Contrast the Portrait Styles and How Does Each Artist Address the Concept of Portraiture Research Paper

Pages: 3 (1109 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Northern Renaissance Portraiture

Contrast the portrait styles and how does each artist address the concept of portraiture.

Portraiture in Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and Jean Fouquet

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The Northern Renaissance, like the Italian Renaissance, was an age of great artistic development. However, there were considerable differences between the Northern and Italian styles in terms of the quality of portraiture. "The Italians used perspective to 'keep the beholder at a respectful distance' while the Northern artists aimed at 'admitting him to the closest intimacy'" (Held 1955: 207). The Italianate style was idealistic and highly influenced by the classics, the Northern style was more realistic. "Similarly, light as conceived by the Italians is 'quantitative and isolating' while with the transalpine painters it is 'qualitative and connective'" (Held 1955: 207). The aim of this greater connection is manifested in the desire to invest the ordinary world with symbolic intensity, as manifested in the portraiture of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, while the Northern Renaissance painter Jean Fouquet adopted the Italian attitude into his style. Van Eyck and to a lesser extent Van der Weyden use symbolism as a way of conveying to the viewer truths about the condition of humanity, and encourage gazers to 'read' their paintings, much as one might 'read' a text. This paper will examine the significance of symbolism in these artists' works (or lack thereof). Van Eyck and Van der Weyden urge the reader to 'read' the painting and the world from a Christian perspective, while Fouquet is more concerned with presenting an idealized rendering of humanity.

Research Paper on Contrast the Portrait Styles and How Does Each Artist Address the Concept of Portraiture Assignment

Much has been written of Jan van Eyck's use of symbolism, particularly in his most famous work, the Arnofini Marriage Portrait. "Because of the close relationship of structure and concept, God's plan of salvation appears to be woven into the very fabric of reality and to become visible in the transcendent state of meditation, at times with the force of sudden revelation," such as the nature of marriage in the symbolism of the dog, the carved gargoyle in the background, the mirror, and the clothing of the bride which is draped to suggest pregnancy in a manner common to how the Virgin was depicted in many contemporary works of art (Ward 1994: 45). Sacredness is thus manifest in the very human institution of marriage.

Van Eck used material symbols to flesh out the meaning of his works: for example, in his portrait The Virgin with Canon van der Paele, the holy man apprehends the Virgin holding the infant Christ either as he meditates or has a vision. Christ gives a nosegay of flowers to the Virgin: "the red symbolizing Christ's love, shown in the shedding of his blood, the white his purity and the dark his humility" and holds a parrot (Ward 1994: 24). Parrots were not a symbol usually associated with Christ, but the inclusion of the bird seems to be a referent to the commonly-held notion at the time that parrots said ave as a greeting. The bird and Christ's giving of the flowers to the Virgin "depicts the undoing of Man's Original Sin by Christ's willing sacrifice," which is reinforced by carved images of Adam and Eve in the background (Ward 1994: 25). Portraiture is thus connected to a larger spiritual truth in Van Eck's work, and the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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