The Triumph of the City


The High Renaissance



(Renaissance  Art Map)



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Joos van Cleve


The Renaissance outside Italy



Francis I, despite his military reverses in Italy, was enamoured of all things Italian. He commissioned the celebrated goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini to execute both tableware and sculpture and prevailed upon friendly rulers in Italy to send him works by Titian and Bronzino and casts of sculpture. He also imported Italian artists to design, build, and decorate his palaces, the Chateau de Madrid and Fontainebleau, both outside Paris. Rosso arrived in France in 1530, followed two years later by his fellow Italian, the Mannerist Francesco Primaticcio. In the gallery of Francis I at Fontainebleau, Rosso initiated a new and intricate decorative system in which stucco and painting form a richly luxuriant complex--the plastic realization of the late Raphaelesque decorative manner. Primaticcio, who had been trained by Giulio Romano at Mantua and influenced by Parmigianino, took over Rosso's leading position on the latter's death in 1540. His Ulysses Gallery at Fontainebleau continued and refined Rosso's elaborate system of painted narratives surrounded by convoluted strap work, elegant figures, and swags in stucco. French artists at the court, such as the two Jean Cousins and Antoine Caron, quickly adopted aspects of Italian Mannerism to create a style of painting characterized as the school of Fontainebleau. Less of a tendency to mimic the fashion was noticeable in Corneille de Lyon and Jean and Francois Clouet, whose portraits, while exhibiting some Mannerist qualities, recalled 15th-century court portraiture.

Martin J. Kemp



During the first decade of the 16th century, Fernando Yanez, who may have assisted Leonardo da Vinci on the "Battle of Anghiari" in 1505, executed works showing a good knowledge of Italian Renaissance developments. Further Italianate tendencies emerged strongly in the Valencian works of Juan de Macip and his son Juan de Juanes. Full-fledged Mannerism made its appearance in the Seville cathedral in the "Descent from the Cross" (1547) by Pedro Campaсa (Pieter de Kempeneer), an artist from Brussels, and subsequently in the refined court portraiture of Anthonis Mor (Sir Anthony More) and Alonso Sanchez Coello, whose royal portraits possess an elegance reminiscent of Bronzino's Florentine style. Although Campaсa's paintings are Mannerist in composition, they also foreshadow the expressiveness characteristic of Spanish style in the hands of Luis de Morales and El Greco.

From 1546 until his death in 1586, Morales remained almost exclusively in the provincial isolation of Badajoz, developing a highly individual art of great spiritual intensity, radically separated from the Mannerist mainstream. El Greco, though born in Crete, was more fully conversant with Italian painting, having studied with Titian in Venice and later residing in Rome for two years. His Spanish paintings exploit the anatomical attenuations of Roman Mannerism, but the vividly emotional qualities of his colour and paint handling depend almost entirely upon Venetian precedents--Tintoretto and Jacopo Bassano in particular. Under the influence of Counter-Reformation mysticism in Toledo after 1575, he developed an increasingly personal and nonrealistic manner, indulging in space and supernatural light effects. The narrative fervour of his style stands in sharp contrast to the stylish formalism of international Mannerism.


Albrecht Durer was the first important German artist who displayed a profound understanding of Italian Renaissance art and theory. Trained in Nurnberg in the late Gothic tradition, he had ambitions even as a youth far beyond the narrow confines of his native city and the late medieval style. He traveled to Switzerland and the Rhine Valley and may have been in the Low Countries. Shortly after his marriage in 1494 he made a brief trip to Italy, where he studied the works of Mantegna and the Venetians. In 1505-07 he was again in Italy and was on intimate terms with Giovanni Bellini. Durer was interested in what he felt to be the "secrets" of Italian art and in the new humanism carried north by such friends as the German humanist Willibald Pirkheimer. As a result, his paintings maintain the northerners' love of detail, rendered meticulously in oil, but he joined to it the Italian interest in broadly conceived compositions. In "The Paumgurtner Altarpiece" of 1502-04 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich), for example, the saints in the wings are depicted with the scrolls and a complexity of composition more reminiscent of a heraldic achievement, while the broad planes of the architecture and the large, simple figures of the adoration shown on the central panel suggest an Italianate conception. The "Four Apostles" (Alte Pinakothek) of 1526 ultimately derives from the wings of Bellini's Frari altarpiece. Durer's close association with the Venetian painter and admiration for his art can be seen in the broad simple folds of the drapery, the breadth of handling of the heads, and the quality of the light depicted.

Although he executed a large number of important paintings, Durer is perhaps best known for his woodcuts and engravings, by which he raised printmaking from a minor to a major art . Durer's prints, paintings, and writings had such a profound influence on 16th-century art in Germany that it is sometimes difficult to realize that he died in 1528.

In the 16th century the Renaissance, as far as German painting was concerned, tended to follow the lines established by Durer. Two artists of note do emerge, but their styles are so individual that they do not represent a national school.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was deeply influenced by Durer and the Danube school, an early 16th-century tradition of landscape painting that was in some ways a transition between the styles of Gothic and Renaissance painting. By 1505 he had moved to Wittenberg and become court painter to the electors of Saxony. There his style changed radically, epitomizing the dichotomy that existed in 16th-century northern European painting. He developed in Wittenberg the full-length portrait in which the sitter is rendered with consummate skill and fidelity. Cranach was a personal friend of Martin Luther and is probably best known for his portraits of the great reformer. At the same time, his "Reclining River Nymph at the Fountain" of 1518 (Museum of Fine Art, Leipzig) illustrates his knowledge of Giorgione and Venetian painting and points the way to the group of highly erotic female nudes of his later works.

Hans Holbein the Younger was trained by his father in Augsburg but took up residence in Basel, Switz., about 1515. He early developed a portrait style that was greatly sought after by the burghers of Basel. His portraits of Burgomaster Meyer and his wife (1516; Kunstmuseum-Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel) or of Bonifacius Amerbach (1519; Kunstmuseum-Offentliche Kunstsammlung Basel) show his gift for characterization. In 1526 he made his first trip to London, where he painted "Sir Thomas More with His Household" (1527). In 1532 religious troubles in Basel were so intense that he accepted a position at the English court and left the city forever. He is perhaps best known for his portraits of Henry VIII, Henry's bride Anne of Cleves (1539; Louvre), and Christina of Denmark (1538; National Gallery, London), at one time considered by the King as a possible bride. "Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve" ("The Ambassadors," 1533; National Gallery, London), which depicts two French ambassadors to the English court, is probably the greatest tour de force of his years in England. The two sitters are rendered faithfully in a well-defined room and are surrounded by the trappings of 16th-century humanism--e.g., books, globes, musical instruments. Holbein's portraits were all painted with a great understanding of the sitter and often have a note of Italian elegance. His surfaces tend to be tight and hard, yet there is a certain expansiveness created by the positioning within the frame. He established a portrait tradition in England and also contributed to the popularity of the miniature in that country.

Low Countries

In the Low Countries there emerged early in the 16th century a group of painters misleadingly lumped together as the Antwerp Mannerists. Their exaggerated and fanciful compositions descend in great part from the decorative excesses of late Gothic art, generally with some Italianate details probably transmitted by architects' and goldsmiths' pattern books.

The Flemish painter
Jan Gossaert, called Mabuse, visited Rome in 1508. At first he continued his ornate late Gothic style, but by 1514 he began to adopt the great innovations occurring in Italian painting. His mythological paintings, such as the “Neptune and Amphitrite” (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin) of 1516, indicate that he was able to understand only the superficialities and not the motivation and terribilita of Michelangelo's nudes. Bernard van Orley remained in Brussels and learned of Italy through Raphael's cartoons, which were sent to Brussels to be woven into tapestries. Before the end of the century, painters such as Jan van Scorel, Maerten van Heemskerck, and Sir Anthony More (a Utrecht-born portraitist knighted by Queen Mary I of England) were absorbing Italian influences. Van Scorel demonstrated a specifically Venetian influence, yet all three created an art that was distinctly their own. Joachim Patinir's depiction of the world around him, particularly of landscape, parallels Italian developments in northern terms and greatly influenced Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder visited Italy in 1551–53 but was more influenced by the Italian and particularly Alpine landscape than by Italian painting. His two-dimensional sources are to be found rather in the popular prints of the time, the landscapes of Patinir, and the fantasies of Bosch. He was also a great observer of peasant life. Bruegel spent his adult life in the company of learned humanists, yet he showed no real interest in classical mythological subjects or antiquity. His paintings illustrating Low Countries' proverbs, children's games, or “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” (1559; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) reveal an interest in popular themes and common life rather than in the pedantic Romanizing compositions of some of his contemporaries. This choice of subject matter, latent from the early 15th century in the Low Countries, was given new dimensions by Bruegel. His series of depictions of the months is at once a revival of the labours of the months found in the portal sculptures of Gothic cathedrals and medieval books of hours and at the same time a new treatment of rural landscape and the peasants who work the land. His “Harvesters” (1565; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) displays a remarkable sensitivity to colour and pattern. The intense golden yellow of the ripe wheat setsup a bold pattern across the lower half of the picture and contrasts with the cool greens and blues of the limitless plain stretching off into the distance. Some figures move across a lane cut through the wheat, while others cut into what seems a solid space. The sleeping peasants resting after their noon meal are disposed in patterns and poses that make one feel the heat and calm of the summer's day. This sympathetic view of peasant life, with its bold geometric patterns, runs throughout the series of the months and recurs in “The Wedding Dance” (1566; Detroit Institute of Arts) and “Peasant Dance” and “Peasant Wedding” (both in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna).

Bruegel brought to an end the 16th century in the north and prepared the way for the Baroque. His sons and grandsons were important painters who helped to train some of the leading artists of the 17th century in the Low Countries. It was the elder Bruegel, however, who made landscape and peasant life an accepted subject for painting in the Renaissance.

John R. Spencer


Encyclopaedia Britannica


van Cleve




See collection: Joos van Cleve



Master of the Death of the Virgin



Joos van Cleve [van der Beke]


born c. 1480
died 1540, Antwerp, Flanders [now in Belgium]

Cleve also spelled Cleef, also called Joos Van Der Beke Flemish painter known for his portraits of royalty and his religious paintings. He is now often identified with the “Master of the Death of the Virgin.”

In 1511 Joos van Cleve entered the Antwerp guild as a master painter, and in 1520 he was appointed dean of the guild. He received a number of commissions from Cologne, where he influenced the local school of painting. The well-known triptychs of the “Death of the Virgin” (Munich and Cologne), painted for the Hackeney family of Cologne, gave the artist the provisional name of the “Master of the Death of the Virgin” among later art scholars. He is thought to have gone to France as a portraitist to Francis I, and his portrait of Henry VIII suggests that he may have visited England.

Joos van Cleve's work is facile, eclectic, and conservative. He generally altered his style only to agree with the changesin fashion. He is sometimes called “the Elder” to distinguish him from his son, Cornelis van Cleve (1520–67), none of whose paintings survive.


The Death of the Virgin
Oil on wood, 132 x 154 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich


Death of the Virgin
Oak, 63 x 123,5 cm
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne


Adoration of the Magi
Oil on oak panel, 251 x 185 cm
Gemaldegalerie, Dresden


oil on panel
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Virgin and Child

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Joos van Cleve


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