The 15th century in Northern Europe was, as Johan Huizinga reminds us, the heroic century
(The Autumn of the Middle Ages, translated by Rodney J. Payton
and Ulrich Mammitzsch; Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press;
1996). It was a century of passion, of piety, and of a craving for
beauty. It was also a century haunted constantly by the specter of
death, whether in the form of war or disease or famine or natural
catastrophe. Yet it produced an art that, while overshadowed—at least
in the history texts—by that being produced on the other side of the
Alps, was every bit as innovative. The latter is familiar as
"Renaissance" art, but naming the Northern style has been more
problematical. It is sometimes called "Late Gothic" as though it
were merely a stage in development from 14th-century Medieval to
16th-century Baroque, but that is a misnomer. It was neither Gothic nor
Late. It was new and revolutionary, as revolutionary as that of
Massacio, Mantegna, and Leonardo da Vinci, although quite different.
The two styles may have had the same genotype, but their phenotypes
were completely different.
Southgate MT. Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowing Madonna). JAMA. 1999;281(3):213. doi:10.1001/jama.281.3.213
Browse and subscribe to JAMA Network podcasts!
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: