miércoles, 11 de junio de 2008

Gothic Painting

Wall painting, largely developed during the former period disappeared with this style arrival. Gothic architecture introduced big wall so the space formerly devoted to painting was substituted by stained glasses. At the same time, the height of the vaults made impossible to paint them. Due to these reasons painting on wood flourished during this period, especially in altarpieces.

Altarpieces had an evolution during the period. At the beginning they consisted of just one piece but later on mobile lateral pieces were added. These made possible to close the altar. During the 14th century the most common is a rigid altarpiece with several parts. In this model, there is a base of smaller size than the rest of the woods, the bank or predella. The rest is organise horizontally in bodies and vertically in streets, separated by inter-streets. The technique used in these works is temple, in which egg or glue obtained from animal bones is used to prepare the colours. From the 15th century and on oil painting, which uses oil to link the colours and invented by Flemish painters became the most used.

In the evolution of Gothic painting there are four periods: Lineal Gothic or French Gothic (13th century), Italian Gothic or Trecento (14th century), International style (14th century) and Flemish style (15th century).

Lineal Gothic or French style.
It began in the 13th century and continued until mid 14th, living together with the Italian Gothic at its end. It is characterised by the importance given to the drawing lines, which are those limiting the colour masses. These colours are intense, being this intensity more important than the hues. In the subjects there is a trend to naïf naturalism, simple scenes, easy to be understood. It searched for a gentle art, related to the thinking way of the time. The main depictions appear in wall painting, wood painting and miniature.

Italian Gothic or Trecento.
It appeared in Italy in the 13th century and expanded all over Europe in the 14th. There is an interest for deepness that led to pay attention to classical perspective, to study the human body and importance is given to the light in relation to the colours. On the other hand, the development of Franciscan religiosity led to the depiction of the feeling, trying to move the spectator. Each work adopt an intellectual character. In the 13th century in Tuscany Christ is depicted in a very stylised way with his body curved and painted on a wood with cross shape in which the lateral parts are wider to paint other smaller characters. There are also elongated woods arranged as altarpieces with the image of the saint in bigger size in the centre while the rest of the images are organised in bands. In Siena and Florence there are others schools where the basis for the following Renaissance are settled.

The most important artist is Giotto. In Spain the Italian influence can be found. In Aragon the influential school was that of Siena while in Castile it was the Florentine.

International style.
With this style started the pictorial evolution of the 15th century even when its beginnings are at the end of the 14th, reaching to its peak at mid century, while Renaissance started to develop in Italy. This style appeared in Central Europe from the fusion of the forms of the lineal Gothic and the Italian Gothic. Its main characteristics are the importance given to the anecdote and the expressive, the stylization of the images, the recourse to the curved line in the abundant draperies and the movement, the trend to introduce apparently naturalistic details but with a symbolic character. All this is made with a detailed technique. This style had an important development in the courts of Berry and Burgundy, and with especial interest in the miniature, which is the basis for the Flemish style. In Spain this style had an important influence in Aragon, with schools in Valence, Catalonia and it was also developed in Castile.

Flemish style: Primitive Flemish painters.
It began at the end of the first quart of the 15th century and it is an evolution from the international style. The main characteristic is the use of oil to link the colours, which supposed the apparition of oil painting. With this colours are vivid, more brilliant, transparencies can be created and composite colours appear. Works acquired complexity and detail. Anything can be depicted, the same a human feature that a sinble plant. This style evolved during the period. The most representative authors were Jan Van Eyck and Roger Van der Weyden. In Spain this style was largely developed with works of great quality mainly in Catalonia but later on it expanded to Valence, Balears , Cordoba and Castile.

lunes, 9 de junio de 2008

Gothic Sculpture

Although Gothic followed Romanesque chronologically, there is a break in all Art orders and sculpture is not an exception. From the Romanesque hieratic sculpture evolved to the naturalism. Things are depicted as they are, not with a symbolic value. Gestures and attitudes became human and reflect the worries of any person.

This humanization and location in time and space can be seen even if with opposite signs in the two most representative images of Gothic sculpture. The Virgin with the Son appears as a happy and lovely mother who pays attention to her Child. It is easy to discover smiles in their faces. On the contrary, Christ appears in pain, as a normal man facing his death.

The gothic sculpture characters in that humanization process, abandoned vertical, symmetric and hieratic positions to adopt others more mannerist and with great sense of realism. The same as other artistic styles, gothic had an evolution from the first classicism of the 13th century where they pursue of the serene beauty of the idealised naturalism to a mannerism that can be seen in the stylisation and elongation of the images with bended gestures. This is characteristic in the 14th century. Finally, during the last period it was coincident with the beginnings of the Renaissance with aboundance of sculptures of kings, bourgeoisies and aristocrats.
During the classical period it continues with the monumental sculpture heir of the Romanesque, mainly in the façades and particularly in the jambs, archivolts and trumeaus.
In the façades the distribution changed: the tympanum continues being the place for Christ in majesty but now it is a more human person. Sometimes the Virgin occupies that central position. The last judgement almost disappear and in its place, in different bands, the Virgin or Christ life’s episodes are depicted. Jambs continue being the places for saints and the trumeau for Christ, the Virgin or any other saint. In the archivolts it is common to find natural elements such as plants and leaves or human depictions. The same rules are followed in the cloisters.
A new sculptoric field is that of the sepulchres, that can be of two kinds: linked to the wall, below an arch or exempt, as a funerary bed, separated from the wall, where the characters are depicted laying or praying. It is common to find this kind of sculptures in chapels inside the churches.
Wood gained importance as a sculpture matter, mainly for the chairs of the choirs, the altarpieces and pulpits.

It depicts mainly religious subjects, being the most common:
· Christ life: all the Passion scenes, mainly in the Cross. He appears with the crown, the purity cloth, three nails because the two feet are together, abundant injuries. The body looks to have weight and falls down, transmitting an image of pain.
· Virgin: She acquired a leading role. She is depicted mainly with the Child, as a mother, young, pretty, idealised. She shows great humanity.
· Hagiographies: There are scenes of the lives of saints, with a special interest for martyrdoms.
· Fantastic animals: The new ones are the monsters used for the gargoyles.

In France the main works are those related with the great cathedrals’ portals, as are the cases of the Royal Portal in Chartres, the Golden Door in Amiens, Reims. In all of them the tympanums are important but the most significative images are those of the jambs, very human and showing communication one with another.

At the end of the Gothic there is an important sculptor: Claus Sluter, who worked for the Duke of Borgoña. He is the best representative of the anguish of the late middle Ages. One of his most famous works is that of the Champmol Cartuja where he realised the tomb of the duke mentioned above and other important works. All of them are famous due to their pathetic expressions.

In Germany an important work is that of Bamberg Cathedral, with the Portal of the Princess, and the portraits of the nobility in Nuremberg Cathedral.

In Italy Gothic sculpture is characterised by its classicism that never lost during the middle ages. Among the better-known artists is Nicola Pisano, who worked in Pisa’s Baptistery.

In Spain the sculpture received French influence. The best examples are the portals of the cathedrals. Leon’s portals are considered to be a good example of the gothic sculptural programmes. During 14th century sculpture began its decadence and there are regional differences.

domingo, 8 de junio de 2008

Gothic Architecture

Technically Gothic architecture led to the end of the innovations of the former period and assuming Byzantine influences. The cathedral is the main building in which the architect realised a complex and perfect structure, standing on pillars and covered with ribbed vaults, of great height and precise combination of supports to transmit all the strengths to the floor. This structure is clear, full of light, thanks to the use of the flying buttress that liberated the wall so that it was possible to open wide windows.

The buildings has two main axes: the longitudinal one leading to the altar, with the main nave and the aisles that continue around it forming an ambulatory that can be double, and the vertical underlined by the pillars. The repetition of supports increases the tension once approaching to the crossing, where the church expands in the transept. After that it is common to find a higher number of aisles.

The elevation of the church is similar to that of the pilgrimage Romanesque churches, with a first floor in which different naves communicate with arches and pillars and in which light coming from the sides enters indirectly in the main nave. The second floor is the triforium, with the corridor over the aisles overlooking the central nave and finally there is the clerestory, which proportions direct light to the nave, creating an illusionist effect.

Gothic architecture has three main characteristics: walls become transparent due to the number of windows covered normally with stained glasses. In relation to this, the building, apart from its function, pursues beauty in general. The building is a combination of supports and clear structure, with the elimination of the non essential mass.

But European world had changed: civil and human elements substituted the religious ones. Cities are more important than monasteries. Richness and power are concentrated in the cities and in some social groups such as the bourgeoisie, that soon became and Art costumer. Apart from churches a new typology of buildings appeared.

Cities where governed by an oligarchy who needed a place from where they could direct the destinies of their cities. Council houses were of paramount importance in this moment. There is a double typology. In the Netherlands where life was quiet, buildings are courtesan, elegant, full of windows and decoration but without any defensive element. On the other side, Italian buildings are stronger, with less windows and a dominance of the wall, even with crenelations at the top and a very high tower from which they could control all the area around to prevent any attack. This bear witness to the lack of security in one region full of independent republic that not always had a pacific relation.

Related to the new activities are the storeys, in which internal wide spaces are designed in order to contain products and be the place where exchange transactions were hold. This is the case of the lonjas .

In addition of these buildings, influential social sectors commanded palaces related to their status.
Gothic style developed all over Europe and we can distinguish a series of geographical particularities:

The distinctive characteristic of French cathedrals, and those in Germany and Belgium that were strongly influenced by them, is their height and their impression of verticality. They are compact, with slight or no projection of the transepts and subsidiary chapels. The west fronts have three portals surmounted by a rose window, and two large towers. The east end is polygonal with ambulatory and sometimes a chevette of radiating chapels. In the south of France, many of the major churches are without transepts and some are without aisles.

The distinctive characteristic of English cathedrals is their extreme length and their internal emphasis upon the horizontal. It is not unusual for every part of the building to have been built in a different century and in a different style, with no attempt at creating a stylistic unity. English cathedrals sprawl across their sites, with double transepts projecting strongly and Lady Chapels tacked on at a later date. In the west front the doors are not significant. The West window is very large and never a rose, which are reserved for the transept gables. The west front may have two towers or none. There is nearly always a tower at the crossing and it may be very large and surmounted by a spire. The distinctive English east end is square.
It uses polychrome decoration, both externally as marble veneer on the brick facade and also internally where the arches are often made of alternating black and white segments. The plan is usually regular and symmetrical and has few and widely spaced columns. The proportions are generally mathematically simple, based on the square, the arches are almost always equilateral. It may include mosaics in the lunettes over the doors. The facades have projecting open porches and ocular or wheel windows rather than roses, and do not usually have a tower. The crossing is usually surmounted by a dome. There is often a free-standing tower and baptistery. The windows are not as large as in northern Europe and, although stained glass windows are used, the decoration is fresco or mosaic.

It is characterised by huge towers and spires. The west front generally follows the French formula, but the towers are taller, and if complete, are surmounted by enormous openwork spires. The eastern end follows the French form. The distinctive character of the interior of German Gothic cathedrals is their breadth and openness. Cathedrals tend not to have strongly projecting transepts. There are also many hallenkirke without clerestory windows.


Spanish Gothic cathedrals are of spatial complexity. They are comparatively short and wide, and are often completely surrounded by chapels. Spanish Cathedrals are stylistically diverse. Influences on both decoration and form are Islamic architecture, and towards the end of the period, Renaissance details combined with the Gothic in a distinctive manner. The West front resembles a French west front. There are spires of German style. There are few pinnacles. There are often towers and domes of a great variety of shapes and structural invention rising above the roof.

jueves, 5 de junio de 2008

Romanesque Painting

Wall painting
The technique used is fresco. It was based on the preparation of the pigments diluted in water with withwash. These pigments were applied to the wall in which a layer of plaster have been given to prepare it. The drawing was done while this matter was humid so once it was dry it acquired strength and resistance.
The same as the sculpture, painting is integrated with architecture. It does not imitate nature but it follows a rational conceptualization. Due to this images are flat, elongated and without perspective. The characters appear in order, with different sizes depending on their hierarchy. Eyes and hands are disproportionate because they are the most expressive parts of these images.
Colours are intense and brilliant (red, yellow, orange, blue) and they are distributed in bands of great contrast among them. Black colour was used to limit the images.

There are not many examples of Romanesque painting even when probably every church was not completed until its walls were painted. In Spain there are two different currents: the Byzantine and the Mozarabic. The Byzantine reached Spain through Catalonia coming from Italy or the English miniaturist who worked in Sicily, while the Mozarabic was common in all the territories of Castile and Leon.
The iconography of the painting depends on the place it occupies. It is common to find the dome of the apse with the depiction of Christ Pantocrator or the Virgin. A good example of this are the churches of Taull. In San Climent the Pantocrator appears inside the mandorle, blessing, his left hand holding a book in which it is written Egon sum lux mundi, this is, I am the Light of the World, and the alpha and omega, first and last letter of the Greek alphabet in both sides. He is sitting on a line that represents the celestial orbit, with his feet standing on a small line depicting earth. It is very stylised, with long face, hands and feet. Colours are flat and are limited by black lines. The way of trying to add some deepness to the image is with black lines. Around him appear the depictions of the Four Evangelists and, at a lower level, the Virgin and Saint, each of them in a niche very irregular. The wall is painted in bands of different colours. In Santa Maria of Taull we find a similar distribution but the top part is reserved for the Virgin with her son and, around them, the Three Wise Men.
In Castile the most important example is the Royal Pantheon in San Isidoro. In this case even the location of the paintings change because there are the vaults of a building. There is a kind of horror vacuii and every single space is full of images. A majority of them are religious, as the Pantocrator and the Angels with the Shepherds. But apart from this, there are also laic images as those of the calendar, depicting people doing the normal agrarian activities of each month. In this case colours are a bit different, with a clear dominium of the red over the rest.
Other supports
Painting on wood was especially developed in Catalonia. It frequently appeared on the front of the altars, in a kind of small altarpieces. It used the technique of the temple. Its iconography is exactly the same as that of the wall painting and so are the colours too.
It existed a painting on paper or parchment. This was different in his thematic from the others. The target readers of books were literate people so they could read the Bible and did not need any simple explanation in paintings. In these books the depictions are more complicated or even courtesan subjects will appear. These books were elaborated in monasteries.

miércoles, 4 de junio de 2008

Romanesque Sculpture

Romanesque sculpture has its antecedents in barbarian art, Byzantine sculpture, Greek-Latin legacy (hieratic, symbolic and supra-natural) and the late Roman sculpture at once with the paleo-christian sarcophagus, from where it took its iconography.

The works are subordinated to the architectonic frame. The places for sculptural decoration are the portal, and the capitals. Those spaces are the natural limit for monumental sculpture and relief and the depictions must accommodate to the frame.

Formally, it is disconnected from the real world. It is symbolic and allegoric, looking for the expression of the religious content. Images are intentionally deformed trying to impress emotionally; simple and stylised images, sometimes geometrical or even abstract; it refuses the depiction of the naked human body and all the images are covered by clothes; there is not a canon nor any proportion neither equilibrium between mass and weight; images are rigid, hieratic, full of solemnity and elongated to stress their spiritual character. Technically they appear to be primitive, with a certain archaism; there is not movement; composition and scenes are in the same plan, without forming groups. It lacks of volume and images are flat and symmetric, with a dominance of frontality . This plastic is directed to the mind, with a great intellectual charge, due its didactic aim.
Themes and iconography
It is inspired and determined by the church. There is a hierarchy of the subjects that can be seen in the spaces occupied by the images, with different visual relevance. The inspiration comes from the pre-Romanesque miniature and the Byzantine ivories that suggest models, attitudes and compositions. Themes are taken from the Old Testament or the hagiographies or saints biographies. These moral lessons were completed with allegories of the sins, vices and virtues, trying to imbue the plastic with ideas or concepts that impress the popular conscience.
The portal is the chosen place for the main scene: in the tympanum we can see the Pantocrator or Christ as a judge, involved in the mystical mandorla, surrounded by the four evangelist or their symbols (lion is Mark, the angel is Mathew, the ox is Luke and the eagle John). The Last Judgement is frequent and the twenty-four wise men of the Apocalypse may appear completing the scene.
Other subjects are the Virgin or the Christmon, a symbol depicting the Holy Trinity. In addition to this, the jambs are the place for elongated sculptures of saints or other motives while the archivolts are decorated with geometric motives or human figures adapted to the frame.
In addition to the big sculptural programmes of the doors and the capitals of the cloisters, there are exempt images in polychrome wood or ivory. There are two main depictions: Christ on the Cross or Maiestas Domini and the Virgin with the Child.
Christs are represented in the cross and they are characterized by their rigid hieratic gesture, their composition and their geometrical disposition, with four nails, very open eyes and serene attitude, far from any sufferance or pain.
The Virgin with the Child has the similar formal characteristics. It may appear as Theotocos (God’s mother with the Son, who adopts an adult’s gestures) or as a throne for God (Theotronos) or also as Kiriotissa (Virgin in the throne, rigid and with the son in her lap, not looking at her, of Byzantine influence).
In conclusion, Romanesque sculpture has an allegorical character and strong expression. The dominium of the didactic over any other aspect influences in its apparent technical simplicity and formal primitivism. The role of the church is determinant so it is also the mystic and religious content that separate this art expression from the worries about perfect beauty. The supernatural world is the expressive atmosphere of the Romanesque, far away from terrene and natural world. Hieratic and solemn images justify the expression of immutability of Christian faith. Technically Romanesque sculpture evolved towards a greater naturalism and dynamic composition so that the new expressivity will fit with the new social, economic and cultural context that appeared with the Gothic.

Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque architecture presents a great regional variety determined by the traditions of each European territory it developed in. It was founded on the subtract of Roman antiquity, with which German countries influences were mixed. At the beginning there were different styles, known as pre-Romanesque but about the 11th century there is a certain unification of the style.
Basically, it is religious architecture, with dominance of the church in which we can find the two characteristics that gave solidity to the movement: monumentality, creating wide spaces and durability, doing something eternal, linked to the divininity.

The plan of the building is Latin cross, with three or five naves, being the central one higher and wider than the lateral. The transversal nave is called transept and the intersection point is the crossing. In pilgrimage churches the apse tended to be surrounded by an ambulatory in which pilgrims could spend the night. In the façade it is normal to find high towers, the same as over the crossing. At the feet of the church is the nartex. The plan of the church may vary and be substituted by central plans.
The elevation of the building presents naves of different high, being the main one the central. When the central nave has two floors, the second one is called tribune and has a corridor overlooking the central nave. Over the crossing is common to find a tower, sometimes polygonal, called ciborium.
The foundations of the buildings tend to be solid and deep because the strong walls of the building demand it. Walls are thick and reinforced in the outside by buttresses. This need for supports made difficult to open windows. At the same time, the existence of such a wall demand a lot of decorative elements, such as pilasters, blind arches, Jaca’s taqueado, or modillions.

Cover systems evolved from the wood lintelled covers to stone made barrel vaults, that are divided by fajon arches. Where two barrel vaults cross transversally it appears a rib vault. Apses are covered with a quarter of sphere vaults. Domes standing of squinches or trumps can be used too.
Internal support system: weighty covers are sustained by the walls and strong pillars and columns. The classical Romanesque pillar has a central-squared-body to which different columns are linked complicating its section. In the outside there are buttressed corresponding with the internal pillars. The capitals are full of relieves, narrating Biblical passages.
The façades or portals are at the feet of the church and in both sides of the transept. They are normally limited by towers. These façades are coincident with the internal distribution of the building. It is common to be formed by several arches decorated, the same as the tympanum inside them.
The cloisters are characteristic of the monasteries. It is an squared courtyard with a covered gallery sustained by semicircular arches.
Romanesque architecture symbolised the house of God. There are elements linked to both, human and divine. In general, circular parts such as the axis or the vaults are considered more perfect because of their shape. The relation among apse, nave and tower represent the union of the holy and human worlds. The nave is an squared construction with four angles, symbol of the earth (four elements, four seasons, four cardinal points).
Apart from that, the Romanesque symbolism is related to the light too. The church has its head oriented toward the East, the place from where the sun shines. In the same way, the altar in the apse is Christ’s light that illuminates the humans to rescue them from the dark.

Other buildings
Other important Romanesque building was monastery. It was organised as an small celestial city and consisted of different dependencies: church, cloister, monks’/nuns’ houses, hospital, refectory or dinning room, capitulary room for meetings, scriptorium for working in manuscript copying, library.

Castles were the most important of civil constructions. They were essential in this period due to the lack of security of the moment. They were built in areas easy to defend and frequently in mountains from where it was easy to observe the surroundings. Walls were strong and there was a protective wall all around the circuit ending in crenelations at the top. Inside there were different dependencies organised around a courtyard. The residence of the lord of the castle was the homage tower.

A construction directly related to pilgrimage were bridges. They were built to make it easier to pilgrims to continue with their journey. Normally they were a bit elevated in the middle.

Romanesque appeared in France, around Cluny abbey. From there it expanded following the pilgrimage routes, mainly Santiago. It has several styles: in Provence they used domes and façades decorated with arches; in Auvergne they have long choir, and side aisles around the semicircular sanctuary forming an ambulatory in which radiating chapels were open. In Burgundy buildings were barrel-vaulted and with three aisles. In Normandy there are Lombard influences with groined vaults supported by flying buttresses and façades with two flanking towers.
Italian provinces developed a great diversity of architectural styles. Lombardy was known by its groined vaults of heavy proportions. In central Italy decorative elements were classical: Corinthian capitals, coloured marble, open arches, colonnades and galleries and façades with sculptures. In the South Romanesque combined with Byzantine and Arabic influences, using mosaics and interlaced pointed-arches.

It was common to find separate buildings: the cathedral, the campanile or bell tower and the baptistery in three separe buildings.

Churches were planned on large scale and they were very high. They had an apse at each end and there was frequent to find round or octagonal towers in them.

Before the 10th century churches were made of wood and stone buildings were of small proportions until the Norman style replaced the Saxon style in 11th century. Buildings are long and narrow, with heavy walls and piers, rectangular apses, double transepts and deeply recessed portals. The naves were covered with flat roofs, later replaces by vaults, and side aisles were covered with groined vaults.

The first Romanesque appeared in Catalonia, influenced by Lombardy and France. The rest of Spain received this style through the pilgrimage. Catalan churches present an exterior of ordered volumes, decorated with Lombard bands and blind arches and galleries. The inside is divided into three naves with a small narthex and the hear presents triple apse.
Santiago’s route was important for the expansion of Romanesque art. The pilgrimage churches had a plan with three to five aisles and a transept in which there were radial chapels. Inside there is a tribune and it has ambulatory. Sometimes buildings can be polygonal, influenced by the Temple who was inspired in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre.
In Castile and Leon there is an important influence of pilgrimage routes and the churches are identified with the spirit of the Reconquist. Buildings are simple and small, in contrast with the Muslim architecture.