Archive | March, 2013

The Flemish Primitives: Closer to Van Eyck.

28 Mar
The Ghent Altarpiece, detail of Eve by Jan Van Eyck.

The Ghent Altarpiece, detail of Eve by Jan Van Eyck.

The Flemish Primitives refer to the work of artists active in the Low Countries during the 15th and 16th century Northern Renaissance, especially in the flourishing Burgundian cities of Tournai, Bruges, Ghent and Brussels. Jan van Eyck brings on a revolution in the history of painting between 1420 and 1441. His work makes end to the refined ‘international style’ that dominates the art at the time. His precise observation and naturalistic rendering of reality, his brilliant colouring and the oil technique that he perfectly masters gives him the look of a virtuosity. As a court painter of the Burgundian dukes, he moves within the highest circles. The Ghent Altarpiece, was initiated by his brother. However in 1432, after the death of his brother, Van Eyck finishes the work. The urgent conservation treatment of the Ghent Altarpiece in the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent was finalised in October 2010. It provided a unique opportunity to thoroughly document Van Eyck’s use of materials and his painting technique, and to record the state of conservation. The results are made available to the public through the website ‘Closer to Van Eyck’.

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

18 Mar

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The Limbourg brothers: Herman, Paul, and Johan (1385 – 1416), were famous Dutch miniature painters from the city of Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Active in the early 15th century in France and Burgundy, they worked in the style known as International Gothic. They created what is certainly the best known late medieval illuminated manuscript, a book of hours, called “Les Très Riches Heures – The Very Rich Hours”. It was made on demand for Jean, the Duke of Berry. The man was a rich, luxury loving bon vivant who prized and collected expensive art objects. The book of hours was the first type of book made outside the monastery by secular craftsmen for a secular market. It was a personal prayer-book, used as an object of piety and of consumption. The twelve calendar illustrations of Les Très Riches Heures are the most famous pages of this masterpiece. Click twice on the image to see every miniature detail for each month!

Gothic Naturalism by Claus Sluter.

14 Mar

Detail of Angel Claus Sluter

Claus Sluter was the most famous sculptor of his days (1340-1405) and a key figure in the school of Gothic Art. Sluter’s sculptures are naturalistic and expressive, and more earthly bound than idealistic. He restored the monumental scale and naturalism of the classical era. His later work is highly emotional, using facial expressions, figural stance, and drapery. This can be particularly seen in the heavy folds of cloth that so many later imitators draped around their figures. His style of naturalism went on to influence a generation of realist Renaissance painters like Jan van Eyck, Roger Van der Weyden, Matthias Grunewald and Albrecht Durer. Sluter’s most famous surviving work is the Well of Moses to be visited in Dijon, France. It shows strongly individualized figures of Moses, David, and the Prophets. A masterpiece of dignity and power.

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Rose Window.

13 Mar

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The abbey church of Saint-Denis near Paris is considered the first Gothic, or French Style, building. Its characteristics include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress. It emphasizes verticality and light. Abbot Suger, the commissioner of the abbey, underscore how deep an emotional and spiritual chord is struck by the play of light that passes through glass. By the time Saint-Denis was completed, stained glass had been in use for over a hundred years in relatively small windows of certain churches. Many contemporary authors see the rose window as a mandala as it operates on spiritual, meditative and emotional level. The instructional aspect is visible by the subjects chosen: God at the centre, the six days of Creation, the Zodiac with the order of the heavens, the labours representing the order of the earth, Adam and Eve eating the fruit and being expelled from Eden.

Eve’s Apple.

11 Mar

Romaans sculptuur op kapiteel Eva & Apple

Romanesque Art refers to the art of Europe from 1000 AD onwards. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of sculpting figures in stone and bronze died out, as it did in the Byzantine world, for religious reasons . The growth of Romanesque art was stimulated intensely by the circulation of pilgrims and by travelling craftsmen and artists, who moved from one construction yard to another to offer their services. Most Romanesque sculptures are pictorial and biblical in subject. A great variety of themes are found on capitals. The ‘Temptation of Eve’ from Gislebertus was created around the 1130s. Eve lays in a sensual pose, keeping her face away from the sin she will commit. She hold the hand with the apple, subject of the Fall, on her back. On the right we notice the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Satan, here symbolized as the snake, only shows his tale as he is leaving quickly after tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit.

Book of Kells.

7 Mar

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The Book of Kells is a manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. It was created by Celtic monks ca. 800. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure. It symbolizes the power of learning, the impact of Christianity on the life of the country, and the spirit of artistic imagination. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the swirling motifs typical for insular art, the art of the islands. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the pages. As many as ten different colors were used in the illuminations. Today, the manuscript, made with high-quality calfskin, comprises 680 individual pages and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes and is kept in Dublin.

Germanic wonder at Sutton Hoo.

5 Mar
The Cloisonné Shoulder Clasps

The Cloisonné Shoulder Clasps

Different from the Roman Culture, only few relics from the Germanic Culture were found. The accent of Germanic Culture laid mainly on ornamental arts and jewellery design. In Sutton Hoo, in the English county of Suffolk, 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries were discovered. One of the cemeteries contained an undisturbed ship burial, excavated in 1939. It is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its completeness, the quality and beauty of its contents, and the profound interest of the burial ritual itself. The burial chamber included a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword and many pieces of silver plate from the Eastern Roman Empire. The gold and garnet ensemble found in the upper body space are among the true wonders of Sutton Hoo. Their artistic and technical quality is exceptional. The most significant artefacts from the ship-burial are displayed in the British Museum in London. They sheds light on a period of English history that is on the margin between myth, legend and historical documentation.

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