Saturday, 21 May 2011

The art of Medieval revival

After the fall of the Roman Empire there was a power vacuum throughout Europe, this resulted in a cultural blackout in Western Europe. The Medieval era started with the fall of Rome, at the hands of Barbarian tribes, and lasted until the cultural "rebirth" which is known as the Renaissance. The middle ages are often referred to the "dark ages" because of this decline both artistically and culturally throughout Europe.

The French abbot Saint Bernard of
 Clairvaux (1090 - 1152) was a principal
 protagonist in Europe's artistic revival.
However, it can be argued that during the 12th century, a period known as the Romanesque era, there was small  Renaissance. A "mini-Renaissance" if you will. This cultural rebirth was focused within the monasteries throughout Western Europe, where the act of devotion and religious piety was shown through the monks' artistic discipline, most notably in the production of  manuscripts. The two regions where this artistic light burnt brightest where in England and Ireland. As both the countries rather unusually developed an extensive network of monasteries, in contrast to mainland Europe which under papal authority built far more churches than monasteries.

At the heart of a monastery, besides a church, was the workshop. These workshops served as a focal point for life within the monastery, they provided vital revenues for the running of the monastery, they occupied the clergies' time, prevented them from sin and acts of temptation and allowed them to illustrate their devotion to God through their work. The tasks that they accomplished such as the production of manuscripts was both extensive and time-consuming. The key aim of the monks was to use these devotional aids and religious tools such as manuscripts, Gospel books, Bible production and Books of Hours in order to complete their mission of Christianising the barbarian tribes of Europe and from there spreading the word of God to the rest of the world.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Rose Window

Rose Window at the Basilica
of Saint Denis

Rose window is a term used to refer to a circular window. Often used as a principle feature of a Romanesque or Gothic church's clerestory. Rose windows can usually be found with highly ornate tracery and are divided into segments by stone mullions, with stained glass usually set in between.

Some notable churches with highly ornate Rose windows:
  • Notre Dame - North Transept
  • Chartres Cathedral - North Transept
  • Durham Cathedral
  • York Minster

The Symbolism of Flowers in the Portinari Altarpiece- by Hugo van der Goes

Hugo van der Goes - Portinari Altarpiece (1475)
The Portinari altarpiece is a religious triptych commissioned by Tommaso Portinari. The overall composition depicts the Adoration of the shepherds, but in today's short post we will just be looking at the still life within the central panel.

At the heart of the foreground within the central panel lies two vases of flowers, next to which lies a sheaf of wheat. The symbolism of the wheat, is of the Last Supper where Christ broke the bread (also symbolic of the Eucharist). The white lilies in the vase next to the kneeling angel represent purity and the immaculate conception, the orange lilies are symbolic and allude to Christ's "Passion" later in life; and the purple iris flowers and columbine stalks in the second vase correspond to the "Seven Sorrows of the Virgin." Which are:

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Genres of Painting

There are 6 major genres in painting:

1. History Painting - Classical or Mythological or Biblical compositions

2. Portrait Painting 

3. Genre Painting - Are scenes that are depicted from everyday life

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Body in Flemish Art

Hieronymus Bosch - The Garden of Earthly Delights. 1495
Sir Peter Paul Rubens - Venus, Mars and Cupid . 1626
In early Flemish art the body, more specifically nudity, represented original sin, pity and lack of morality. However after Lutheran doctrine, the body once again became an object of beauty, something to be admired, in Flemish art and no longer had any of the negative connotations that were previously associated with it.

Symbolism - The Dog - Fidelity

The Arnolfini Portrait (1434) - oil on oak panel
by Jan van Eyck

A dog in a painting often represents loyalty and fidelity. For instance in Jan Van Eyck's- Th Arnolfini Wedding portrait, 1431. Where the dog represents fidelity and as a result the marriage obligations between the pair. As the two stand on the 'holy ground of matrimony'.
        There is another argument for this portrait which will be covered in a later post.

Symbolism - The Lily

The Lily in art represents: purity, chastity and virginity, as a result it is often used in religious imagery. Such as with the Virgin Mary.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Romanesque era - A mini Renaissance?

Can the period defined as the Romanesque era be considered to be a small Renaissance?

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