Monday, February 25, 2013

Northern European Renaissance (pt. 1)

And that was just the Italian Renaissance.
In Northern Europe the Dukes of Burgundy were the most powerful rulers for most of the 15th century.  The major seaport at Bruges was the commercial center of Northern Europe and the rival of Italian city-states like Florence, Milan, and Venice.  Flanders was the center of art during the Northern European Renaissance—it was comprised of modern-day Belgium, the Southern Netherlands, parts of Germany, and Northern France.
In the North something sprang up called the New Art Market wherein we can see the rise of the middle class.  More and more people could afford to commission art works, and with the expansion of buyers and sellers the nature of art changed.  Art became a popular status symbol instead of just religious devotions.  Patrons could control how they would be immortalized (pious, wealthy, beautiful, powerful…); it was buying your own propaganda.  Masaccio's Holy Trinity, remember, featured patrons at the foot of the cross, a demonstration to all viewers of how religious those people were.  Not all art was patron portraits of course, but this is where it first appears.
Early Northern European Renaissance art was much like Italian Renaissance art.
Here we see Mary and Jesus again, this time taking a Rest on the Flight Into Egypt (the painting's title).  Mary hasn't changed her style: red dress and blue outer robes.  The baby Jesus picks at grapes from a vine with a downcast expression on His face ("Man of Sorrows," no?).  Notice the buildings in the backdrop?  This is not realism or an attempt at biblical accuracy; the buildings in the back are Medieval style.  But the most dazzling feature of the painting is Mary's dress, the folds and creases of which add to its three-dimensional illusion.  Her dress takes up a noticeable portion of the painting's space, and its bold blue color jumps from the canvas.

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