Tag Archives: beauty

Portrait of a Young Woman.

15 Jul
Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1470, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Portrait of a Young Woman, ca. 1470, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

This ‘Portrait of a Young Woman’ by Petrus Christus, who is considered as a successor to Jan van Eyck, belongs among the masterworks of Flemish painting in Renaissance time. For the first time a portrait does not show the sitter in front of a neutral background, but in a concrete space, here defined by the wall panels. The unknown woman, whose rich velvet clothing suggests that she might come from France, radiates an aura of discretion and of nobility. The identity of the woman stays however, an object of speculation and mystery.

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’.

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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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.

Theodora, a Byzantine Mosaic of a powerful woman.

4 Mar
Theodora, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Theodora, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Art produced during the Byzantine Empire was marked by the development of a new aesthetic. One of the features was its abstract or anti-naturalistic character. If classical art was attempting to create representations that mimicked reality closely, Byzantine art abandoned this attempt in favour of a symbolic approach. Mosaic art flourished in the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to the 15th century. Church interiors were generally covered with golden mosaics. Brightly coloured, the mosaics were without any emotion and rather ceremonial and static. This mosaic shows the empress Theodora, a former actress and courtesan, who moved to Constantinople, where she meets Justinian, a powerful person and the nephew to the Emperor Justin. Justinian lobbied very hard to change the law that prohibited men of standing to wed a courtesan, and when emperor Justin dies in 527, Justinian ascended the throne and crowned Theodora his empress and co-ruler. A true love story.

Roman Underground.

3 Mar

Bird and Fruit fresco

Frescos in Rome’s catacombs witness to a strong devotion to religion. These underground cemeteries, solely reserved for Christians, were decorated with paintings of great importance to understand the history of early Christianity. Still-lives and portraits at that time, inspired by Roman and Greek imagery, gained strongly in symbolism. For Christians the fruit symbolized abundance, the gift of God, while the bird could represent the Holy Spirit, the soul of the believer. The fish, Ictus, is the symbol of Christ. Ictus means fish but is also an acronym for Jesus, the Christ, Son of God, Savior. The Good Shepherd holding a lamb is another symbol of Christ carrying his faithful disciples. In 313, with emperor Constantine, Christianity was officially recognized. The citizens of Rome converted in mass crowds and the catacombs expanded greatly.

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