The New Art of the Fifteenth Century

The New Art of the Fifteenth Century

Shirley Neilsen Blum

Language: English

Pages: 314

ISBN: 0789211920

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A fresh look at the early Renaissance, considering Florentine and Netherlandish art as a single phenomenon, at once deeply spiritual and entirely new.

Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden into a rocky landscape, their naked bodies lit by a cold sun, their gestures and expressions a study in shame and anguish.

A serious man, well attired, kneels in prayer before the Virgin and Child, close enough to touch them almost, his furrowed brow setting off the saintly perfection of their features.

In fifteenth-century Florence and Flanders, painters were using an arsenal of new techniques—including perspective, anatomy, and the accurate treatment of light and shade—to present traditional religious subjects with an unprecedented immediacy and emotional power. Their art was the product of a shared Christian culture, and their patrons included not only nobles and churchmen but also the middle classes of these thriving commercial centers.

Shirley Neilsen Blum offers a new synthesis of this remarkable period in Western art—between the refinements of the Gothic and the classicism of the High Renaissance—when the mystical was made to seem real. In the first part of her text, Blum traces the emergence of a new naturalism in the sculpture of Claus Sluter and Donatello, and then in the painting of Van Eyck and Masaccio. In the second part, she compares scenes from the Infancy and Passion of Christ as rendered by artists from North and South. Exploring both the images themselves and the theological concepts that lie behind them, she re-creates, as far as possible, the experience of the contemporary fifteenth-century viewer.

Abundantly illustrated with color plates of masterworks by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Rogier van der Weyden, and others, this thought-provoking volume will appeal equally to general readers and students of art history.

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Sinanoglou 1973, 499. 19. Davisson 1978, 272. 20. Kennedy 1938, 13–28. 21. Dhanens 1998, 255. 22. Miller 1995. 23. Koch 1964. 24. D’Ancona 1977, 216. 25. Dhanens 1998, 255–57. 26. Borsook and Offerhaus 1981, 10–12; De Roover 1963, 362–69. 27. Cadogan 2000, 233, 253. 28. Borsook and Offerhaus 1981, 34; Cadogan 2000, 253. 29. McNamee 1998, 52, 77. 30. Saxl 1941, 28–29. 31. Lavin 1990, 206. 32. Borsook and Offerhaus 1981, 52–58.

192; plate 131 Mass, the, 150–52, 261–62 liturgy of, 235–36 Master of Flémalle, 167 Master of the David and Saint John Statuettes, Ascension of the Magdalen, 277; plate 192 Master of the Morgan 453, Burial of the Dead, from a Book of Hours, 15; plate 4 Master of the View of Sainte-Gudule, Virgin and Child with Mary Magdalen and a Female Donor, 86; plate 65 Mater Dolorosa (Suffering Mother), 256 Medici, Cosimo de’, 51, 178, 221, 227, 240, 242, 248, 262

consciously placed him outside the rules established by a rational, man-made system of perspective. Masaccio makes an abstract subject, the Throne of Grace, seem thoroughly natural. Because he placed the Crucifixion within a building, he could ignore its historical aspect and turn it into a cult object associated with an altar. In order to explain the existence of such an object, Masaccio situated it within a chapel, perhaps symbolic of Golgotha, which might contain just such a large

average height of a man.1 The baseline was then divided into segments, each of which was one-third the height of the figure. The artist placed the vanishing or focal point in the middle of the horizon line and then connected it with the points laid out at the baseline. These diagonal lines, called orthogonals, appear to recede as they move toward the vanishing point. Lines that cross the orthogonals parallel to the baseline are called transversals. Having established what is essentially a graph,

every town had at least one community of mendicants. The numerous large churches built during the fourteenth century are witness to their phenomenal institutional growth. Imposing collegiate churches throughout Flanders and such mendicant churches in Florence as the Dominicans’ Santa Maria Novella or the Franciscans’ Santa Croce offer ample evidence of congregations more than willing to pay for their rekindled faith. These churches were notable for their long, wide naves, which allowed growing

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