Gothic Era

 

(Gothic and Early Renaissance)





European Painting from the 13th to the 15 th Century


 

 

Gothic Art Map
 
Exploration: Revelations (Art of the Apocalypse)
 
Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)
 
 M. of the Glatz Madonna Masaccio Starnina Taddeo di Bartolo
 M. Theodoric Masolino M. Westphalian Marco Zoppo
 Torriti Jacopo Hans Memling M. of Schloss Altar Holbein the Younger
 Stefan Lochner Rogier van der Weyden M. Norwegian Andrea Mantegna
 Bonaventura Berlinghieri Hugo van der Goes Derick Baegert Cosme Tura
 M. Bertram of Munden Gerard David Lukas Moser Holbein the Elder
 M. of Kaufmann Crucifixion  Antonello da Messina M. of Albrecht Altar M. of Book of Hours
 M. of Wittingau Piero della Francesca Frances Nicolas M. of Alkmaar
 Lippo Memmi Pedro Berruguete Master E.S. M. Francke
 M. of Narbonne Parament M. of Westminster Altar Martin Schongauer M. of the Gothic Art
 Malouel Jean M. of Psalter of de Lisle Israhel van Meckenem Bernat Martorell
 M. of Wilton Dyptych M. of Cologne Workshop Bartolome Bermejo Michael Pacher
 Borrassa Lluis Sassetta Fernando Gallego Quentin Massys
 Pisanello Jaume Huguet Hans Multscher Nuno Goncalves
 Konrad of Soest Nicolas Froment Colantonio Martinus Opifex
 M. of the Ortenberg Altar M. of St. Veronica  Lluis Dalmau Juan de Levi
 Filippo Brunelleschi M. of the Paradise Garden Barthelemy d'Eyck Saxon Workshop
 Joos van Gent Limburg brothers M. of Life of the Virgin Lorenzo Monaco
 Bartolo di Fredi Robert Campin M. of St. Bartholomew Jean Fouquet
 Hubert & Jan van Eyck Konrad Witz Dieric Bouts Jacopo Bellini 

Exploration:
Albrecht Durer
 

 




Nuno Goncalves


Martinus Opifex

Juan de Levi

Master of the Lower Saxon Workshop





See also collection:

Lorenzo Monaco

Jean Fouquet

Jean Fouquet - Miniatures from the "Book of Hours of Etienne Chevalier"

Jacopo Bellini

 


 

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.

 

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.

 

 
 Goncalves Nuno
 

( fl 1450–1491).

Portuguese painter. His work may be said to have initiated the Renaissance in Portuguese painting. He is first named in a document of 1450, when Afonso V (reg 1438–81) appointed him court painter. In 1470 a payment to him is recorded for an altarpiece painted for the chapel of the Palácio Real, Sintra, which, given the dedication of the chapel, probably represented the Pentecost (untraced). A document of 1471 states that Gonçalves replaced the painter João Eanes ( fl from 1454) as Pintor das Obras da Cidade de Lisboa (Painter of works for the city of Lisbon)

 

 

 


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

 


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


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

 

 


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


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


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

 

               

 

Martinus "opifex"

Martinus "opifex"

( fl 1440; d Regensburg, ?1456).
 
Illuminator, active in Germany. Most scholars, except Ziegler (1988), place at the beginning of his career his contribution, dated 1440, to a manuscript (before 1440–66; 295*210 mm; Munich, Bayer. Staatsbib., Cgm. 3974) executed at various workshops. A manuscript with the text of Thomas von Cantimpré’s De natura rerum and extracts from Ibn Butlan’s Tacuinum sanitatis (c. 1445; 455*325 mm; Granada, Bib. U., MS. C.67) also belongs to this early phase. From 1446 to 1449 Martinus is known to have been active at the court of Frederick III in Vienna. To this period belong a Golden Legend (1446–7; 540*360 mm; Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. 326) and a Breviary (1447–8; 530*365 mm; Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. 1767), which were both executed for Frederick III in collaboration with three other court illuminators and their workshops. In early 1451 Martinus ‘opifex’ is attested in Regensburg.

 

 

 

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

   

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

 
 
 

Juan de Levi
 

(b Saragossa; fl 1388–1410).

 Spanish painter. He belonged to a family of converted Jews and was the nephew and pupil of the painter Guillén de Levi. He painted the altarpiece of SS Laurence, Catherine and Prudence, commissioned by the brother prelates Fernando and Pedro Pérez Calvillo for their sepulchral chapel, founded in 1376, in Tarazona Cathedral (Saragossa). The altarpiece was finished by 1403, when it was mentioned as a model in a contract that commissioned Juan de Levi to supply a retable for S Jaime, Montalban (untraced). Other documents record that he executed works in Huesca, Saragossa and Teruel, but none of these survives. The altarpiece in Tarazona Cathedral, Juan’s only surviving authenticated work, is one of the most beautiful examples of late 14th-century Aragonese art. It is painted in an expressive and elegant style, and shows great narrative ability. It indicates a development from an Italianizing Gothic style, of Sienese origin, towards a more international manner that incorporated elements derived from the work of north European masters.

 

            

 


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


 

 

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).

 

 

 

 

 
Master of the Lower Saxon Workshop

(active c. 1230-1240)
 
 

 

 


Master of the Lower Saxon Workshop
Jesse
c. 1240
(from the ceiling of St Michael's Hildesheim)
St Michael's, Hildesheim

 

 

 

Master of the Lower Saxon Workshop
The Fall
c. 1240
(from the ceiling of St Michael's Hildesheim)
St Michael's, Hildesheim

 

 

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)

 

 

See also collection:

Lorenzo Monaco

Jean Fouquet

Miniatures from the "Book of Hours of Etienne Chevalier"

Jacopo Bellini


 

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