tv France 24 Mid- Day News LINKTV December 4, 2013 2:30pm-3:01pm PST
the limbourg brothers began their career working for the brother of the duke of berry-- philip the bold, duke of burgundy. the valois dukes of burgundy established one of the strangest and most extravagant courts of late medieval europe. from their base in burgundy, by marriage and diplomacy, they acquired large areas of the netherlands to build an extensive, though fragmented state of vast wealth. in 1404, duke philip the bold died at the stag inn near brussels. 20 years earlier, his royayal sculptors had begun work on philip's tomb.
one of them carved these images of the funeral procession which transported his body back to burgundy. clothed in the habit of a carthusian monk, philip's embalmed body was sealed in a lead coffin and carried in a funeral cortege whh took nearly seven weeks to wind the 250 miles from brussels to dijon. accompanied by his sons, his chaplains, and members of his royal court, the hearse was drawn by six horses in black with the blue banners of burgundy fluttering at its corners. at dijon, it was received not only by the weeping clergy, but by 100 chosen townspeople and 100 poor, also clad in black at the duke's expense. as with the other great royal and ducal rituals of the later middle ages, death itself could be turned into public theater. philip's tomb itself lay just outside dijon
at the carthusian monastery of champmol. it took nearly 30 years to complete and was finished in 1414. three sculptors worked on it. among them was a forgotten genius of european art, the man who conceived this remarkable evocation of that funeral procession, claus sluter. he came from haarlem in the netherlands and worked for the duke of burgundy for 20 years. sluter's most impressive carving was a monument known as the well of moses, with prophets from the old testament around its base. the well was placed at the center of the monastery of champmol, where dukes of burgundy were buried. in italy, donatello was only 10 years old when sluter began to carve these figures, which display an intense realism
never seen before in european sculpture. as this reconstructed model shows, the well of moses was originally brilliantly painted. the prophets deliver their prophecies like figures from a medieval mystery play. the piece was intensely theatrical, linking prophecies of the old testament to the sacrifice of christ on the cross. originally, the well was surmounted by a life-sized crucifixion group. this crucifix was smashed to pieces during the french revolution, and the largest fragment that remains is the head of christ.
the dukes of burgundy were famous for their tournaments, banquets, and extravagance. they placed great importance on all the arts. their court was one of the grandest in europe. because this was a tring court, moving between the palaces of their scattered duchy, many of their artistic treasures were portable-- tapestries, metalwork, and illuminated manuscripts. all this medieval extravagance was principally paid for by the burgundian netherlands, the most highly urbanized ar of europe. during the 15th century, bruges became the busiest port in northern europe, while bruxelles and ghent became two of its largest industrial cities. [bells ringing] we can catch a realistic glimpse of flemish urban life
through the window of religious paintings, such as this madonna by robert campin. in italy, 15th-century artists used perspective and the study of antiquity to depict a suitable setting for their religious paintings. by contrast, a northern painter such as campin in his merode altarpiece, saw no great divide between the past and present, between the look of antiquity and the late medieval world. joseph, in his carpenter's workshop, is depicted with detailed realism-- the tools of his trade and the townscape visible through the window.
one sign of bruge's success as a trading center was s wealthy communit of italian merchants and bankers. out of this community came the most famous wedding portrait in western art. here in 1434, jan van eyck shows giovanni arnolfini, a hugely wealthy italian moneylender and tapestry dealer to duke philip the good of burgundy. he's about to marry an equally wealthy young italian, giovanna cenami, whose family lived in france, and here you see the shifty, rabitty banker, one hand raised and the other joined to that of his new bride. the artist proclaims his witnessing presence in a bold, gothic legal inscription in latin. this reads, "jan van eyck was here." while italians were developing
their illusionistic art with the assistance of mathematically reasoned perspective, northern painters, led by jan van eyck, used many translucent layers of pigments in quick-drying oils to produce uniquely convincing pictorialism. among jan's most compelling portraits, this man's features may be the artist's own. they have that fixed, almost hypnotic quality that sometimes results from staring into a mirror for self-portrayal. we know that artists in the 15th century often wore such flamboyant red turbans, which is another reason for suspecting that the identity of the sitter is jan van eyck himself. the most famous european painter of his day, jan van eyck was also a diplomat, mapmaker, and chemist. enormously learned, he was concerned with latin and greek
and studied hebrew mysticism. here, jan van eyck depicts the most powerful figure at the burgundian court-- chancellor rolin-- kneeling before the madonna. in such works, a saint usually presented the donor-- the person paying for the painting-- to the virgin and child, but rolin decided to appear before the madonna without benefit of introduction. so van eyck linked the figures with romanesque architecture and a view of the heavenly city and landscape beyond, realized by the almost magical glow of the oil medium. nicholas rolin was the chief minister of duke philip of burgundy for nearly 40 years. he became one of the most powerful men in europe.
at the height of his career, he made a spectacular donation to charity. [bell ringing] the hotel-dieu, or god's hostel, a hospital for the poor, was founded by chancellor rolin in beaune, close to the duke's capital at dijon. the initials of nicholas rolin and his wife guigone de salins and their coats of arms appear in the stained glass and the floor tiles of the buildings, making it clear that the hospital was a gigantic memorial to the donors. "on this sunday, august 4, 1443,
"neglecting all human cares "and in the interest of my salvation, "in recognition of the goodness of our savior, "i found and donate irrevocably in the town of beaune a hospital for the poor and the sick." such acts of piety were often performed by the rich for the good of their souls, but seldom on this massive scale. contemporaries viewed rolin's wealth with hatred and his professions of charity and spirituality with cynicism. it's one of the mysteries of the time that such men combined an austere, rigid piety with excesses of cruelty, of calculating greed, and of, to us, sickening ostentation. king louis xi himself said of rolin, "he made enough people poor to make a pauper's hospital necessary."
the hospital was where the poor came to die. here were two rows of 31 beds where the poor lay two or three to a bed. the 15th century was a time of famine, war, and plague. thousands of people could die in a place like this, so the chancellor had provided that each patient could look from his bed to the wall above the altar, where there hung a tremendous vision of the end-- the last judgment of roger van der weyden. on the day of judgment, the dead rise from the earth to be judged by their savior. christ sits enthroned in glory above the archangel michael, who holds the scales which will weigh the vices and virtues of all who are to be judged on the day of reckoning.
saint john the baptist, mary, the 12 apostles, and other holy figures intercede on behalf of the sinners. the lucky few are ushered through a gateway into the kingdom of heaven. this painting was done with bright colors so it could be seen by the sick even from their deathbeds. van der weyden excelled at depicting the inner emotions of his characters, and on christ's left, we see the damned in a frenzy, drawn inexorably towards the flames of hell. there are no demons to drag them down. in the words of a theologian, "the weight of sin "is sufficient to make the damned fall into hell as heavy as lead."
as the year 1500 approached, many were convinced they were living through the last days of mankind. while the turks threatened christendom from the outside, europe was tormented by political and religious tensions. in the netherlands, hieronymous bosch painted this strange vision of hell composed of images suggesting the psychological disintegration of the late medieval world and the tensions of his te. industrial furnaces, armies on the march, artillery bombardments at night.
the german printmaker who took the apocalypse dcred in threlation of saint john and transformed it into his own pictorial territory was albrecht durer, the first major artist to publish his work in the form of a book. durer exploited contemporary interest in the revelations of saint john by designing and carving 15 woodcut block prints, which reduce the 22 chapters of saint john's text into an extraordinarily action-packed visual adventure which swept western europe. it made him the most famous graphic artist of his day. the series was of enduring fame, used by artists, sculptors, painters, graphic designers for the next 500 years.
durer studied nature with the same incisive vision with which he analyzed himself. he was one of the first artists to paint water colors from direct observation. he wrote, "we german artists "have grown up like wild trees in the forest, knowing nothing of the rules of proportion and perspective." these water colors were painted while durer was traveling from nuremberg to venice. he wished to learn from italian art and to have his status as an artist acknowledged in the land of the renaissance.
venetian paiings from around 1500 show the city that durer visited-- the wealthiest trading center in europe. giovanni bellini, who painted this portrait of the doge of venice, was described by durer as very old but still the best of the venetian painters. the young german was gratified that this italian master should ask him for one of his works. bellini and his contemporaries were influenced by northern art, its realism, its sensitivity to light and landscape, and bellini had become a master of the northern technique of oil painting. in his depiction of saint francis,
the whole landscape seems to convey the ecstasy of the saint's vision. after durer's second venetian journey, he engraved some of his most intricate, complex plates. in night, death, and the devil, the artist takes the equestrian statue he had seen in italy and rides it into a northern forest. here's the man of action, the warrior, blind to the perils surrounding him-- death at his side, the devil and devastation in his wake. durer's radiant engraving of saint gerome is a hymn to the contemplative life, showing his favorite saint in sacred study. subtlety of light and detailed depiction of the interior all recall van eyck's art.
for his figure of brooding melancholy, durer may have used a michelangelo sibyl as his model. melancholy is the dark side of genius. the discarded tools-- a plane and saw, instruments, and inkwell-- all convey the frustrated artist, his creativity blocked. albrecht durer was a northern genius who succeeded in assimilating the lessons of the south. the last and boldest statement of northern religious art can be found in the isenheim altarpiece-- the work of a german master. this massive altar in three stages is by the artist we know as matthias grunewald. in many ways, it is the ultimate painting
in christian art. never again would a painter feel quite so free to express the mysteries of christian faith ranging from agony to ecstasy. this altarpiece was painted around 1515 for an antonite monastery which specialized in the care of skin diseases. the crucifixion is shown with unprecedented impact in horrific immediacy, like a monstrous affliction-- the last word in teutonic torture. mary swoons in the arms of saint john the evangelist as the kneeling magdalene twists her hands in impotent grief. in the wings, two healing saints-- sebastian and anthony--
stand like living statues. because the panels of this altarpiece had to be separated, we need to look at a model to understand how it unfolded. mary reads the prophecy of isaiah-- "behold, a virgin shall conceive," as she is interrupted by the archangel gabriel's annunciation. an angelic orchestra in the temple of solomon celebrates this mystical union of heaven and earth by its harmonious celestial music. these happy sounds may also refer to musical therapy practiced in medieval hospitals. shown as if defined by light alone, this is the most convincing resurrection ever painted. prophet of the atomic age, grunewald conveys a sense of weightlessness as christ rises.
for the final opening, painted wings contrast with a sculpted centerpiece. saint anthony is enthroned in triumph at the center and show again at the left meeting paul the hermit in his forest retreat. for this scene of saint anthony's torment and trial in the wilderness, the artist brings back all the irrational-- the images of monsters he saw in medieval and 15th-century art. he gives them an amazing quality of reality, a sense of immediacy. half human, a fearfully diseased demon
clutches his prayer book in a bag. an inscription in the corner could apply to him as well as to the patients of saint anthony's hospital-- "where are you, good jesus? where are you? why haven't you come to heal my wounds?" new classical idealism from renaissance italy ended the spontaneous realism and imagination of grunewald's art. two new views of christianity also finished the free inquiry found in his painting. both protestantism and catholicism had their own rigorous ideas of just how religious subjects ought to be shown, and these rather narrow concepts really ended the wild fantasies, the quality of individuality, which is so extraordinarily powerful in the monument that we have just seen. five years after grunewald painted
the isenheim altarpiece, albrecht durer made the last of his journeys, not southwards to italy, but westwards to the netherlands, to brussels, and to antwerp, and there comes one of those electric moments when the life of art and the current of history come together, for there, durer was astonished by the beauty of looted aztec gold which had been unloaded in ships from mexico. "wonderful works of art," he called them. it was also a vision of the future, for the center of gravity of the west was beginning to shift from the mediterranean to the western seaboard and towns like antwerp and london which would finance the domination of the west. but that lay in the future. in the story of art, the powerhouse was still italy, and the time of durer in the north was, in the south, the time of michelangelo. in rome, the renaissance was about to reach its climax.
( music ) rrat in 199 the national gall ofrtn washington of the dea of the painter sir anthy van dyck wi an extraordinary exhibition of about 100 paiings and oil sketches, gather from collections arnd t world. born in 15, van dyck's remarkable career took him from his native flanders to italy, and then to england as court painter to charles i, before the artist's death there in 1641.