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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 5, The Renaissance in the North

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 5, The Renaissance in the North

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, introduction by James Snyder
160 pages
144 illustrations
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At roughly the same time that Italian art was beginning to reflect a reawakening of the classical spirit—an epoch and style we call the Renaissance—the arts of Northern Europe were experiencing their own efflorescence. Painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts were pursued with a new vigor in the Netherlands, in Germany, in France, and in England, and resulted in a vast body of work that constitutes one of the glories of Western civilization.

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the masters of the North developed styles quite distinct from those in the South: an attention to minute detail, particularly with regard to landscape, but also in domestic interiors; and an emotive piety that dramatized the sorrow and suffering of the Passion. Jan van Eyck's Crucifixion and Last Judgment present a horrific vision of the death of Christ and the damnation of sinners, set against a deep and distant landscape, sensitively and realistically rendered. The Lamentation by Petrus Christus addresses the agony of the Passion with unflinching clarity.

By the end of the fifteenth century, artists in Italy and in the regions north of the Alps were becoming more thoroughly aware of each other's work, and during the sixteenth century a truly "Renaissance" spirit infused art throughout Europe. The work of Dürer, Cranach, Holbein, and Massys is informed by the same revival of classical learning that had characterized Italian art for more than a century.

In The Renaissance in the North, the work of the German, Dutch, Flemish, French, and English masters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is explored in more than one hundred reproductions. In addition to such well-known masterpieces as Van Eyck's Crucifixion and Last Judgment, Memling's Tommaso Portinari and Maria Baroncelli, Bruegel's Harvesters, Dürer's woodcut The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Cranach's Judgment of Paris, and Holbein's Erasmus of Rotterdam, this volume includes many lesser-known works in oil and on paper, as well as sculpture, decorative arts, and armor from the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Treasures of the decorative arts of Northern Europe include a series of stained-glass panels from Belgium illustrating the Gospels, a Flemish tapestry with allegorical representations of the Twelve Ages of Man, and an example of the famous hafnerware from Germany. A sumptuously painted double virginal, made in Antwerp in 1581, is one of many examples of musical instruments created in the North that are reproduced in this book. The strikingly decorated armor of the period is illustrated by a German parade helmet, an elaborate backplate and hoguine, and two full suits of armor—one from France, the other from England.

James Snyder, professor of art history at Bryn Mawr College and author of Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575, provides an introduction to this volume. Professor Snyder explores the distinctive nature of the Northern Renaissance and explains the circumstances in which it flourished. He points out how the north and south of Europe came to share many of the same techniques and styles, and how, during the sixteenth century, a new art emerged in Europe that reflected the individuality of the nations in which it was created and the cross-cultural influences that made it distinctively Renaissance.

Portrait of a Carthusian, Petrus Christus  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Petrus Christus
The Wedding Feast of Cupid and Psyche, Pierre Reymond, Painted enamel on copper, partly gilt, French, Limoges
Pierre Reymond
The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, Queen of France, Jean Pucelle  French, Grisaille, tempera, and ink on vellum, French
Jean Pucelle
ca. 1324–28
Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), Robert Campin  Netherlandish, Oil on oak, South Netherlandish
Robert Campin
ca. 1427–32
Virgin and Child, Dieric Bouts  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Dieric Bouts
ca. 1455–60
The Birth of Cupid, Master of Flora  Italian, Oil on wood
Master of Flora
The Crucifixion; The Last Judgment, Jan van Eyck  Netherlandish, Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Jan van Eyck
ca. 1436–38
The Annunciation, Petrus Christus  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Petrus Christus
ca. 1445
Christ Appearing to His Mother, Juan de Flandes  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Juan de Flandes
ca. 1496
Francesco d'Este (born ca. 1429, died after 1486), Rogier van der Weyden  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Rogier van der Weyden
ca. 1460
The Lamentation, Petrus Christus  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Petrus Christus
ca. 1450
A Goldsmith in his Shop, Petrus Christus  Netherlandish, Oil on oak panel
Petrus Christus
The Adoration of the Magi, Justus of Ghent  Netherlandish, Distemper on canvas
Justus of Ghent
ca. 1475
Portrait of a Man, Hugo van der Goes  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Hugo van der Goes
ca. 1475
Portrait of a Young Man, Hans Memling  Netherlandish, Oil on oak panel
Hans Memling
ca. 1472–75
Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara, Hans Memling  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Hans Memling
early 1480s
Tommaso di Folco Portinari (1428–1501); Maria Portinari (Maria Maddalena Baroncelli, born 1456), Hans Memling  Netherlandish, Oil on wood
Hans Memling
ca. 1470
The Annunciation, Hans Memling  Netherlandish, Oil on panel, transferred to canvas
Hans Memling
St. Barbara, Master FVB  Netherlandish, Engraving
Master FVB
late 15th century
Lute Player and Harpist, from Scenes of Daily Life, Israhel van Meckenem  German, Engraving
Israhel van Meckenem
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View Citations

Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), and James Snyder, eds. 1987. The Renaissance in the North. New York: The Museum.