Tag Archives: 15th century

Sassetta’s Heretic

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, tempera and gold leaf on wood panel, 24.6 x 38.7 cm, 1423-c. 1426, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, tempera and gold leaf on wood panel, 24.6 x 38.7 cm, 1423-c. 1426, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta’s Burning of a Heretic lives in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and I have never seen it in the flesh. I have, however, spent a lot of time admiring its image. Reproductions of paintings have always been important sources of inspiration for me, and now with so many institutions joining the open access movement and making high quality digital images available to anyone via the web, even more so.

sassetta-horseman-detail

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, detail (horseman)

One of my favorite aspects of European painting in the early fifteenth century is how groupings of objects, figures, and elements of the landscape create clusters of form that become very abstract at times. Part of this is due to the overlapping of figures, for example, that serves as a mechanism for a sort of flattened suggestion of perspective. This is evident in much Northern European painting from the early Renaissance as well as Italian examples like Sassetta’s Sienese masterpiece. These visual clusters create new form and thus the potential for new meaning. I particularly like how the horseman seen from the rear on the left becomes almost unrecognizable as a figure.

The other soldiers on horse are the only figures to break the horizon with its cut-out like mountains and occasional tree. The curvy edge of those hills keep the people and most of the action embedded below, with the exception of what appears to be a lone demon swooping down from above. The flags of the horsemen to the right of center pierce the top edge of the panel, making a convenient formal divide in the picture.

 

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, detail (priests)

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, detail (priests)

The columnar priests in the right foreground are equal parts human and architecture, and they are the only figures with their backs turned to the burning man.

Somehow we are elevated but close by as we look on what should be a very gruesome (though the flat expressions of the faces in the crowd make everything seem rather casual) scene. The unfortunate heretic looks to the sky, and his is the most expressive face in the painting. He is resolute and calm. Together with the bundled twigs, the flames consuming him, and the faint spirals of smoke, the heretic takes on new form and is transcendent. Meanwhile, the golden-clad stoker remains faceless.

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, detail (heretic)

Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta, The Burning of a Heretic, detail (heretic)

 

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Turin-Milan Hours

The Turin-Milan Hours, which was partially destroyed by a fire in 1904, is an illuminated manuscript and book of hours. It was begun in the late fourteenth century and was completed in various stages. At times in the possession of Jean, Duc de Berry and eventually John III Duke of Bavaria (Count of Holland), the Turin and Milan Hours was worked on by a number of different artists and was originally thought to be two separate volumes. Several miniatures completed in the latter stages of the work, probably around 1420, are credited to an artist called “Hand G”.

The Birth of John the Baptist (above) and the Baptism of Christ below, The Turin-Milan Hours (also Les Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame de Jean de Berry), illumination on parchment, circa 1420, Museo Civico d'Arte Antica di Torino

Hand G (Jan Van Eyck), The Birth of John the Baptist (above) and the Baptism of Christ below, The Turin-Milan Hours (also Les Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame de Jean de Berry), illumination on parchment, circa 1420, Museo Civico d’Arte Antica di Torino

Jan Van Eyck, illumination on parchment, 28 × 19 cm (11 × 7.5 in), circa 1420, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, destroyed by fire

Hand G (Jan Van Eyck), illumination on parchment, 28 × 19 cm (11 × 7.5 in), circa 1420, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, destroyed by fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is most likely the Van Eyck brothers, Jan and Hubert, legendary, especially Jan Van Eyck, for revolutionizing painting in Europe in the fifteenth century. The parts of the manuscript attributed to them are widely regarded as the most masterful and interesting.

Jan Van Eyck, Self-portrait?, oil on panel, 26 × 19 cm (10.2 × 7.5 in), 1433, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Jan Van Eyck, Self-portrait?, oil on panel, 26 × 19 cm (10.2 × 7.5 in), 1433, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) by Edme de Boulonois, Illustration from a book by Isaac Bullart, Académie des Sciences et des Arts…, 1682

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) by Edme de Boulonois, Illustration from a book by Isaac Bullart, Académie des Sciences et des Arts…, 1682

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Turin National University Library, partially destroyed by fire in 1904 and subsequently bombed in 1942, photo 2008 by Claudio Cavallero.

The Turin National University Library, partially destroyed by fire in 1904 and subsequently bombed in 1942, photo 2008 by Claudio Cavallero.

It was reported that an electrical fire in the Turin National University Library was responsible for the destruction of the portions of the Turin-Milan Hours that were kept there and along with it around 100,000 volumes and other priceless manuscripts. Fortunately, photographic reproductions of the destroyed parts remain intact.


Books about Jan Van Eyck…

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Joachim Patinir

Two paintings by Flemish Northern Renaissance painter, Joachim Patinir (c. 1480 – 1524)

Crossing the River Styx, oil on wood, 64 × 103 cm (25 × 41 in), 1515-1524, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Crossing the River Styx, oil on wood, 64 × 103 cm (25 × 41 in), 1515-1524, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Temptation of St Anthony, oil on panel, 155 x 173 cm (61 x 68 in), c. 1515, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Temptation of St Anthony, oil on panel, 155 x 173 cm (61 x 68 in), c. 1515, Museo del Prado, Madrid

 

Northern Renaissance Art

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