Such documented cases aside, it is impossible to offer any serious estimate of just how much art is no longer with us. But we can gain a sense of the scale of the loss when we remember that the biggest churches in the Late Middle Ages could contain up to a hundred altars. Many of them would have carried altarpieces, which even in the Middle Ages would have been periodically replaced in line with changing fashions. A similar picture emerges from the written documents of the period, which again have survived only in a very fragmentary state, and which record the names of countless artists of whom not a single work has survived. In view of all these factors, taken across Europe as a whole, the percentage of medieval works that has come down to us must be infinitesimal, certainly under 10% and probably under 5%.
To what extent the fraction that has survived is representative of the original whole is another question altogether. There are indications that Netherlandish masterpieces had a considerably higher chance of being saved for posterity. Alongside the Ghent Altar and Rogier's Descent from the Cross, a number of other works have survived which were already being written about and enthusiastically copied in their own day. Of the paintings mentioned in the inventories of Margaret of Austria (1480—1530), probably the most important collector of the early 16th century north of the Alps, a relatively large number are also still extant. The same is true of many of the medieval works which appear in the large Flemish gallery paintings of the 17th century. We know that an altar by Quentin Massys (1465/66—1530) was expressly spared destruction because of its artistic quality, and elsewhere, too, private individuals, clerics and collectors must have stepped in to protect the works of art they loved. Even the greed of the Spanish governors occasionally proved a blessing, albeit not always in the long term.
A number of major works have survived in the form of copies or more or less faithful reproductions, such as Rogier van der Weyden's Justice panels, which succumbed to French bombardment along with Brussels town hall in 1695, and the wings of Hugo van der Goes' Monforte Altar. Even if it cannot always be so well documented elsewhere as in the field of Early Netherlandish painting, it is naturally to be hoped that in other regions, too, it was the more mundane art that was lost, while the celebrated masterpieces were looked after.

 
 

Bernat Martorell
Saint Peter Altar (detail)
1437-1442
Museu Diocesa de Girona
 
 
 
A broad range of characters

The book embraces a wide variety of artists: great innovators whose enormous powers of invention pointed the development of art in a whole new direction, such as Giotto, Simone Martini, Pisanello, Nuno Goncalves and Lorenzo Monaco, the Master Boucicaut, Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes; individualists who arrived at highly original and perfect solutions within existing trends, such as Borrassa Lluis, Pisanello, the Master of the Rohan Book of Hours, the Master of the St. Bartholomew Altar, Bernat Martorell and Stefan Lochner; singular, often particularly delightful characters such as Martinus Opifex in Bavaria (doc. 1440-1456) and Juan de Levi in Aragon (doc. 1388-1410); and countless great masters who stand largely outside all trends, such as Theodoric, Barthelemy d'Eyck and Jean Fouquet (c. 1414/20 —c. 1480), and whose influence was limited to a small sphere simply by the fact that they were working either for elite circles or in a geographically remote place. What is so astonishing, in view of the thousands of paintings by different hands and the thousands of artists mentioned in records, is just how few great individuals actually shape the epoch at the end of the day.

Subjects of Gothic art

An overview of Gothic painting will inevitably be dominated by religious, and specifically Christian, art — not just because the term Gothic was originally associated with French cathedrals, but because the Christian faith infused, at least outwardly, many areas of life and above all death in every stratum of society that could afford art. In almost every culture in the history of humankind, the incomprehensible power of death has prompted people to spend more on the apotheosis of their own person or that of a dear one, and on the hope of a life after death, than on any other genre of art. Even more importantly, the paintings that resulted have survived longer than the decorative artefacts with which they brightened up their daily lives. Many apparently "ordinary" altarpieces were intended by their donors to help ensure the salvation of their souls. The great scholar Nicholas of Cusa (1401—1464) was not the only one to have himself buried directly in front of the altarpiece which he commissioned (Master of the Life of the Virgin). As over a hundred years earlier in the Glatz Madonna (Master of the Glatz Madonna), the inclusion of his portrait as a figure in prayer ensured that he would be perpetuated for ever in the act of devout worship.
Secular painting concentrated upon the decoration of civic spaces and, increasingly towards the end of the Gothic era, upon the portrait, at first solely those of rulers, but subsequently also the private portrait. Even in Illuminated Manuscripts, non-religious illustrations remained in the minority. Alongside high art, which was only accessible to a very small section of society, there were undoubtedly other forms of art circulating amongst a much wider public. Considerably fewer of these have survived into the present, however, and the ones that have are much less differentiated in style. This not only makes it harder to date them, but makes it almost impossible to use them as a basis upon which to trace the development of Gothic art. Works of art which were not destined solely for the uppermost echelons of society are represented within these pages in the guise of some of the wall and panel paintings from Scandinavia and Spain.




Nuno Goncalves
Archbishop panel
Altarpiece of Saint Vincent
1460s
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon


 

Panel painting and altarpiece

In view of this concentration upon religious art, it follows that the majority of the works described here are altarpieces. Most are panel paintings, in other words paintings on wood, a medium employed since the late 12th century and in some places still in use even in Baroque times. At first they were hung as an antependium in front of the altar table, while the priest stood behind it and celebrated facing the congregation -a custom which was reinstated after the Second Vatican Council of the years 1962—1965. In the 13th century, following alterations to the liturgy still not fully explained or perhaps simply in line with changing tastes, the painted panels increasingly migrated up and onto the altar table, where they stood at the rear as a retabulum. This implies that the priest must now have been leading the service with his back to the congregation.
Within the altarpiece genre as a whole, a distinction may be made between the simple panel, or pala, which was the convention in Italy, and altars with — as a rule, folding — wings, as are found above all north of the Alps and the Pyrenees. These triptychs were only opened out on high days and holidays. The excitement of this moment was heightened for the faithful by the particularly opulent painting of their interiors, usually involving lavish quantities of gold. We occasionally find altars with double sets of wings, which can thus be displayed in three different ways. This concept of opening out may in part derive both from the idea and the physical shape of the containers used to house relics. The play, evident in the rigid Soest altarpiece (Westphalian Master), upon the silhouette of a triptych is one of the proofs that the folding altar was familiar by the 13th century, even if the majority known to us today only date from the following century.
In Italy and Spain, on the other hand, rigid structures remained overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, the norm, although this did not necessarily preclude them from employing more than one section. Panels of different sizes were combined into larger superstructures, which in Spain and Portugal could extend to fill virtually the entire space behind the altar right up to the ceiling and out to the side walls. Like triptychs in the North, they frequently incorporated sculptures at their centre. These were elaborately painted in techniques similar to those employed for the panels, and were often admired even more greatly than the paintings themselves.
It is clear even from this brief overview that the Gothic panel painting needs to be considered in its original context, namely inside a church, on an altar table, perhaps topped by further panels and even, in some cases, accompanied by holy relics and a donor's tomb. In their relief patterning and lavish use of gold leaf, the earliest examples of such paintings offer parallels with works executed by goldsmiths, such as caskets made to house the bones of saints venerated at the altar. The new genre of paintings destined for collectors and galleries was one that only began to emerge right at the end of the Gothic era. It would subsequently remain the norm until the gradual dissolution of the traditional forms of art in the 20th century.




Martinus "opifex"
"Here the Greeks sail for Troy"
1456
(miniature from the Trojan War by Guido de Columnis)
 

Canvas paintings

Paintings on a textile backing ate similarly only found in larger numbers as from around 1500. Over the following years they would become increasingly widespread, not least because of the lower costs involved. The use of less durable paint materials and a less thorough preparation of the ground meant they deteriorated easily. They were also treated with less care, since their value was considered to be lower. It was precisely this perception of canvas as having a lower worth that meant it was selected only rarely before 1500 for important works of art. The potential of the new medium only began to be recognized by painters such as Durer. Unfortunately, many such paintings have suffered irreparable damage even in recent times as a result of inappropriate treatment. Specifically, canvases do not tolerate the protective coatings of varnish which have been applied, often thoughtlessly, in the modern museums of the 19th and 20th century.


Wall painting

In Italian art from Giotto to Raphael, wall painting is at least as important as panel painting. In contrast to the murals surviving in smaller numbers in the North, in which the pigments bound in oil or egg tempera were generally applied directly on top of a dry ground, artists in Italy mostly employed the true fresco technique. Fresco means fresh: the pictures were painted on plaster that was still damp, in sections which had to be completed at one stretch, with only gold accents and a few other colours being added later. The possibility for corrections was only limited, and thus the painting of vast surfaces such as those confronting Andrea da Firenze (doc. from 1343- after 1377) in Santa Maria Novella - the mural he painted was executed in 156 different sections - demanded very precise preliminary studies and a highly efficient and concentrated organization of labour. Outside Italy and the Alps, however, the frescoed interior of Wienhausen monastery church from the years around 1355 and the few other remnants which survive can only hint at the role which murals played in the North. Facade paintings such as those still visible in a number of southern German and Alpine regions must also have commanded a more prominent presence in daily life than devotional panels.


Stained Glass and Illuminated Manuscripts

To restrict this study to the genres of wall and panel painting would be to do an injustice to the very artists who stood at their fore. From Simone Martini to Bernat Martorell and Jan van Eyck, all also turned their hand to designs for stained-glass windows, tapestries, and the illumination of manuscripts. Following the destruction of so many altarpieces, in many regions stained glass and manuscript illuminations remain the only witnesses to artistic developments. Manuscripts also have the advantage of facing a much lower risk of subsequent deliberate damage, overpainting, restoration or fading, so that as a rule they convey the artist's original intentions much more directly than panel paintings or murals. Alongside a number of miniatures, the present volume also includes examples of stained glass and unusual paintings such as the Hildesheim ceiling (Master of the Lower Saxon Workshop).
 

Everyday art

Finally, it must be remembered that medieval painters were employed in another, important sphere of art of which practically nothing survives. Even in the accounts of the leading Gothic masters, more receipts have survived which refer to the painting of banners, standards, steeple balls, festival decorations and the like than for the production of art works in the modern sense. The raising, off Stockholm, of the warship Wasa, built a century after the end of the Gothic era, has given us an insight into the numbers of woodcarvers and painters who would have been employed on "artefacts" of this type. In those days there were hundreds of such ships, albeit only a few of such magnificence.
In order to appreciate the significance of such decorative art for the aesthetic of the Middle Ages, we need only consider the impact upon our own daily lives of film sets and design, and how much more strongly these affect us than the works of contemporary artists. Pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns have not been the only ones to reflect this everyday aesthetic; although the impermanent art forms of the Middle Ages are almost entirely lost, the miniatures by the Master Boucicaut and the Limburg suggest that their influence was already strong. Bearing all these factors in mind, the scattered remains that are brought together within these pages can nevertheless offer a colourful and many-sided picture of the Gothic age in art.

Robert Suckale
Matthias Weniger

 
 

Juan de Levi
Peter Recognizes the Risen Christ on the Lake Shore
c. 1400
Museu Diocesa, Vic
 
 
 

 
 
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