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Flemish Primitives

Related: Northern Renaissance - Gothic art - Belgian arts - Flanders - Dutch art

Bosch is supposedly not a "Flemish Primitive" nor a "Renaissance" painter, he is sui generis, which is an expensive word for unique.

Texts: Early Netherlandish Painting (1953) - Erwin Panofsky

The new style emerged in Flanders almost simultaneously with the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. The masters were very much admired in Italy, and may have had a bigger influence in Italy then the other way around. Renaissance did not have a big influence in the north until 1500. However, while in Italy we see radical changes in architecture, sculpture and philosophy as well, the revolution in Flanders is restricted to painting. [Jul 2006]

Portrait of a Lady (c. 1460) - Rogier van der Weyden
Image sourced here.

The Ugly Duchess (1525-30) - Quentin Matsys
[Oil on wood, 64 x 45,5 cm National Gallery, London]


Early Netherlandish painting is a term art historians use to designate a group of painters who were active primarily in the Southern Netherlands in the 15th and early 16th centuries. These painters are also known as the Flemish Primitives, not because their art lacked sophistication (quite to the contrary), but because they were at the origin of a wholly new tradition in painting.

Chief among them were:

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Netherlandish_painting [Sept 2005]

See also: Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting (1953).

Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels

The Temptation of Saint Anthonony (detail) (c. 1480-1490) - Anonymous Master of Kaufbeuren
Images sourced here., please not that the above scans do not do the original justice.

I visited Dominique in Brussels and we went to an expo on the life and work of Samuel Bing, the man who coined the term art nouveau with his Parisian shop of the same name. The show was at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, which is in the center of Brussels, on a five minute walk from the central station. The Bing show as ok. Highlights included a small painting by Thomas Theodor Heine, whose wonderful, macabre, blood-spurting depiction of Jealousy was in the second Salon de L'Art Nouveau, a work by Félix Vallotton and lots of Japonaiserie.

After the show I spotted a big hall with a young woman who had a tattoo of a poem by Rupert Brooke entitled The Hill on her back and from there I wandered to an other area of the building and ended in the 15th and 16th century art sections of the museum.

Luckily I did that because I never would have known such an excellent collection of the old masters was so close to me. I saw my first real Bosch (Temptation of Saint Anthony triptych), quite a few Brueghels and two Cranachs and a host of other work whose names I wasn't even familiar with. This collection is more interesting than the one at the KMSKA in Antwerpen.

Perhaps the strangest work was a painting by Jan Provoost of saints which was entirely done in shades of grey, a black and white painting of the 15th or 16th century, centuries before the invention of "black and white." Equally powerful were the work of the anonymous "Master of Kaufbeuren" of the Swabian school (a depiction of the temptations of St Anthony, pictured above) and a work by a certain Swanenburg. It would appear that the term Swabian School considerably overlaps with the term Northern Renaissance.


See also: Art Nouveau - Saint Anthony - Flemish Primitives - Brussels

The Flaying of the Corrupt Judge Sisamnes (1498-99) - Gérard David

The Flaying of the Corrupt Judge Sisamnes (1498-99) - Gérard David

Went to Bruges yesterday and visited the Groeningemuseum which houses Bruges's collection of Flemish Primitives. The primary attraction was Bosch's triptych of The Last Judgement. The most vivid memory of my (short) visit was Gérard David's gruesome painting of The Flaying of the Corrupt Judge Sisamnes (1498-99).

According to Herodotos, Sisamnes was a corrupt judge under Cambyses II of Persia. He accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict. As a result, the king had him arrested and flayed alive. His skin was then used to cover the seat in which his son would sit in judgement.

Sisamnes was the subject of two paintings by Gerard David, "The Arrestation of Sisamnes" and "Flaying of Sisamnes" both done in 1498. Together they make up the Cambyses diptych. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisamnes [Sept 2006]

A similarly themed painting is Apollo Flaying Marsyas (1637) - Jusepe de Ribera

See also: art horror - Flemish Primtives - 1400s

Mary and Child (1490) - Gérard David

Mary and Child (1490) - Gérard David

Gérard David (c. 1455, Oudewater - August 13th 1523, Bruges) was an early Dutch Renaissance artist known for his brilliant use of colour. He was born in Oudewater, now located in Utrecht. Most of his career took place in Bruges, where he was a member of the painters' guild. Upon the death of Hans Memling in 1494, David became Bruges' leading painter.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard David [Sept 2006]

See also: painting - Northern Renaissance

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