European History of Art Notes

European History of Art Notes.

This page is especially for my Leaving Cert students who will be doing their exam in the Year ending June 2013. You will find;
  • Notes given in class.
  • Homework that has been handed out.
  • Projects that have been set, objects/images to be brought in.
  • Examples of exam questions and how to answer them.

Romanesque Brief Notes-Decoration
  • 1000ad-1200ad
  • Roman Bascillica
  • Wooden roof
  • Transept added
  • Apse at back of Altar
  • Side Aisles
Next Development-Architecture
  • Stone Arches
  • Barrel Vaults eg. St Foy Conques
  • Groin Vaults
  • Ribbed Vaults

St Foy Conques

Groined and Ribbed Vaults eg. Durham Cathedral
Interior of Durham Cathedral, Note the carving of geometric designs on the pillars

Decoration of Churches
  • Carving of geometric decoration on pillars eg. Durham.
  • Carving of Capitals with scenes from the Bible and floral and organic imagery, carved in low and high relief. Eg.
    • The Flight into Eygpt”
    • The Suicide of Judas”

Much use of linear patterns in clothing, the figures are not proportionally correct. The pieces have a good sense of design about their composition, see “The dream of the Magi” where the figures are used flat and covered by a blanket which is highly patterned by line, the angel appears from behind the blanket with a raised finger to warn the Magi about the plans of Herod. The wing is used to balance the design.
  • Use of Paintings to decorate altars.
  • Use of tapestries to decorate the walls, eg Bayeux Tapestry- this records the invasion of England by the Normans.

Section from the Bayeux Tapestry.

Typical Characteristics of Romanesque Cathedral.
  • Cross Shape Building.
  • Front door faces west, Alter has back to east.
  • Main and Side Aisles.
  • Lantern tower over transept.
  • Small rounded windows.
  • Roman Arch is used to create the barrel vault.
  • Thick heavy walls, stone roof
  • Buttresses used.
  • Apse behind the Alter.
  • Ambulatory behind the apse.
  • Side chapels connecting to ambulatory.
  • Carving of Pillars, capitals and the Tympanum over the main door way. Eg. “The Weighing of Souls” by Gisleburtus. Tells the story of Judgement day when Christ returns sits on his throne and judges humanity. Those on his right(left as we look at it) are saved and those on his left are damned. An Angel and demon weigh a person to see if he is saved or damned. Under the scene is a string of people some are clothed others cowering and naked. Christ is largest to show his importance, next are the angels and demons, smallest and least significant are the humans.

    Gothic Period-Architecture
    Gothic Architecture directly develops from Romanesque. Many of the technical difficulties encountered by church builders became characteristics of the Gothic Period. The problem of the heavy rounded arch and the pressure on the walls through thrust is solved through a combination of ribs, pointed arches,
    and groin vaulted roofs.
    • Thrust-Pressure from the roof through the roof onto the walls.
    • Pointed Arch
    • Ribs-Reinforcement in the roof.
    • Groin Vaulted Roof-. Roof made of two intersecting vaults 
    Groin Vaulted Nave in Chartres Cathedral
    As Roofs became lighter, this allowed for thinner walls and bigger windows. Bigger windows allowed for the development of the art of Stained Glass Windows, especially the Rose window. The other technical development that helped sort the problem of Thrust was the use of buttresses, especially the Flying Buttress. Flying Buttresses were a typical characteristic of the Gothic Period.
    • Thinner walls-Bigger Windows.
    • Rose window-Round window over doorway whose tracery gives the pattern and appearance of a flower.
    • Tracery-Carved supporting stone work in windows and openings.
    • Buttress- Vertical Stone support on the outside of a wall.
    • Flying Buttress- Buttress that are connected to and supports a wall using arches.
     Flying Buttress Chartres-Note the Celestory Window in the right corner
     Rose Window Chartres Cathedral
     Large Rose Window-Complex Tracery
    Portals  became deeper and were lined with columns and statues.(Royal Portal, Chartes) Pinnacles are developed over the Portals and contain sculpted figures. Other areas on the front of the Church now contain sculpture. Some have a string (horizontal band) of Larger than Life figures. Pilasters are now use to decorate and give relief to the flat areas on the fa├žade. This in turn develops into organic shapes, carved plants and further up the towers gargoyles overlook  the people below.
    • Portal-Doorway
    • Pinnacle- Pointed High point over doorway, usually triangular in shape.
    • Pilaster-False pillars on the surface of a wall or pillar.
    • Gargoyle-Animal shape carved from stone usually disguising a drainpipe.
     The Royal Portal Form the West Works at Chartres-Kings and Queens

    Early Gothic Period-Experimental
    Chartres Cathedral is probably the best known of the early Gothic Cathedrals. It has most of its original features and Sculpture intact, and it is one of the best examples for the Leaving Cert Art History. It has a good story behind it, which adds to the flavour. It and the town were both burned in a fire leaving only the West works(main doorway) standing. The good people thought that their relic of the Virgins Birthing Gown was destroyed in the fire and were duly devastated. They later discovered the relic safe and intact in the crypt, which led to great joy and was the impetus for a massive rebuilding campaign. Apparently such were the donations from the whole of France that the Church was rebuilt in half the normal timeframe.
    Chartres has all the typical Gothic Features.
    West Works at Chartres Cathedral-Note the towers in different styles.

    • Westworks with 3 portals and two towers.
    • Rose Windows.
    • Large Stained Glass Windows in the Celestory.
    • Tracery in the windows.
    • Pointed Arches and Groin Vaulted Roofs.
    • Thinner walls supported by Flying Buttresses.
    It is also a good example to find;
    • Early examples of stone Carved figures.
    • Pilasters.
    • Pinnacles and Tympanums decorated with sculpted figures.
    • Horizontal /Strings rows of carved standing figures.
    The front of Chartres has two towers in different styles, the one on the left is in the early Experimental style and the right hand one is in the later Classical style. Chartres has also got great examples of early sculpture. The Royal Portal in the Western Portal (front) is in the early style and the Figures in the Northern Portal contain more developed figures in the later High or Middle Gothic Style.
    Royal Portal
    • ·        Tall elongated slender figures.
    • ·        Kings and Queens are the main figures.
    • ·        Figures have graceful poses. (no movement in figure)
    • ·        Figures have graceful Facial Expressions.
    • ·        The Clothing of the figures is highly decorated with linear Patterns.
    • ·        Clothing does not depict the figure beneath them.
    • ·        The archivolts are filled with decorative figures 
    The Northern Portal.
    • ·        Dedicated to the Virgin
    • ·        St Anne is the central figure.
    • ·        Abraham and Issac stand with other figures to the left.
    • ·        The figures are more 3-dimensional.
    • ·        They are more proportionally correct compared to the figures of the west doorway.
    Middle Gothic Period-Rayonant/Classic/High
    A good example of a church from this period is Reims Cathedral. It has all the classic Gothic features, but has more decoration on the outside of the church. For example when looking at the Towers on the front you can see the decorative pinnacles over the narrow Lancet openings. Also evident are the vertical pilasters carved onto the surface of the towers. These draw the eye upwards and give a feeling of height. The final thing that is very noticeable is the development of the tracery in the rose windows. In Rheims the window tracery is more complex, but also more organic in appearance-more flower like, thus the name Rose window. The overall effect is one of balance and elegance. Even though there is a lot more sculpture and decorative stone carving in use, there is a balance between the carving and the structure. There are areas of activity and busyness as well as areas of calmness and solidity. This is a characteristic of churches from this period, a blend and balance between decoration and structure.
    • Reims - Balance between area of carving and structure.
    • Vertical pinnacles
    • Vertical Pilasters.
    • Tall Lancet openings.

     Reims-West Works-Note the more complex carving.
    Late Gothic-Flamboyant.
    Roeun Cathedral is a good example of a church from this period. It  almost assaults the senses with its organic and encrusted surfaces. Gone is the balance achieved in the High Period, and what we have is exaggeration and competition between the different carved surfaces for attention. There is still great skill and artistic development in the art of carving, but sense of calmness harmony is lost with this church. There are wonderful examples of elaborate tracery,  carved open work pinnacles that balance over the great portals. But the overall sense of a plan seems to be overwhelmed by the different parts.  

  • Roeun-Over the top decoration-exaggeration.

  • Competition by various parts for attention.
  • Encrusted.
  • High Level of skills in stone carving

  • Roeun Cathedral-West Works

    Cimbaue and Giotto

    Cimabue-“Madonna in Maesta”
    “Madonna Enthroned”
    • Iconic Painting on treated wooden Panels.
    • Madonna Central and larger sitting on throne. Holding small(adult looking) infant.
    • Surrounded by angels. 4 on each side, each mirroring one on the opposite side.
    • Painting is Symmetrical.
    • Use of Gold leaf and Lapis Lazuli for decorative effect.
    Theme/Subject Matter
    • Mary enthroned as Queen of Heaven is the subject matter.
    • It is a Religious painting.
    Treatment of the figure
    • The proportions of the figures are reasonably close to life size.
    • The treatment of Mary’s clothing is more decorative than it is realistic. Note the use of lines to create patterns in her dress.
    • Her hands and face are simplified and do not look real even though they shading is used.
    • There are no facial expressions used to convey emotions.
    • The angels all look the same, there is no attempt to show individuality.
    Shading and Light
    • The light on the angels comes from two different sources and does not help to create an illusion of reality.
    • The shading on the figures and faces is as more decorative than real.
    • Nowadays it is hard to look at Cimabues work and appreciate it as a piece of art. It did serve a purpose and did follow the rules laid down for how a religious painting should look.

    Giotto-“The Deposition” or “The Lament of Christ”
    • Fresco Painting on wet plaster or “Buon Fresco”. Giotto developed the technique of painting on wet plaster, small sections of wall were plastered, the drawing transferred and painted within one day. Prior to this it was common to paint on dry plaster or “Secco”, which although quicker and easier to carry out was not permanent.
    • A more natural composition than Cimabues.
    • It shows the scene where Christ has taken down from the cross and is surrounded by his followers. It is set in a natural environment with trees and rocks behind. Above in the sky are the swooping figures of lamenting angels.
    • Christ is positioned in the lower left corner and is being cradled by his mother.
    • He is being held up by the other women followers.
    • Giotto positions the figures to leave a gap through which we can see the dead Christ.
    • All the figures are leaning towards and looking at Christ, this helps to lead our own attention to him.
    • Another device that Giotto use is the diagonal line of the rock to bring our eyes back to the figure of Christ
    Theme/Subject Matter
    • It is a Religious painting.
    • It shows the moment that Christ was taken down from the cross and his followers are mourning his death.
    Treatment of the figure
    • The proportions of the figures are realistic and natural looking.
    • The figures are modelled using shading and look 3-dimensional. All the figures are based on different characters, no two look alike.
    • Lines in the clothing describe the figures underneath.
    • Her hands and face are realistic, they also show emotions through the use of expressive facial features and through body gestures. 

    Shading and Light
    • The light comes from a single source and helps create the sense of a realistic setting, the figures are modelled with shading and give a solid 3-dimensional feel.
    • Giotto uses foreshortening in the figures of his Angels and in the arms of some of his larger figures. He does this to try and maintain the illusion of reality, but also to showcase his understanding of this phenomenon and his skill in showing it.

    Expressive works

    Giotto captures the moment that Christ was taken down from the cross, he displays the emotion felt by his followers and tries to get us to empathise with them. He broke away from the traditional methods of displaying figures and scenes, his greatest achievement was displaying the emotions of the characters in his work. He is also known as the “grandfather of the renaissance”
    Painters and the church returned to the International Gothic as a result of the Black Plague-they thought that the more formal paintings of the Gothic period would be more pleasing to God after he showed his wrath by sending the Plague.
    It was almost one hundred years before Masaccio, influenced by the work of Giotto, changed the direction of painting and lead the way for the Renaissance.


    Masaccio (1401-1428)-Early Renaissance
    Masaccio revived the style that Giotto had first developed 100 years earlier. He created 3-dimensional figures, placed them in a landscape and used perspective to create the illusion of Space. His figures are realistic, solid and have natural looking expressions and gestures. His work inspired many other painters of the Early Renaissance.
    "The Tribute Money."
    • We can see three groups of figures placed in a simple background/setting.
    • Christ stands in the centre of the main group in his blue robe and red tunic.
    • He points to the lake as does St Peter to our Left.
    • A tax collector stands in front of the group demanding money, his tunic is bright red and shorter than the rest.
    • St Peter can again be seen as a lone figure to the left as he leans down to the water to take money from the mouth of a fish.
    • We then can see St Peter on the right giving money into the hand of a resigned tax man.
    • In the background we can see mountains which look far away.
    • A building stands to the right and we can see how Masaccio uses perspective to create a sense of foreshortening in the building. The lines in the building all lead to the back of Christ’s head. This brings our yes to Christ who is in the Centre. 
    Theme/Subject Matter
    • This is a religious painting. It tells the story of Christ and the tax collector.
    • The tax collector demands money from the apostles. Christ who carries none sends Peter to collect money from a fish in the lake to pay the collector.
    Treatment of the figures.
    • The figures are all individualistic in appearance.
    • They are solid looking and they are strongly modelled in tone to make them look 3-d.
    • Most of the figures are all looking inward towards Christ and draw our attention to the action. The all show various types of emotion, but mostly hostility towards the tax collector.
    • Masaccio even places the figures higher up the painting to create the sense that they are further away from Christ. 

    • Masaccio uses a single source of light to give the appearance of a natural setting. The lighting on the figures is strong with a big contrast between light and dark.
    • The figures cast shadows on the ground to the left.
    • There is more shading evident in the building and in the mountains behind.
    • Masaccio uses strong colour in the garments of his figures, almost too much. Christ and Peter are the two figures wearing blue garments. A symbol of Importance.
    • The background is muted in contrast to the figures, allowing them to stand out.

    Early Renaissance-Sandro Botticelli
     I have posted my notes for Sandro Botticelli as promised, there is no need to worry as I will not include him as a question on you Winter Exam paper.
    Remember to read through the last two post on the blog here, they will have you questions and scroll further back and you will find the answer. Good luck in you exam.

    Sandro Botticelli  
    • Worked for the Medici Family in Florence.
    • He painted both Religious based paintings and Mythological based paintings.
    • Two of his better known paintings are;
    • “The Birth of Venus”
    • “Primeva”
    • Was highly sought after during his time.

    The Birth Of Venus"
    Sandro Botticelli-The Birth Of Venus"
    • Mythological painting-based on the Birth of Venus.
    • Shows Venus as an idealised and beautiful woman, showing what the painters of the Renaissance thought of as ideal beauty.

    • The figures are all in the foreground and fill the surface of the canvas.
    • Venus is the central figure is standing on a shell, she is naked and stands in a graceful poses with her weight on one foot.
    • Zephyrus and Chloris
      Zephyrus(West Wind) and Chloris(who later becomes Flora) are winged figures who are placed on the left of the painting. They are blowing Venus to the shore.
    • Flora, the Goddess of flowers is on the shore on the right hand side holding out a robe to wrap Venus in when she comes to shore.
    • The background is very simple, it consists of a sea scape with some land to the right behind Flora.
    • The trees behind Flora are more decorative than they are realistic. The leaves on the branches create patterns. This is also the case with the waves on the sea behind the main figures. The waves are placed in a pattern which get smaller as they recede into the background.

    • Perspective is created through the waves getting smaller as they recede and by the trees which are placed slightly higher up the page
    • Perspective as was created by making the shore line diminish/get smaller to make it seem its in the distance.

    Detail of Venus
     Colour, Tone and Pattern.
    • It is oil on Canvas
    • Colour in the painting is realistic. The brightest colour is the rusty red of the cloak that Flora holds open for Venus.
    • Gold leaf is used as a means of highlighting the hair and wings of the figures, it is also used to highlight the leaves.
    • The figures are modelled in subtle flesh tones, creating rounded, sensuous bodies.
    • Pattern is important to Botticelli, he uses it to create a sense of harmony and movement.
    • Patterns are seen in the cloaks of the figures on the left, in the folds of Flora’s cloak, in the hair of all the figures. This is a technique that was widely used in the Gothic period.

    Flora originally Chloris
    Treatment of Figures
    • The figures are all realistically moddelled in tone giving a natural feel.
    • He has composed the figures in the foreground filling the work.
    • The figures are arranged in fluid, graceful poses.
    • Venus stands with her weight on one foot which creates and “S” in her figure. This was an influence from classical Greek and Roman sculpture.
    • Botticelli’s depiction of women idealises the Renaissance idea of Female beauty and grace.
    • Her limbs look soft and fleshy.
    • The position of her hands and fingers are relaxed and graceful.
    • Her neck is elongated to show grace and beauty.

    Second work by Botticelli - Primavera. 

    "Primavera" Botticelli
    •  This is a Mythological Painting.
    • Painted Oil on Wood.
    • “Primavera” means Spring
    • It shows Venus her son Cupid, Chloris and Flora, the Three Graces (Venus’ hand maidens), Mercury (messenger of the Gods) and Zephyrus.
    • All the figures are composed/arranged to the front of the painting.
    • The figures are all subtly modelled in tone.
    • The figures are in curving slender poses.
    • The paintwork is highly finished.
    • Colours are subtle.
    • The background is patterned showing a decorative Gothic influence.
    • Venus stands out in contrast to the dark background placed behind her. 
    Last Word

    Botticelli broke away from the tradition of Religious paintings when he chose to paint “The Birth of Venus”, which was probably painted for a member of the Wealthy Medici Family. Most of his work was commissioned by powerful patrons and he did also paint Religious scenes. The Medici family were eventually thrown out of Florence and Botticelli did fall out of fashion in his own lifetime, he died in poverty. He work was rediscovered in the 19th C.


    1 comment:

    1. Romanesque Notes.

      AD 1000
      New Imputus to build.
      First churches based on Roman Bascillica (rectangular)
      Wooden roof (fire hazard)
      Lombardy Masons
      Roman stone Arch.
      Barrell Vault
      Thick Walls
      Small Windows
      Dark inside
      Narrow Aisles
      Cruciform in plan/Shape