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A History Of European Art 15 - Northern Renaissance Altarpieces

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A History Of European Art
Lecture Fifteen

Northern Renaissance Altarpieces

Early Netherlandish painting is the work of those painters who were active in the Low Countries during the 15th and early 16th century Northern renaissance, especially in the flourishing cities of Bruges and Ghent. It begins approximately with the career of Jan van Eyck, who was already championed as the "new Apelles" of northern European painting by Karel van Mander at the turn of the 17th century, and ends with Gerard David around 1520.

The period corresponds to the early and high Italian Renaissance, but it is seen as an independent artistic culture from the Renaissance humanism that characterises simultaneous developments in central Italy. Because Early Netherlandish painters embody both the culmination of Mediaeval artistic heritage in northern Europe and respond to Renaissance ideals, their art is categorized as belonging to both the Early Renaissance and the Late Gothic.

The painting of the period made significant advances in illusionism, following the highly detailed works of Jan van Eyck, and often features complex iconography. Subjects are mostly iconic religious scenes or small portraits; narrative painting is far rarer than in Italy, as are mythological figures.

Closed view, back panels.

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