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Entries in International Gothic (7)

Monday
Oct082018

Masolino: A Lyrical and Unfailing Artistry

Masolino - Miracle of the Wheel - 1425-31 - Fresco - Castiglione Chapel, San Clemente, Rome (click photo for larger image)Masolino da Panicale (c. 1383 - c. 1435) was a painter who achieved a compromise between the International Gothic Style and the Early Renaissance style of his own day. He owes his prominence in the history of Florentine art not to his innovations but to his lyrical style and his unfailing artistry. Masolino came from the same district of Tuscany as his younger contemporary Masaccio (1401-1428), with whom his career was closely linked. Trained in a Florentine studio, he appears before 1407 to have been a member of the workshop of famed sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1381-1455). He worked with Masaccio on the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, which artists from all over traveled to see and study.

The International Gothic Style was prevalent in Europe during the last half of the 14th century and the early years of the 15th century. It grew out of the need for artists to travel from court to court seeking work, following the Black Death. There were features common to European art, in general. In particular, figures were elegant and graceful – and had a certain artificiality. A taste did grow for realism in detail, general setting, and composition. The internationalism of the style owes to the fact that much of the most important work was executed under court patronage, and most European royal families were closely linked by marriage ties. Local idiosyncracies, however, did persist.

In the scene of the Miracle of the Wheel an angel intervenes to stop the torture of Saint Catherine of Alexandria commanded by emperor Maxentius. A secondary scene (upper left) shows the emperor looking down at the interrupted martyrdom from a high loggia. A woman beside him, doubtless Empress Faustina, is leaning over the railing. She, too, had been converted by Catherine.

Friday
Oct202017

Modigliani and Simone Martini

Simone Martini - Annunciation with Two Saints (detail) - 1333 - Tempera on wood - Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy (click photo for larger image)Simone Martini (c. 1285-1344) was among the early Italian artists who particularly moved Amedeo Modigliani(1884-1920). Discussions of both artists are featured elsewhere on this site.

The beautiful detail featured here (from Annunication with Two Saints) was painted around 1333 by Martini for the altar of Sant’Ansano in the Cathedral of Siena. Martini’s work reveals his great love of harmonious, pure colors. To these he added a gracefulness of line and delicacy of interpretation that were inspired by French Gothic works that the young artist studied in Italy. He carried to perfection the decorative line of the Gothic style and subordinated volume to the rhythm of this line.

Amedeo Modigliani - Jeanne Hebuterne, Left Arm Behind her Head - 1919 - Oil on canvas - Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA (click photo for larger image)Modigliani had a passion for the same type of beauty. Heavily influenced by the Italian painting tradition, Simone Martini was among the early Italian artists who particularly moved him. A relationship between his and Martini’s work is definitely evident.

Friday
May292015

Gentile Da Fabriano: a Foremost Painter of His Day

Gentile da Fabriano - Annunciation - c. 1425 - Tempera and gold leaf on wood, 41 x 48 cm - Pinacoteca, Vatican (click photo for larger image) Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370 – 1427) was the foremost painter of central Italy at the beginning of the 15th century, whose few surviving works are among the finest examples of the International Gothic style.

This small panel, which combines the rigour of perspective construction with embellishments of pronounced courtly inspiration, is generally dated to around the year 1425, the year in which the painter, en route to Rome at the invitation of Pope Martin V Colonna (1417-51), spent a period of residence in Florence, where he was to create some of his greatest masterpieces.

The scene takes place in a room enclosed on three sides and opened in front as if by a portico. The room is lit by little rose windows and other windows of elaborate Gothic design. A frieze of miniature trefoil arches runs along the upper cornice of the room, defining the front edge of its coffered ceiling. An open arched doorway, through which the angel enters, admits to a garden, in which trees laden with fruit can be glimpsed to the far left. The Virgin is startled by the angel's annunciation as she sits, hands folded in her lap and open prayer book beside her, on an L-shaped settle, richly ornamented with intarsia panels in the shape of diamonds, lozenges, and intersecting circles.

Monday
May252015

Lorenzo Monaco: “Laurence the Monk”

Lorenzo Monaco - St Jerome in the Wilderness - n.d. - Tempera on poplar panel, 23x36 cm - Private collection (click photo for larger image)Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-c. 1425) was an Italian painter who was probably born in Siena, but seems to have spent all his professional life in Florence. In 1391 he took his vows as a monk of the Camaldolese monastery of Sta Maria degli Angeli. He rose to the rank of deacon, but in 1402 he was enrolled in the painters' guild under his lay name, Piero di Giovanni (Lorenzo Monaco means 'Laurence the Monk'), and was living outside the monastery. The monastery was renowned for its manuscript illuminations and several miniatures in books in the Laurentian Library in Florence have been attributed to him, but he was primarily a painter of altarpieces.

This painting once belonged to a polyptych in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence. The polyptych was dismembered and its panels are now scattered in various museums. The present panel was part of the predella comprising of five panels.

Wednesday
Feb112015

A Style Borne of Necessity

Gentile da Fabriano - Annunciation - c. 1425 - Tempera and gold leaf on wood, 41 x 48 cm - Pinacoteca, Vatican (click photo for larger image)By the end of the 14th century, the fusion of Italian and Northern European art had led to the development of an International Gothic style. As a consequence of the Black Death, which disseminated the population of Europe, leading artists traveled from Italy to France, vice versa, and all over Europe, in order to get work. As a result, ideas spread and merged, until eventually artists in what became known as the International Gothic style could be found in France, Italy, England, Germany, Austria and Bohemia. “In the International Gothic style (also known as the "beautiful style" or the "soft style") the oddities of natural forms are smoothed away, leaving behind an elegant, delicate realism, which perfectly suited the decorative needs of the royal courts which gave birth to it.” The style was sophisticated and cosmopolitan. In painting, one of the foremost practitioners was Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370-1427). The small panel featured here combines the rigor of perspective construction with embellishments of pronounced courtly inspiration. It’s generally dated to around 1425, when the artist (on his way to Rome) spent a period of residence in Florence. It was there that he created some of his greatest masterpieces.

The scene takes place in a room enclosed on three sides and opened in front as if by a portico. The Virgin is startled by the angel's annunciation as she sits, hands folded in her lap, with an open prayer book beside her. Note that the settee on which she’s seated is richly ornamented, bearing shapes of diamonds, lozenges, and intersecting circles.