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GUIDE 10                                                                                         Unit 3


The Renaissance in Northern Europe

·        Flanders

·        Germany

·        France

·        Spain

·         England                                                     

Annunciation by Jan van Eyck, 15… (Detail)

                                                National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.  [www.womeninthebible.net]


                                    THE RENAISSANCE

The Renaissance spanned roughly 3 centuries: 14th -16th

1300s – 1500s

Petrarch, the great Renaissance humanist – Italian poet and scholar of the fourteenth-century, looked back at the preceding thousand years and saw only “dark ages” extending from the collapse of the Roman Empire to his own time.

In Petrarch’s view history fell into three periods:


Petrarch and other humanists of his time (scholars) admired Classical world as a time of the highest achievements of human spirit. The Italians were very proud of their own time, which they believed was a revival of classical culture of ancient Greece and Rome. 

As for the thousand years that separated these two distinguished periods, the Italian humanists called them Dark Ages  that had been marked by a decline of culture – a mere break in the history of human civilization.                                                       

Renaissance – *_

[What does this French word mean?] 

The Renaissance was rebirth/revival of what? 


Do you remember why the Middle Ages are called Middle?

I want you to remember that the Renaissance first emerged in the south of Europe – in ITALY!

This happened in the end of the 13th century (late1200s).  Remember which historical period it was?

— Right, it was the end of the Gothic time. 

Yet, your textbook begins the Renaissance story in 15th century Northern Europe –in Germany, Netherlands, France, etc.  Why such a chronological leap?

— The logic would be that the Renaissance in Northern Europe was closer connected to the medieval culture and this provides us with a good stylistic transition  – you will be able to trace emergence of a new style within the previous Gothic frame.

Now let us open a new (and the last!) chapter in our course.  Allow yourself enough time to study the splendid art of the Renaissance époque.

Historical Background: Give a brief review of the most significant political, economic, and social events that brought about and determined a ‘face’/character of a new era of the Renaissance.  

Keep it short – “one event – one line”       




Now, if you want, play a little bit with the timeline – locate the Renaissance period on it.

Here is how to do it: Place a cursor before the red tab Renaissance…, and move it to the right until it is

placed above the proper period on the timeline.  [To move it just keep clicking on space bar]

       Renaissance   spanned   about   300   years                

  1200                    1300                     1400                         1500                       1600          1650                                                                              

                                                                             15th century                               

Did you succeed? Good! If not, that’s okay.  Just mark this period on the time line in your printed guide (circle).

Remember – it lasted about 300 years.

What were the two most significant areas in Europe where the Renaissance culture spread?

In the South of Europe -*

In the North of Europe – *

                                               Find them on the map.

Flanders – *

                 [Territory of what present-day countries did Flanders occupy in the 15th century? ]

                                                                                                                                                                                        Southern Renaissance



         2 streams

                                                                        Northern Renaissance 

Flanders, Germany et al.

Attention:  Flanders – Flemish

Flemish art

Flemish painting


15th century

It is not certain when the Gothic era ended and the Renaissance began.

Gothic art has been called a long overture to the Renaissance. This is particularly well seen in the arts of Northern Europe.

FLEMISH PAINTING  of the 15th century     (1400-s)

Why the title of this section is called “Flemish Painting: From Page to Panel?”

                    Explain what the Flemish painting originated from.

Panel – *

[What kind of panel is meant when they talk about painting on panel?]

Tempera     (Please google this term and try to answer as many questions as you can)

What is tempera made of? – *

What are the ground pigments (colors) mixed (“tempered”) with? – *

How far back does the use of tempera date?  – *

When was the oil paint invented and where? – *

What kind of material/support for applying tempera came first – wood or canvas panel? – *

How did the artists prepare the surface before applying the paint?  – *

Define the terms:

Ground  – *

Gesso  –  *

Gilding  –  *

International Style

Why such a name?”


When was it developed? – *

In some books on Art History you can find the International Style in the Gothic section,

in the others – in the early Renaissance period.  Indeed, it was shaped on the border of two eras.

Symbolism – a very important concept when we speak of Northern Europe, as well as to Medieval.  Behind the most ordinary objects (e.g., like kettle or lilies) are hidden meanings.  We can say that these objects serve as symbols, or that they are symbols for…

What does the author of your textbook say about a challenge for us, modern day people, to understanding symbolic art? Why are our chances not too high to fully comprehend the works of art that came down to us from this and earlier times? – *

I like the thought  though that we still can enjoy this art even though we can not receive the whole message? Could you please write it down?.

Remember about this when you will be observing the Flemish paintings. 


In a way it is true about all art (Medieval in particular) – even when we do not understand what the artist was telling we still can feel an emotional depth in artwork –  it has a clear appeal – it affects us emotionally and spiritually.

Robert Campin 

Date:  *

 [datecentury:]                                [ro-BER  cam-PAN …]

Merode Altarpiece

Let me explain why Campin is also called the Master of Flémalle.

In long time the scholars did not know that the author of this work was Robert Campin.

They used to identify the author as the Master of Flémalle, because the style of this altarpiece

was very similar to the painting panels that once came from the Abbey of Flémalle.

Annunciationis depicted in the central part of the altarpiece.


                [Look up this word in Glossary, unless you know what this biblical event was about]

The Campin’s altarpiece shows a combination of realism and symbolism that is so typical

for the Northern Renaissance.            Let us play experts and analyze this work of art.

Read thoroughly the paragraph and define what is realistic about this painting, and which objects refer to its symbolic character.

                         Keep it one statement or one object – one line/cell.

Just imagine that each of the wildflowers had special symbolic significance regarding the Virgin Mary!  This proves how deeply symbolical the Northern art was. As you know now, it took this feature from medieval art.

Jan van Eyck   – Arnolfini and His Bride.     

Date/century  *

Genre Painting                              [Define the term] 


What is depicted in this painting? 


Symbolism:  Though being secular (having no reference to religion) and very realistic in depicting details, this painting is still a heir of Medieval art – hence it is full of symbols.  Provide an example of used symbols in this work of art.

Dog was a symbol of *

Oranges – *

                   [They look more like peaches to me; Fruits often symbolized fertility too]

Finial of the bedpost (carved figure of what saint) – *

Broom – *

Why the groom took his shoes off? – *

Oil painting  (note before that moment we have talked about Tempera painting)

The Flemish artists, and particularly Jan van Eyck, were credited in the History of Art for introducing the oil painting.

The Flemish artists are called the “fathers of modern painting”, for oil has been the painter’s basic medium ever since.

What are the advantages of oil as a paint? –   *             

(see in your Glossary or online – oil painting and glossing)

What does the oil paint consist of?  – *

Glazing  –  *

German Art                                NORTHERN RENAISSANCE

  In what ways was German Art different from Flemish Art of this period?

a.       *

b.      *


Isenheim Altarpiece    – the most dramatic work of art during the Renaissance

The Crucifixion  

This type of art is called expressionistic? Why? What do you think?

How does it affect the viewer? How would you describe the work?

Which details better convey the unsurpassed tension and exaltation?



Albrecht Durer      

Adam and Eve               *      [date]          (Note – we are now in the next, 16th century)

Durer is the most famed artist of the Northern Renaissance. But he was not a typical one.

Can you tell that his art was deeply rooted in the Medieval traditions? Or was it more classical oriented?  Why is he called in your handbook “Italianate“ master?


How does Adam and Eve convey Durer’s passion for the Classical art?

How does he treat human body?  Are figures idealized or rendered naturalistically like any of us, the common mortals? Don’t they look like classical statues?


As you, of course, noticed this work is not a painting. This is the first time – in the history of art we have covered so far – that we encounter this technique – “engraving.” Durer was a great master of this new method, developed in the 15th century.

Engraving      [define the term – look in the glossary or online]


Explain how an artist creates engraving print (on paper).


                                         * * *

As always, I recommend reviewing the guide right after completion. Then you can take QUIZ # 8.

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