Category: netherlandish

Landscape with Venus and Adonis (and detail) by Gillis van Conixloo 

Flemish, 1580s

oil on canvas

Cleveland Museum of Art

Landscape with the Judgment of Midas by Gillis van Conixloo

Flemish, 1588

oil on panel

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

Bust of Janus surrounded by strapwork, from the series Deorum dearumque, a set of images of deities after coins in the collection of Abraham Ortelius

Netherlandish, 1573


Metropolitan Museum of Art

Detail of Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen as a Gardener, 1507, by Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen (c. 1470’s–1533)

Portrait of Maria Maddalena Portinari, 1470, by Hans Memling ( -1494)

Portrait of a Lady, 1460, by Rogier van der Weyden (c.1400-1464)

The Renaissance

The time following the Medieval Period (and in some places, overlapping it) welcomed a reform in not just art, but also education and life itself. It was the “rebirth” of ancient Rome and Greek ideals. While the Medieval period had primarily focused on religious teachings, those after decided to incorporate science, the world’s beauty, philosophy, and astronomy. Naturally this became represented in art. Focusing on painting, you can see the differences between art of the Medieval time, and that of the different periods of Renaissance. Medieval art was considerably abstract, while Renaissance artists aimed to capture the world in a more realistic way. Because of this change, new techniques, which we continue to use today, were developed. This included both shading, and use of space. The Renaissance spanned over a long period of time, and in many areas. Because of this, it is divided into three stages: The Early, Middle, and High Renaissance. This first set of long posts will be on the Early Renaissance.

Early Renaissance

The Renaissance first emerged in the 1400’s. It eventually spread all over Europe, as people were enamoured with the realism depicted. More political stability contributed to a focus on art and the Renaissance. To our contemporary eyes these works may seem quite simple, but it was a sudden and revolutionary change to the spiritual abstract works the people of the time were used to. There was reason to that Medieval abstraction. The church believed that the more realistic that figures were depicted in paintings, the less “spiritual” they were. So, naturally, if an artist were to depict the Virgin Mary as a realistic woman, it would be comparing the mother of Jesus to any other woman on Earth. The reason behind the abstraction of the Medieval times was to show that holy spirits were very different from men on Earth. That is what made the Renaissance so revolutionary – and caused so much controversy. It was not until later stages of the Renaissance that artists managed to capture a more religious and holy atmosphere, but you can imagine the early years of these new depictions could have been considered by some as heresy.

Of course, Renaissance art did not gain popularity overnight. In fact the ideas which influenced the movement was set back by plague and disease. It took quite some time before the style became widespread among artists. It was artists such as Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) and Petrarch (1304-1374), known as ‘humanists,’ that spread the influence of the Renaissance. Because different areas of Europe adopted this movement at different times, it is difficult to say “the Renaissance began and ended on this date.” When talking about the ‘Northern Renaissance,’ we are including countries such as the Netherlands, France, and Germany and the ‘Italian Renaissance’ being in, of course, Italy. When talking about the Renaissance, Italy is the country that most likely comes to mind, as famous artists such as Titan (1490-1586) and Sandro Botticelli (c.1445-1510) were Italian.


Above: artists

Petrarch (1304-1374) and

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), who were known as ‘humanists,’ spread the influence of the Renaissance.

Different regions with artists that practiced the ideas of the Renaissance valued different techniques and the look. For example, artists of the Italian Renaissance studied ways to make the composition more life-like through perspective and other techniques. While those of the Northern Renaissance focused more on colour and the overall look of the artwork. Also the materials with which they used were different – from egg tempera and stained glass windows, to oil paints. The Netherlandish artists were obsessed with oil paint.


Above: The Madonna in the Church, 1438, by Netherlandish artist Jan van Eyck (c. before 1390-1441) and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, c. 1424, by Italian artists Masolino da Panicale (c. 1383-1447) and Masaccio (1401-1428).


Above: The Arnolfini Portrait (oil), 1434, by Netherlandish artist Jan van Eyck (c. before 1390-1441) and The Adoration of the Magi (tempera), c. 1440/1460, by Italian Renaissance artist Fra Angelico (c. 1395-1455). As you can see, the Northern piece remains in a more abstract and mannerist manner.

While there are many difference between the regions, both Northern and Italy hold similarities. The Church supplied them with all the religious subject matter. An interesting artist of note is Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), who was in fact an Italian artist. His works are clearly influenced by those of the Northern Renaissance artists.


Above: Saint Jerome in his Study, c. 1475, by Antonello da Messina (1430-1479)