- June,1412-16 and later embellishments, from Les
Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, (206 leaf book of illuminated
manuscripts 8 7/8"x5 3/8"), Musee Conde, Chantilly, France. Reproduction
Illuminated manuscripts are part of the tradition of the
Middle Ages. Tress Riches Heures was done by the
monastic bothers from Limbourg, France. The Duc du Berry was a
fantastic collector, putting his own interests above that of his
kingdom. His peasants and towns were taxed heavily to greater
enhance and display his own prestige. He owned 17 castles and
two homes in Paris. In all he commissioned 20 Book of Hours
(prayer books)) but the Tres Riches Heures is one of
the most exquisite. His pleasure was to see his favorite
scenes and portraits illustrated. The scenes include delicate
multiple-towered cities and castles; rural occupations; knights
and ladies in the garden or banquet hall, clad in elegant
clothes. The Duke usually appears robed in pure sky blue, which
pigment was so precious that two pots of it were listed in an
inventory of Berry's treasures.
- Wedding Dance in the Open Air,
1566, Pieter Brueghel,
Dutch (1525-1569), , The Delaporte Collection, Brussels, Belgium. Reproduction
Pieter Brueghel was one of the greatest painters from the
Netherlands. In 1551 he journeyed to Italy and was deeply
impressed with the art of the High Renaissance and the dynamic
landscape of Italy. His earliest works reveal in their symbolic
content the influence of Bosch, and allegories appear throughout
Brueghel's work. Brueghel did not merely comment on the
vices of the common man; he glorified the simple life of the
country. He was among the first to paint peasants at play. With
so many people together, how does he avoid confusion? By
carefully spacing the colors and groups and by leaving out
shadows and confusing details, he enables us to enjoy what each
wedding guest is doing.
You can see the merriment of a simple peasant wedding in this
painting, and you can almost hear the noise as the whole village
celebrates the happy event.
This picture is fun to look at because the longer you look,
the more you notice. It is almost a puzzle. How many people can
you count? Can you find the bride and the bridegroom? The bride
is the long-haired woman just tot he left of center. She is the
only woman not wearing a head covering. The man to her left is
her new husband.
The artist painted this picture as though he was standing on
a ladder, so we can see the whole crowd. If Brueghel had painted
it from a ground level viewpoint we would only see the people in
Brueghel painted many pictures of peasant life. These
paintings may not seem unusual today but were startling when
they were new more than 400 years ago. Then, life was difficult
and short. most art was created for churches or rich patrons.
Church leaders wanted religious subjects and the wealthy were
not interested in paintings of peasants. But Brueghel
appreciated the simple pleasures that the peasants sometimes
enjoyed, and he captured those moments on canvas.
Little is know about Brueghal's life. A biographer writing
several years after his death wrote that Brueghel sometimes
dressed as a peasant so that he could study village life without
being noticed. Some art experts believe that he appears in
The Wedding Dance as the man standing by himself on the
right, near the musicians.
The Wedding Dance in the Open Air
- The Mass at Dordrecht, 1607, Aelbert Cuyp,
Dutch (1620-1691), oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection,
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Reproduction
Aelbert Cuyp was a Dutch landscape painter born in
Dordrecht, the son of a painter who taught him. Cuyp is known for
his brasd sweeping landscapes dominated by the sea, as is life
in Holland. Figures of men and domestic animals are prominent in
his landscapes bathed in a poetic golden light which seems to
have been influenced by Claude Lorrain of France.
- The (Sampling officials)Syndics
of the Cloth Guild, 1662, Rembrandt Hermansz Van Rijn, Dutch (1606-1669), oil on
canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Reproduction
Rembrandt was such a brilliant and prolific artist that his
engravings and paintings have influenced the course of western
art. Born in Leyden, he worked with Pieter Lastman until he
settled, at the age of 25, in Amsterdam. There he met and
married Saskia van Uylenborch, a young heiress, who bore him a
son, Titus. Both wife and son were the subjects of many
beautiful portraits. Saskia died eight years later and
Rembrandt, who had grown accustomed to living extravagantly soon
went bankrupt. Henrikje Stoffels came as housekeeper and nurse
to live with Rembrandt for the rest of his arduous impoverished
life. During the later years, Rembrandt's work changed from the
richly-colored portraits of prosperous burghers of his early
period to sober, deeply-felt works.
In this picture, the men are just sitting down to a meeting.
Included are the rich tablecloth and bag of gold that symbolize
their skill and success. light from an unknown source, perhaps
and open door or window, strikes one side of each man's face.
Rembrandt was an expert in the study of light and shadow. He
discovered the power of light to illuminate character; to tell
us not only what a man looks like but also what he is like. We
can guess how he acts and feels.
Rembrandt loved to explore the Jewish ghetto of Amsterdam and
found subjects for his painting there.
- Dutch Masters and Cigars III, 1964, Larry Rivers,
American (1923-2002), oil and collage on canvas, The Larry N. Abrams Family Collection. Reproduction print.
Larry Rivers was born in New York City
where he studied music at teh Julliard School before beginning
to paint. In 1947 he worked in Hans Hofman's studio and later
held his first one-man show. Rivers painted in a realistic
style, chosing everyday subjects from American life. He has been
identified with the Pop Art movement and his original
emperiments with different media, such as plastic, metal and
neon lights, have contributed greatly to contemporary American
art. In addition to receiving awards from the Corcoran gallaery
of Art, the Newport Arts Festival and Spoleto, Rivers has had
many one-man shows in new York, Paris and London, as well as
having taken part in exhibitions all over the world.
The makers of Dutch Masters Cigars used a
reproduction of Syndics of the Cloth Guild on the inside of their cigar boxes and also in their advertising.
In an effort to open up the avenue of communication between art
and everyday reality, Larry Rivers painted boxes of cigars
roughly copying Rembrandt's masterpieces. In Dutch Masters and
Cigard III the carefully placed light and dark tones give rythm
to the canvas.
- The Love Letter, 1669-1670, Jan Vermeer,
Dutch (1632-1675), oil on canvas, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Reproduction
|Jan Vermeer was born in Delft where he lived and
worked until his death at age forty-three. Little is known of
his life or how his art developed but some of his works show the
influence of Carel Fabritues, the most brilliant of Rembrandt's
pupils. As most of the Dutch artists, he paints genre scenes;
single figures, usually women, engage in simple everyday work;
when there are two figures, they do no more than exchange
glances. Rectangles predominate, carefully aligned, and the
entire painting is a mosaic of colored surfaces catching the
intense light filtering in from the left.
in the painting is a lute - an instrument of the guitar class
and of Oriental origin, formerly popular but now out of fashion.
It has generally a pear-shaped back, like a mandolin, and cat
gut strings arranged in pairs tuned in unison, with fretting at
intervals of a semitone.
Tape of bagpipes and a lute
- The Harvesters, 1565, Andrea del Verrocchio, Italian (
c.1525-1669), oil on wood, The Metropilitan, NY. Reproduction
During the Renaissance the two great centers of European commerce and
culture were Italy's City States and the Netherlands, particularly
Flanders. The last lesson concentrated on the Renaissance inspired by the
Southern influence of perfect ideal forms and a perspective of geometric
exactitude. Reflecting a different climate and culture, but equally
important were the developments of art in the North centered in Flanders.
Instead of developing from the great spaciousness of frescoes, the art
of Flanders was inspired by the detail of miniatures in the illuminated
manuscripts of the Book of Hours. Even though the Flemish artists were
equally interested in all the new learning of the Renaissance, their
harsher life taught them that truths could be conveyed by a pale, awkward
figure as well as a gloriously graceful one. They saw man as a small part
of nature who often fell far short of the ideal. This view inspired the
development of landscapes and seascapes as well as a concern for everyday
Although some great national kings claimed rule by Divine Right over
the lands of Europe, and the Dukes of Burgundy laid claim over Flanders,
the feudal system was breaking up. Material prosperity of the Flemish
cities meant new merchant patrons and a change in the status of the
artist. They were still bound by mediaeval craft guild regulations but
came to be thought of as privileged individuals who could be inspired and
creative. The most desirable merchandise offered for sale in the
warehouses on the docks of Antwerp were oil paintings, many of which went
to Spain. The number of professional artists multiplied with the demand
and led to a corresponding degree of specialization. In portraiture there
were painters of the proper family types, of the drinkers in public
taverns and of corporation pictures. There were landscapists, seascapists,
skyscapists and even those whose specialty was cows.
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