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Early Renaissance Painting

Early Renaissance painting bridges the period of European art history between the art of the Middle Ages and the art of the Renaissance. 

Two regions of Europe were particularly artistically active during this period: northern Europe (essentially Flanders) and Italy. The Renaissance is considered to have reached northern Europe in the 16th century. Thus, most of the Early Renaissance works in northern Europe were produced between 1420 and 1550.

Themes and Symbolism
The works of art of this period feature mainly religious themes (the Church was the main client of these artists), but also some purely figurative themes.

The religious symbolism is largely drawn from the work of Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (1260).

Some more mundane themes were treated, but they were often treated via a religious or mythological representations. For instance, Early Renaissance artists sometimes used the theme of Adam and Eve as a way to represent female and male nudes in a then morally acceptable way. Sometimes a fig leaf covered their genitals.

The use of perspective is common in Early Renaissance paintings. Perspective (visual) refers to some of the information in the visual scene that allows an observer to perceive the distances and sizes of objects.

Famous paintings of the Early Renaissance period include:

  • Ghent Altarpiece, by Hubert and Jan van Eyck
  • The Arnolfini Portrait, by Jan van Eyck

You can view a plethora of Early Renaissance paintings in the following museums and galleries:

  • Musee Communal des Beaux-Arts, Bruges, Belgium
  • Groeninge Museum, Bruges, Belgium
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  • Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain - for works of Hieronymus Bosch
  • Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, London - opened in 1991

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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