Guild houses, Grote Markt

Things to remember from today:

  • Work began on Antwerp Cathedral in 1352; the Black Death was then retreating, after wiping out between 30 and 60% of Europe’s population. Given its connections to the rest of Europe, Antwerp must have been affected.
  • The triforium (above the nave arcade, below the clerestory) is minimalist in the cathedral; this allows for large clerestory windows and lots of light.
  • Baroque painting is about emotion, drama, senses, and breaking through the flat picture frame.
  • Earlier Northern European painting is decorous and decorative, but also realistic in its notion of depicting a moment in time.
  • Counter-Reformation (1550 onwards) stressed the universality of the catholic church – hence depictions of globes (spreading the word to the new world).
  • Wooden panels used in Low Countries paintings often came from Baltic pines and were smooth and flat – lending themselves perfectly to the exquisite artistry of van Eyck and others. Italian painting on woven canvas couldn’t get that level of detail, but it could be more free-flowing.
  • Contrapposto – figure standing with most of its weight on one leg.
  • What’s going on 1500-1650: impact of discovery of new world (globalisation); financial innovation; spread of technological development (movable type printing press); social change (Reformation and Counter-Reformation). Hmm – sounds familiar.
  • I hadn’t realised how significant German silver mines were to the whole of Europe until the discovery of silver in South America. Apologies to Goslar.

And something I discovered for myself in a side chapel:


I don’t often see 20th century religious art done in a traditional style, so this caught my eye. It’s rather odd to the non-catholic mind. Looking at the bottom panels of war-struck towns, however, I could see how their unfortunate inhabitants might have viewed this as biblical-scale destruction.

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