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Chapter Eight

Renaissance and
in the North
Between Wealth and Want
Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century
Northern Europe

Controlled by the dukes of Burgundy, the region of Flanders (modern
Holland, Belgium, and Luxemburg) included the prosperous cities of
Bruges and Antwerp

Bruges was a major center of culture. The financial capital of the
north, the city was home to the Medici banking interests in the region

Because the citys prosperous merchant class, like the nobility, actively
supported the arts, Bruges was home to a thriving community of
Burgundy in 1467

Throughout the fifteenth century, Brugess population ranged
between 40,000 and 50,000, quite large by Northern European

Wages in Bruges were the highest in Northern Europe, especially for
craftspeople, and the city provided the most extensive social-care
networks anywhereincluding 11 hospitals and hospices. Erasmus
compared the people of Bruges to the people of Golden Age Athens

In Bruges, painting was a major commodity second only to cloth

Especially popular, because they were relatively inexpensive, were oil

Johannes Stradanus, Oil Painting,
or Jan van Eycks Studio
8 x 10.5, late 16

This print shows van Eycks
Bruges studio as a factory
where paintings are made as
goods for consumption by a
rising middle class

In his Lives of the Painters,
Giorgio Vasari wrote that van
Eyck had discovered oil painting
(in fact it had been known for
several centuries, and medieval
painters had used oils to
decorate stone, metal, and
occasional plaster walls)
Robert Campin
The growing influence of the merchant class pervades the Mrode
Altarpiece, painted by Robert Campin, the Master of Flmalle

The altarpiece is a triptych, or three-part work. The left-hand panel
depicts the patrons, Ingelbrecht of Mechlin and his wifeordinary
people. The middle panel shows the Annunciation occurring in the
living room of a middle-class Flemish home. On the right-hand panel
Joseph works as a carpenter

One of the most distinctive features is the everyday appearance of the
scene. This ordinariness lends the image of Christian miracle a reality
never before seen in European painting

Robert Campin, Mrode Altarpiece
Oil on panel, center 25-5/16 x 24-7/8, each wing 25-3/8 x 10-7/8
ca. 1426
Campins altarpiece is small, made to be held up close, suggesting its function as a private rather
than public devotional object.
The Arnolfini Portrait
The celebration of individual identity that marks Renaissance art in
both the north and south is especially apparent in Jan van Eycks
double portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini, an Italian merchant representing
Medici interests in Bruges, and his wife, Giovanna Cenami

Most scholars agree that the couple are exchanging marriage vows in a
bedroom before two witnesses, one of whom is van Eyck himself, who
is reflected in the mirror at the back of the room. Above the mirror is
inscribed in Latin Johannes de Eyck fuit hic (Jan van Eyck was here)

Abounds with symbolic elementsdog (fidelity), two pair of shoes
(couple stand on ground hallowed by the ceremony), finial atop
chairback (St. Margaret, patron saint of childbirth, or Saint Martha,
patron saint of housewives), and so on

Jan van Eyck,
Arnolfini and
His Wife
Oil on panel,
32 x 23
ca. 1434
Jan van Eyck, Giovanni Arnolfini
and His Wife Giovanna Cenami

Each of the ten small circles
around the mirror contains a
scene of Christs passion

Van Eyck presents his love of
detail, the hallmark that
distinguishes Northern
Renaissance painting most
from painting in the South,
through a smooth surface
that does not show

Hieronymus Bosch
Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) was born, lived, and worked in the
town of 's-Hertogenbosch, in southern Holland, which owed its
prosperity to wool and cloth

His paintings, at once minutely detailed and highly imaginative,
manifest the Northern pessimism

Boschs most ambitious painting, the Garden of Earthly Delights, is a
triptych with closing doors

Never intended for a religious setting, it hung in a palace in Brussels as
a conversation piece, a work designed to invite discussion of its
meaning. Bosch provides an enigmatic essay on what the world might
be like if the fall of Adam and Eve had never happened

Hieronymus Bosch,
Garden of Earthly Delights
Oil on panel, closed, each wing 72 x 38, ca. 1505-10
When closed, the triptych
reveals the world at the moment
of creation
At the top left-hand corner, God
floats on a cloud and looks down
at the earth devoid of people
Inscribed across the top are
words in Latin from Psalm 33:9:
He himself spoke, and they
were made; he himself
commanded, and they were
The irony of what is hidden
behind these exterior panels
could not be greater

Hieronymus Bosch,
Garden of Earthly Delights
Open, center 72 x 64; each wing 72 x 38, ca. 1505-10

Above, in this detail from the left
panel, we see the Garden of Eden
populated with strange creatures

Even as God commands Adam and
Eve to be fruitful and multiply and
fill the earth and subdue it (Gen,
1:26), death is imminent. A cat
walks off with a mouse in its teeth,
and a raven perches on the Fountain
of Life
Below, here are the results of Gods
command to Adam and Eve

The world has gone awry. Illicit lust
replaces love of God, wanton
seduction replaces beauty, and
Boschs own wild imagination
replaces reason

All of the Seven Deadly Sins are
herePride, Envy, Greed, Gluttony,
Anger, Sloth, and, above all, Lust

The center panels focus is this pool
surrounded by the four so-called
Castles of Vanity

Horns, a symbol of cuckoldry,
decorate the central fountain, the
Tower of Adulteresses. Circling the
lower pool, the Bath of Venus, are
young men riding animals,
apparently intent on riding the
young women as well

The right panel suggests life after
the fall

The head of this strange creature
that presides over hell has an
astonishingly realistic face and is
topped by a disk with a bagpipe (a
traditional symbol of lust)

Matthias Grnewald
Caught between north and south, between the rich detail of a van Eyck
and the classical idealized style of a Raphael, German painters at the
dawn of the sixteenth century exhibited instances of each

Matthias Grnewald (ca. 1470-1528), architect, engineer, and painter
to the court of the archbishops of Mainz, created his most famous
work, the Isenheim Altarpiece, for the hospital of the Abbey of Saint
Anthony near Strasbourg, dedicated to the treatment of people with
skin diseasessyphilis, leprosy, and ergotism, caused by ingesting
contaminated grain

Physical illness was viewed as a function of spiritual illness. The
altarpiece was designed to move these sinners to repentance and to
remind them that Christ had suffered like them
Matthias Grnewald,
Isenheim Altarpiece, closed
Oil on wood, center: 99 x 109; each wing 82 x 3, ca. 1510-15
The Crucifixion on the monumentally large polytych is among the grimmest ever painted.
Grnewalds palette of purple-green and yellow-brown almost reeks of rotten flesh.
Matthias Grnewald, Isenheim Altarpiece,
first opening
Oil on wood, center: 99 x 109; each wing 9 x 54,
ca. 1510-15
On holy days and possibly Sundays, the altarpiece was opened to reveal inside the brightly
lit scenes of the Annunciation, the Virgin and Child with Angels, and the Resurrection.
Albrecht Drer
Drer (1471-1528), one of the leading painters of the Renaissance,
successfully wedded his Germanic-Netherlandish Gothic heritage
with the Renaissance interest in perspective, empirical observation,
and the rules of ideal beauty for representing the human figure

After visiting Italy in 1505-06, he was determined to introduce a more
scientific approach to painting to Germany

For Drer, creating art was a sacred act; it made manifest Gods work,
from the Creation to Christs Passion

Albrecht Drer, The Large Turf
Watercolor, 16 x 12-1/8, 1503

This landscape study
displays not only the
Northern interest in the
minutest details of nature
but also Drers scientific
mind and his humanist
interest in the phenomena
of the natural world.

Albrecht Drer, Self-Portrait
Oil on panel, 26 x 19, 1500
Like other Northern artists, Drer
was a master of oil painting

His frontal pose, bearded face,
and intense gaze recall traditional
images of Christ. The highly
textured surface glows with a
light that seems to emanate from
within the artist himself

Drer inscribed the painting as
follows: Thus I, Albrecht Drer
from Nuremburg, painted myself
with undying colors at the age of
28 years

Albrecht Drer, Melancholia I
Engraving, 9-7/8 x 7-3/8, 1514
A fully humanist image, a
complex depiction of failed
inspiration and genius, informed
by a wealth of classical allusion

Drer himself suffered from
melancholy, or depression, and
Melancholia can be understood
as an image of his own muse

She strikes the traditional pose
of a melancholic personality.
(Raphael had portrayed
Michelangelo as Heraclitus in a
similar position in his School of
Martin Luther
Luther (1483-1546) entered the monastery at age 22 when, during a
severe lightning storm, he had promised to become a monk if he

Earning a doctorate of theology in 1512, in the winter semester of
1513-14, he began lecturing at the university in Wittenberg

Between 1513 and 1517, Luther experienced a crisis in belief that led
to an almost total rejection of traditional Church doctrine. He began
to preach the doctrine of salvation by faith rather than by works and
to denounce the Churchs practices of selling indulgences, remissions
of penalties to be suffered in purgatory, the proceeds of which were
being used to cover Archbishop Albrecht of Mainzs debts and to fund
Pope Leo Xs rebuilding of St. Peters in Rome
Lucas Cranach, Martin Luther
Oil on panel, 15 x 9, ca. 1526
Martin Luthers Reformation
Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg
on October 31, 1517

On August 7, 1518, Luther was summoned to appear in Rome within
60 days to answer a charge of heresy

On January 3, 1521, the Church excommunicated Luther. All his
writings were declared heretical and ordered burned

By 1526, the German emperor granted each German territory and
city discretion in choosing whether or not to follow Luthers example

Three years later, he rescinded the order, resulting in 18 German
states signing a protestatio, the act of protest that actually gave rise
to the term Protestant

Spread of the Reformation:
Thomas Mntzer and the
Peasant War
To many townspeople and peasants, freedom from the popes authority
seemed to justify their own independence from authoritarian rule

In 1524 Thomas Mntzer, a German cleric, raised an army and led the
peasants against the princes in the so-called Peasant War (1524-26). In
the ensuing battle, the princes lost 6 men, Mntzer 6,000. Ten days
later Mntzer was executed

In the two years of the conflict, nearly 100,000 peasants were killed
across Germany

Ulrich Zwingli in Zurich
The Great Minster Church in Zurich, Switzerland, had been granted
permission by the Church to select its own clergy. In 1519 Ulrich
Zwingli (1484-1531), who challenged the celibacy issue by living
openly with a woman and fathering six children, was elected as
peoples priest

By the late 1520s, civil war broke out between Protestant and Catholic
cantons, or states, in Switzerland. During the second battle, Zwingli
was wounded by his Catholic adversaries, then executed, and his
remains scattered so that no relics would survive his death

The compromise that resulted from this civil war was that each Swiss
canton was now free to choose its own religion
John Calvin in Geneva
John Calvin (1509-64), a French religious reformer who had undergone
a religious conversion of extreme intensity, believed that men were
elected by God to salvation or damnation. Although in life one would
never know with certainty ones election, one must live in a way that
pleased God

Under Calvin, in some ways Geneva came to resemble a police state.
The city prohibited dancing and singing, drunkenness, and blasphemy.
Women were prohibited from wearing rouge, lace, and jewelry; men
from gambling and playing cards

Calvin was extremely popular. Before his death in 1564, nearly 7,000
religious refugees arrived in Geneva seeking protection for their own
religious practices. So austere was the life they learned in Geneva that,
in England, they soon became known by the name of Puritans
Calvinist Austerity
Interior of a Calvinist Church, 17

Saint Peters Basilica, Vatican,
Rome, 17
King Henry VIII and the
Anglican Church
The English crowns decision to align itself with Protestant reformers
was driven much more by political expediency than religious doctrine

When his first wife, Katharine of Aragon, failed to produce a male heir,
Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547), a devout Catholic who had attacked Luther in
a tract delivered to Pope Leo X in 1521, sought annulment of the

Although a Catholic at heart, Henry split with the Church when the
annulment was denied and aligned himself with Protestant reformers,
creating the Church of England
The Printing Press
Sometime between 1435 and 1455, in the German city of Mainz,
Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1390-1468) discovered a process for casting
individual letterforms by using an alloy of lead and antimony

In 1455 Gutenberg produced his first major work, the Forty-Two Line
Bible, so named because each column of type contains 42 lines

By the end of the century, printing presses were churning out a wide
variety of books in at least 60 German cities and in 200 others
throughout Europe

It is debatable whether the Reformation would have occurred
without the invention of the printing press

Page from the Gutenberg Bible
Johannes Gutenberg: Mainz, 1455-56
Luthers Popular Appeal
Excommunicated, Luther spent the next year translating Erasmuss
Latin Bible into vernacular German so as to make the Bible available
to ordinary people

Luthers vernacular New Testament was published in 1522. The
entire printing of 3,000 sold out within three months, an incredible

He was the Continents best-selling author. It is estimated that
between 1518 and 1525, one-third of all texts published in
Germany were by him

Luther also sought to change Church liturgy, especially the use of
music. He composed chorales, hymns sung by the entire
congregation, in vernacular German, the most famous of which is
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

"Congregational Music"
From Revolution of Conscience: The Life, Convictions, and Legacy of
Martin Luther (length: 2:57). Item #32477 2003
Video will play automatically.
Thomas More and Utopia
By the time Utopia was published in 1516, Thomas More (1478-1535)
was Henry VIIIs unofficial secretary. In 1529, More was appointed Lord
Chancellor, the presiding officer of the House of Lords

In Greek, eu means good and topos place, hence good place, but
also the root might be ou meaning not, hence no placeand thus a
profound critique of the English political system

In 1535 Henry had More, an ardent Catholic, executed for suggesting
that Henrys first wifes, Katharine of Aragons, daughter Mary was the
legitimate heir to the throne, not Anne Boleyns child, Elizabeth
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare even in his own time was the acknowledged
master of playwrighting

He wrote 37 plays: great cycles narrating English history; romantic
comedies that deal with popular themes such as mistaken identity,
the battle of the sexes, lovers errors in judgment, and so on;
romances that treat serious themes but in unrealistic, almost magical
settings; and 11 tragedies

Fellow actors prepared the first edition of his collected plays and
published them in 1623, after his death

frontispiece of the first
folio edition, London,

The Elizabethan Stage
Until 1576 no permanent theater existed in England. In the spring of
1576 James Burbage opened Theatre of Shoreditch just outside the
walls of London

Basic price of admission to Burbages Theatre was one penny, which in
1600 could buy one chicken or two tankards of ale. A laborers wage
was three or four pence, or pennies, a day, thus making Burbages
Theatre affordable

In a dispute over a lease, Burbages company, now headed by Jamess
son Richard, tore down the Shoreditch Theatre and rebuilt it across
the river in Southward at Bankside, renaming it the Globe

The Globe
Reconstruction and cross-section

The English Portrait Tradition
Hans Holbein was one of the most important portraitists of wealthy
society in Europe and the favorite painter of Henry VIII. During his two
extended visits to England (1526-28, 1532-43) he painted hundreds of
works, including many of Henry and four of his six wives

Each portrait conveyed the sitters status and captured something of
the sitters identity, expressing the English cultures general humanist
emphasis on individualism

As in Northern Renaissance painting as a whole, Holbeins portraits are
richly detailed
Hans Holbein the Younger,
Henry VIII in Wedding Dress
Oil on panel, 32 x 29, 1540
Henry, age 49 when this
portrait was painted, was six
foot two inches tall and had
an imposing 54-inch waist

Henry is in the clothes he
wore when he married Anne
of Cleves in 1540. He had six
wives, and ordered the
beheading of two. These
marriages produced three
children: Mary, Elizabeth, and
Attributed to Federigo Zuccaro,
The Darnley Portrait of Elizabeth I
Oil on panel, 44 x 31, ca. 1575
Like her father, Elizabeth was
the subject of many portraits

Many portraits of Elizabeth
tend to concentrate on
elaborate decorative effects

No other portrait of Elizabeth
conveys her steadfast
determination, even
toughness, while still
capturing something of her