Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pre-reformation Art at Statens Museum for Kunst

Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish National Gallery is worth a visit during a stay in the Copenhagen. It house an impressive collection of art spanning the last millennium. When leaving it, you only feel you scratched the surface of the giant art collection. Here are a few art works from different European country from the 14th, 15th, and first part of the 16th century.

Virgin Mary and Child
Master of Città de Castello (1305-1320)

This beautiful image of Virgin Mary and child originates from an unknown master from the city of Città de Castello in Perugia. This city may date back to pre Roman times when the Etruscans lived in the area.

During Medieval times Città de Castello was ruled by local noble families as the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and by the Vatican itself.

The maker of this holy portrait worked in the city the first two decades of the 14th century. In style it echoes the way Eastern European icons are painted even today.

Painting the Holy Mother and her child is an ancient Christian tradition. Some scientists have suggested that the inspiration of these paintings may have pagan roots and go back to pre Christian times and may be inspired by depictions of another famous mother and child, the Egyptian Goddess Isis and her son Horus.

Saint Victor of Siena
Master of Palazzo Venezia Madonna (1350)

This beautiful image of Saint Victor of Siena was made by an unknown master in a truly dramatic year for Europe. The last years of the first half of the 14th century the Black Death brought death and destruction to Europe. This illness killed roughly 50 % of the European population in the 13th century, and in parts of Southern Europe the figure was even higher, up to 75 - 80%.

In these dramatic years an unknown painter called Master of Palazzo Venezia mixed his tempera paint and made this beautiful painting of Saint Victor of Siena. It is well preserved, the colour and gold being remarkably bright. He is dressed in a beautiful red and blue robe. Saint Victor of Siena holds an (olive) branch in his right hand and his left is resting on a magnificent sword.

I have tried to find out who this Saint was, without any luck, but the Master of Palazzo Venezia Madonna has left a beautiful piece of art for us to admire. The National Gallery in London holds two other portraits of this artist, one of Saint Mary Magdalene and one depicting Saint Peter.

Saint Benedict - the Annunciation - a kneeling nun

Unknown Italian Master (In style of Lorenzo Monaco) 1420

This brightly coloured Italian painting was created the first decades of the 15th century.

The style is inspired by the Florentin painter Lorenzo Monaco (born Piero di Giovanni) that worked the last quarter of the 14th and the first quarter of the 15th century.

It is, as the others, a tempera painting, made from colour powder mixed with egg yolk and painted on wood.

The Raising of Lazarus The Master of Saint Magdalene Legend (working 1486-1526)

This is a detail of an oil painting made the years around the end of the 15th and the turn of the 16th century - a period that would bring upheaval to Europe, through the Lutheran reformation and religious wars that would plague the continent for the next two centuries.

The oil on wood is made from an unknown called the Master of the Saint Magdalene Legend, a painter that lived and worked in Brussels.

It depicts the raising of Saint Lazarus of Bethany believed being raised from death by Jesus.

Christ as the suffering redeemer (Around 1500)

Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)

As we enter the 16th century I will present a painting from Andrea Mantegna, a Venetian master connected through marriage to the Bellini family boasting several masters in the 15th and 16th century.

A native of Isola de Carturo close to Padua he became a pupil of Francesco Squarcione in Padua and established a brilliant career as a painter in Venice. He was one of several pioneers at that time introducing perspective into paintings.

Andrea Mategna was also the leader of the most important workshop of prints in the city before 1500.

It is tempera on wood and depicts the suffering Christ on a throne, flanked by two angels one with blue, the other with red wings.

More stories from Statens Museum for Kunst
on Enjoy Food & Travel

- Two Dutch masters - Hals and Rembrandt (June 23rd 2008)
- Lucas Cranach - a German master from the 16th century (June 2nd 2008)
- Introduction to Statens Museum for Kunst (May 17th 2008)

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