The early Christian saint, Sebastian, who died a martyr’s death around 288, served in the army under the Roman emperor Diocletian. Having initiallly concealed his faith from Diocletian who sought to persecute Christians, Sebastian was condemned to death. He was shot by archers armed with bows and arrows but, according to legend, did not die
Boxwood, H. 28.6 cm
At the end of the 15th century Ercole I d’Este ruled over Ferrara, Modena and Reggio. Thanks to his judicious approach the dukedoms blossomed economically and culturally. The duke was married to Eleonora of Aragón with whom he had six children, including the later patron of the arts at the court of Mantua, Isabella d’Este. Alfonso, the eldest son, inherited the title of duke from his father in 1505. His wife Lucrezia came from the notorious Borgia family. However, in Ferrara, the family’s reputation did not stop her from being held in high esteem by members of the nobility, the common people, artists and especially by Duke Alfonso himelf who was deeply in love with her.
The art of weaving
The demand for woven wall hangings had increased greatly since the 11th century in Europe. This in turn had a positive effect on the production and quality of such tapestries and many exquisite works with pictorial motifs were created. As in the halls of the ruling families of old, the interiors of churches were also decorated with figurative pictorial wall hangings. Secular wall hangings, on the other hand, depicted courtly scenes or details from troubadour poetry and were an indispensable item for any princely ruler when travelling. Packed into chests they were loaded onto carts or beasts of burden and used to cover bare walls, add a little warmth and surround the owner with familiar images.
Woven tapestries were generally made of woollen yarn – a raw material gained from sheep that is washed, combed and spun into a thread. In the Early Middle Ages spinning was laboriously done by hand using a distaff and spindle. It was not until the end of the 13th century that the spinning wheel was used. The processing of wool was largely the task of women just as weaving has been a typically female occupation since Antiquity, as Homer tells us in his ‘Odyssey’ in which Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, weaves a shroud for her deceased father-in-law Laertes and Ariadne, the unfortunate weaver, is set a challenge by Athena. But that is another story.
in turbulent periodes
Power and Religion
This magnificent object was created at a time of great unrest. As a result of the conflict between the Catholic Habsburgs under the iron hand of Philip II of Spain, in particular, and the Protestant Netherlands that sought independence from the Holy Roman Empire, the Eighty Years’ War broke out in 1568 that only ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. In the 16th century Antwerp was one of the biggest cities in the world. Thanks to the river Scheldt it had become the wealthiest trading centre in Europe and an important cultural hub. The Spanish stadtholder Alessandro Farnese put a violent end to Antwerp’s shift to Protestantism; however, the upheavals of war ultimately led to the wealthy city’s demise.
spell of antiquity
The large frame with its clear architectural divisions is richly embellished with elements of the so-called grotesque – a decorative style that combines tendrils, garlands of fruit, ribbons and fantasy figures of human and beasts based on works from Antiquity. At the end of the 15th century sumptuous wall frescos had been uncovered in what had been Emperor Hadrian’s thermal baths and in the subterranean vaulted rooms of the Domus Aurea – the ‘Golden House’ – on Esquiline Hill in Rome, originally constructed at the time of Nero. Fascinated by the immense variety of motifs and figures, artists such as Raphael and Giulio Romano copied the decorative ornamentation that had been found in what was referred to as the ‘caves’. The name of the ornamental grotesque style comes from the Italian grotta, a cave. Cornelis Floris picked up on the reception of this style with considerable mastery and created series of ornamental engravings in the ‘Floris style’ that reached a wide public.
On the one hand, a frame served as a surround to a painting, on the other hand it fulfilled a practical function: its architectural superstructure was a form of protection and could also be used to mount the work on a wall. The materials were primarily wood, marble and metal. Over the centuries the design of the frame was conditioned by the style of the respective period. Originally conceived in a sacral context for altarpieces and religious paintings, in the Late Middle Ages frames also came to be used in secular settings and evolved into magnificently decorated, architectural works of art that were of equal value to the painting itself.
Wooden small wonders
Adam Dircksz’s ‘small wonders’ were probably made between 1500 and 1530 in his workshop in Delft that was then one of the most important cities in the County of Holland alongside Leiden and Haarlem. After Amsterdam, Delft was the largest city in the Low Countries; however, its was largely destroyed in a fire in 1536. Such city fires were often seen as God’s punishment of sinners. Delft was quickly rebuilt, not least of all thanks to the financial assistance of other cities und administrative bodies.
Faith and comfort
Since Antiquity there have been artists specialising in the carving of miniature figures and whole scenes. During the Gothic period such carvers produced miniatures in boxwood and ivory. In virtually all cases these focussed on religious topics. The advantage of these small works of art was that they could always accompany the owners on their travels. These in turn hoped the objects would provide protection and succour from evil powers and illness. Our miniature coffin was probably attached to a rosary and would have acted as a reminder of the transience of life and help strengthen its owner’s faith.
Duchy of Burgundy
House of Habsburg
At the time of Adam Dircksz, the present-day Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and part of northern France belonged to the Burgundian Netherlands. Through the marriage of Mary of Burgundy with Maximilian of Austria the Duchy of Burgundy came into the possession of the House of Habsburg, with Brussels remaining the capital. Many Burgundian and Habsburg aristocrats and other wealthy citizens from the major trading cities at that time would have been among those who purchased Dircksz’s ‘small wonders’.
Road to life
The Via dei Sette Ponti, the ‘Road of Seven Bridges’, that leads to Arezzo 30km (18mi) away, begins in Loro Ciuffenna. The first bridge that arches the river Ciuffenna in the centre of the little town has existed since the Middle Ages. Records show that a mill was constructed there back in the 11th century. It is certainly possible that Simone di Niccolò Bianco travelled along the ‘Road of Seven Bridges’ to Venice, some 300km (186mi) away – a long distance in those days.
An important Doge
but the power of Venice
...has passed its peak
Simone di Niccolò Bianco, whose exact date of birth is unknown, was first mentioned in a document in 1521 from Venice. At this time Leonardo Loredan was the Doge of Venice. It was under his rule that the War of the League of Cambrai was fought against Venice by an alliance between King Louis XII of France, Pope Julius II, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, Ferdinand of Aragón and several small Italian states. Although, under Loredan, Venice did not actually lose the war and managed to keep possession of large swathes of its lands, Venice’s omnipotence was broken. By the time the Doge died, Venice’s political heyday had passed.
Jewels and lemons
The imaginative coiffure of the unknown beauty reflects the hairstyle of the Italian Renaissance that, in turn, was influenced by Antiquity. The artistically plaited braids and delicate curls are decorated with gems, ribbons and pearls. Lighter shades were very much en vogue and, if not natural, were created by bleaching in the sun or with lemon juice.
Men’s hairstyles were essentially very simple in comparison to women’s and no differentiation was made with regard to a man’s social standing.
Virgil and the Aeneis
Danger coming from the sea
In this artwork, we are referring to Laocoön: In his myth, the Aeneid (1st century BC), Virgil reports how Laocoön, a priest of Apollo, warned the Trojans about pulling the Greek’s wooden horse into their beleaguered city. He was the only one to suspect that the supposed Christmas present from the Greeks could conceal Greek warriors. Hera and Athena, who had sided with the Greeks, sent two serpents from the sea to strangle Laocoön and his two sons. The Trojans took this to be a punishment from the gods for the sacrilege of their present and dragged the wooden horse into the city, thus sealing their own fate.
Catholics and Protestants
Ignatius of Loyola
The response of the Catholic Church to the end of the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther is referred to as the Counter-Reformation. After the Council of Trent in 1545, Rome attempted to repress Protestantism by force with the support of the Catholic Habsburg emperors. The Jesuit order, founded in 1534 by Ignatius of Loyola, was at the vanguard of the Counter-Reformation. The threat of Protestantism, however, did have its positive side: the Catholic Church examined its greatest shortcomings, reformed the training of priests and regulated the benefices and indulgences that had been grossly misappropriated.
A lucky marriage
In 1633, the year Christoph Daniel Schenck was born, Swedish troops still held on to the city of Konstanz, then in its second year, under the leadership of Field Marshal Gustav Horn. Thanks, however, to the strong defence under the command of Maximilian Willibald prince of Waldburg-Wolfegg, the enemy forces ultimately suffered considerable losses and retreated in October that year. Maximilian Willibald was an educated aesthete with wide-ranging interests. He survived the Thirty Years’ War and entered his second marriage in 1648, this time to the Flemish Duchess Clara Isabella from the House of Arenberg, who had a strong love of art.
Drink and be merry
in ancient Rome
The Dionysia or Bacchanalia were ecstatic festivals celebrating the god and the fertility cult, frequently heightened through alcohol or hallucinogenic fungi. Although basically adopted from Greece, the tradition of the spring festival combined Roman religious and Etruscan cultural elements. Every year, this exceptional period of festivity certainly brought many Romans great pleasure, similar in some respects to Carnival celebrations today. The ‘imported’ festival, therefore, enjoyed considerable popularity.
Present of the nature
Not always g-rated
Plants and mushrooms, the consumption of which induced a state of ecstasy, played an important role in furthering the development of certain religions in a number of different societies worldwide. The first indications of the use of psychoactive fungi can be found in rock drawings (c. 5000 BC) on the Tassili plateau in present-day Algeria that show deities with mushrooms. Germanic peoples, for example, consumed the fly agaric species of fungi before communicating with their ancestors and spirits. The correct dose, however, certainly played an existential role.
Enamel is the name given to a material generally made of silicates (powdered glass) and oxides (pigments) that are applied to a substrate and melted at a high temperature over a short firing period. Over the course of the centuries, craftsmen developed a variety of different techniques and produced works of high artistic quality. The so-called émail peint technique – painted enamel – is typical of the Renaissance. Our decorative vessel is a prime example of the mastery of this process.
The rock of the church
Martyrdom at Rome
The disciple Simon Peter (the ‘Rock’) came from Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Little is known about Peter’s ministry after Jesus’ death and the Resurrection. Virtually all details about his life at that time come from the Acts of the Apostles. He ensured that the disciples of Jesus soon met again in Jerusalem to proclaim the message of the resurrection. He then travelled around Antioch and Asia Minor as a missionary, preaching especially to non-Jews. His last missionary journey took him to Rome. Tradition has it that he met St Paul there. Like Paul, Peter died a martyr’s death between 64 and 67 AD. His body is believed to have been buried on the spot where St. Peter’s Basilica now stands. Archaeological excavations beneath the basilica support this theory.
The princes glory
increased by art
The Grand-Ducal workshop
Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519–1574) greatly contributed to the growth of the Medici art collection. He was a patron to the major artists of the time, supported artistic craftsmanship and contributed to Florence’s expanding fame. In 1588 Ferdinand I de’ Medici (1549–1609) restructured the grand-ducal court workshops in the Palazzo degli Uffizi into an autonomous, functional complex where specialist engravers, gold and silversmiths created exquisite objects of the highest artistic quality on crysal, cameos and gemstones with considerable skill and artistic creativity. Numerous works of art were sent as gifts to the princely courts of Europe with whom the Medici had established a dense network of relations – testimony to the power and influence of the Medici.
St. Peter at Rome
Where Petrus rests
A ciborium is a superstructure, supported by columns, over an altar. In Early Christian basilicas the ciborium marked and protected the site of the free-standing altar over the tomb of a martyr. This form of structure set a strong accent in church architecture. Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the high altar in St. Peter’s in Rome – certainly the most famous ciborium and a model for many others. His most important patron, Pope Urban VIII, commissioned this work from the young artist. With the assistance of Borromini, Bernini made the baldachin architectural form from the bronze cladding of the beams in the vestibule of the Pantheon.
or her golden hair?
The depiction of the Birth of Christ is in keeping with the contemporary theological pictorial tradition of the time. During her trip to the Holy Land in 1372, Bridget of Sweden had a vision in which she saw the Virgin taking off her shoes, placing her cloak next to her and removing the veil from her head, letting her golden hair fall onto her shoulders. After the birth she knelt down in front of the new-born child that was lying naked on the ground; he emitted a light that was ‘brighter than the sun’. The Son of God was not lying in swaddling clothes in a bed nor was he in a crib surrounded by straw.
A miraculous fiber
magical, but true
Byssus, the sea silk
Although not depicted here, the veil of the Virgin Mary – a type of maphorion – was long considered one of the most important reliquaries in Christendom. It was kept in the church of Saint Mary of Blachernae until the sacking of Constantinople in 1204. The veil is now to be found in basilica in Assisi. It is made of the fabulous and extremely rare byssus cloth, otherwise known as sea silk, that is won from a fibre spun by a species of pen shell native to the Mediterranean. Today, virtually all knowledge of working with byssus has been lost. There is only one weaver left in the world today who still works with sea silk, Chiara Vigo. She lives on Sardinia.
The glory of the Lord
The Christ Child is depicted naked, lying within a mandorla, on an altar-like dais. What does this signify? A mandorla, derived from the Italian for ‘almond’, is a radiant glory – a halo – surrounding a figure in its entirety. It is the visible expression of the power of salvation emanating from a divine being. Here, it surrounds the Son of God, who is holding an orb in his right hand – the symbol of God’s rule over the world. In art history, Christ is more commonly depicted within a mandorla as an adult, shown as Majestas Domini, ‘Christ in Majesty’.
Physician and bishop
Sebaste in Armenia
Blaise lived in the second half of the 3rd century. He worked as a physician and became the bishop of Sebastea (now Sivas, Turkey) in the Roman province of Armenia. According to tradition, Blaise died a martyr’s death under the emperor Licinius; however, it is more likely that this martyrdom was at the time of the emperor Diocletian. The saint is called upon to help cure afflictions of the throat. Blessings given in the Catholic Church include, among others: “Through the intercession of St Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil”.
Suffering of innocents
According to the Legenda aurea (the Golden Legend) Blaise fled from the emperor Diocletian and hid in a cave. The animals of the forest gathered around to protect and feed him. In return, he healed sick animals and blessed them. When Saint Blaise was summoned by the prince to return to the city, he refused to renounce his faith and acknowledge the prince’s gods. As a result he suffered a extremely brutal martyrdom. Seven pious women and two small children were also killed at the same time.
The Legenda Aurea
Jacobus de Voragine
An early bestseller
The Legenda aurea was compiled around 1264 by the Dominican Jacobus de Voragine. It originally included 182 tractates, primarily biographies of saints. With this work, Jacobus, who was Archbishop of Genoa from 1292 until his death in 1298, created the best known and most widely read book of traditional lore on saints in the Middle Ages. It soon became extremely popular and documentary evidence shows that one manuscript had reached Germany by 1282. The first printed editions were published around 1470. The attributes of saints to be found in art (painting and sculpture), which assist the interpretation of religious scenes, largely originate from the Legenda aurea.
An important saint
Grace of charity
Sebastian is one of the saints most closely associated with the Plague. At the time of such epidemics as the ‘Black Death’ he was called upon to protect and heal. In the Middle Ages, a variety of fraternal orders were founded from the 12th century onwards with different aims and tasks. Sebastian was the patron saint of the Sebastian Brotherhood which provided assistance, especially during epidemics. The Plague was almost always deadly at this time and a catastrophe for society as a whole. The Sebastian brethren took the sick to hospices when the Pest raged, organised burials and helped, in particular, in the commemoration of the dead.
The Black Death
A horrible plague
In Europe around 25 million people died of the Plague between 1346 and 1353 – approximately one third of the overall population at that time. The Pest spread from Asia to Messina on Sicily along the trade routes, from where it gained a foothold on mainland Europe. In the Middle ages nobody knew where the Plague came from and suspected evil winds, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in an unfavorable constellation or contaminated water to be the cause. It was not until 1894 that the real cause was discovered. Today it is known that the Black Death was a bacterial contagious disease that, in the Middle Ages, was passed to humans by rats and fleas.
40 days of isolation
Protection against the plague
The word ‘quarantine’ comes from the Italian quaranta giorni, meaning ‘forty days’. In July 1377, the government of the Republic of Ragusa decreed that all travellers and merchants had to spend thirty days – later forty – in isolation, in specially built lazarets, before they could enter the city. According to another source, it was Venice that first introduced quarantine. Today, quarantine ensures that others are protected from contagious diseases – the time spent in quarantine varying according to the incubation period of the presumed infection.
in ecclesiastical use
Beautiful to look at
Canon law stipulates that objects for ritual use such as the chalice and paten (the shallow dish for the communion wafer), altar candlesticks and processional crosses are to be made either of precious metals such as gold and silver or of bronze or gilded metal. Since the middle of the 12th century the champlevé technique was used for the pictorial decoration of liturgical items, as is the case with our processional cross. Those looking at the cross were attracted by the bold, bright and luminous colours that formed a contrast to the gold.
The Old Testament
The New Testament
Tradition of the sacrificial lamb
Very early on, events in the Old Testament were interpreted in the biblical commentaries of the four Church Fathers as a sign of the Act of Salvation in the New Testament. This is also true of the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. A symbol of the sacrificial death of Christ in the New Testament, it stands in the tradition of the sacrificial animal in the Old Testament where it refers to the Passover Lamb, sacrificed the night the Israelites departed from Egypt. Depicted as the Paschal Lamb with the vexillum (pennant), as seen on our processional cross, it is a symbol of the resurrection of Christ.
The fathers of the church
egregii doctores ecclesiae
Pope Bonface VIII.
The four Great Church Fathers in the Western Church are St Augustine who was appointed Bishop of Aleppo in 394, St Gregory who became pope in 590, from when on he was known as Gregory the Great, St Jerome, the cardinal who lived as a hermit in the 4th century, and St Ambrose who became Bishop of Milan in 374. The were named egregii doctores ecclesiae – teachers of the Church – by Pope Boniface VIII in 1295.
A child as the bearer of hope
The divine infant
A child is a symbol for the future of humanity. All the more so, when the child depicted is the young Jesus – for a long time the only baby child found in Christian art history. The divine infant in the crib or on the arm of his mother, the Virgin Mary, profoundly influenced the depiction of children up until the 15th century. During the Renaissance, the impact of images from Antiquity started to show: the Christ Child became sweeter, more playful, as can be seen in this small Portuguese painting of the Cupid-like divine infant.
A paragon in Portugal
In Aveiro, the city where this picture of the sleeping Christ Child was made, as well as in the whole of Portugal, Saint Joanna of Portugal (1452–1490) is still venerated to this day. She was the daughter of the Portuguese King Alfonso V and Isabella of Portugal. Declared the heir presumptive to the throne while still in her cradle, she later lost her claim for the throne after the birth of her brother, John II. In 1475 she entered the Dominican Order in Aveiro where she died in 1490. Joanna was beatified in 1693 by Pope Innocent XII.
The Venice of Portugal
Exploring the canals
Moliceiros – the canal boats
Aveiro is called the ‘Venice of Portugal’ due to its many canals. Colourful moliceiros ply the waters and give the city its own unique charm. The three major canals are the Canal Central (Canal de São Roque), the Canal das Pirâmides and the Canal dos Santos Mârtires.
First celebrated in 1650
Held every year in Augsburg on 8 August
In 1650 the Protestants of Augsburg held the first ‘Augsburger Hohes Friedensfest’ to commemorate 8 August 1629. It was on that date that they had been forbidden from practising their faith, contrary to the terms of the treaty made in 1555 between Ferdinand I and the Imperial Estates at the Imperial Diet in Augsburg. This festival, meanwhile open to all faiths, is still held every year on that date – and is a public holiday exclusively in the municipal area of Augsburg.
A Catholic newspaper
in Protestant Augsburg
In 1686 the book printer August Sturm from Nördlingen launched a Catholic-orientated weekly newspaper in predominantly Protestant Augsburg. The ‘Augspurgische Ordinari-Post-Zeitung’ was the counterpart to a Protestant weekly of almost identical name, the ‘Wochentlich-Ordinari-Post-Zeitung’, published by Jakob Koppmayer. After being taken over by Joseph Anton Moy in 1766, it evolved into the leading newspaper in southern Germany and Austria, having a circulation of 12,000 copies in the early 19th century.
Pictures of saints
Figures such as our Saint Sebastian served to heighten religious veneration and are commonly known as devotional objects. This term has its roots in the Latin word devotio, meaning ‘reverence’ or ‘surrender’. Devotional objects include all those items used in private prayer such as crucifixes and rosaries. Sebastain, the protector of Plague victims and epidemics, was always one of the most popular saints.
Painter, sculptor and architect
The ‘Escuela granadina de pintura’
The artist, who worked as a painter, sculptor and architect, is considered the founder of the ‘Escuela granadina de pintura’, the Granada School of painting. At the age of twenty-four, Cano was already the supervisor of all royal buildings and court painter to Philip IV in Madrid. Cano never travelled to Italy but taught himself the styles used in antiquity and transferred these to his paintings that were solely of religious subjects.
Brothers in faith
To protect the "holy of holies"
Confraternities of the Blessed Sacrament, organised Christian communities of men who call each other ‘brothers’, were increasingly founded from the Middle Ages onwards. Among the original duties of a confraternity was the protection of the ‘holy of holies’ during processions through the streets of a city. Confraternities also had their own ecclesiastical rights regarding the celebration of mass. They also aided pilgrims, foreigners and anyone vulnerable or sick and maintained their own hospices and hospitals. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament in Sevilla belongs to the church of El Salvador.
The "Semana Santa" in Sevilla
Showing of the Christ Child
It is possible that this small figure of the Christ Child was shown in processions during the Semana Santa – Holy Week, from Palm Sunday until Good Friday – in Sevilla. The beginning and end of each procession is always in the district in which the confraternity (or brotherhood) is based. The entrada, the entance of the confraternity in the candle-lit church after the procession, is a special highlight.
The Tudor period
The Tudor era is the period between 1485 and 1603. The first monarch of the House of Tudor was Henry VII. He inherited a country weakened by the Black Death and famine, with a population of only two million. Henry’s politics, focussed on freedom and economic prosperity, were successful. England became extremely powerful both economically and with regard to foreign affairs. Around 1600, the population had risen to four million.
The art of applying
The artist of this alabaster relief carefully added paint later, as can be seen in the remnants of gold, red and black pigment. The art of applying paint was, at that time, a science in its own right that played a major role in the field of painting itself, in particular. The work Libro dell’arte o trattato della pittura, written by Cennino Cennini around 1400, was especially well known. This manual, initially available in the form of a transcript, later became the most influential textbook on painting in the Middle Ages.
The Divine Trinity
The Holy Spirit
A white dove
In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. It is often represented by the dove, fire or wind in art. The Holy Spirit is said to have descended to Jesus in the form of a dove during his baptism in the Jordan. In the first few centuries after the death of Christ, artists struggled to find a way to depict the invisible Holy Spirit. They ultimately chose the dove as a symbol, thus continuing the pictorial tradition established in Antiquity of a bird standing for gentleness and love: it was believed that the dove did not have a gall bladder and was, therefore, free from all things bitter and evil.
A journey to the Holy Land
The secret of the Venus temple
The alleged discovery of the cross by Empress Helena was first recorded in the 4th century. According to this legend Helena (248/50–329), the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, travelled to the Holy Land around 325AD and ordered excavations to be made on the site of a Roman temple dedicated to Venus. Remains of the cross upon which Christ was crucified as well as the tomb in which Christ was buried were found. Helena had the cross divided into three and consigned these remnants to Jerusalem, Constantiople and Rome. Helena and her son, Emperor Constantine, commissioned a basilica – the so-called Church of the Holy Sepulchre (consecrated in 335) – to be built over the tomb and the site where the cross was found. It constitutes one of the holiest sites in Christianity.
Evolution of a symbol
Its meaning today
In early Christianity, the original symbol was not the cross but the Christogram XP. It was not until the 5th century that this became less well used and the cross emerged as the most important symbol in Christianity. Evidence of the wooden cross commonly found today being used as a symbol can be found in the 4th century during the reign of Emperor Constantine (between 270 and 288–337).
The image of Christ
A crown instead of thorns
In the Romanesque period, the crucified figure of Christ appears as a sovereign and judge. Instead of a Crown of Thorns he wears a royal crown or is depicted with a halo. The Son of God, as the victor over death, is shown with his feet parallel to one another (the so-called ‘four-nail’ style) and not crossed. The loincloth is greatly stylised and falls in artistically draped folds.
The subject of suffering gained greater significance in the Gothic era. Christ embodied the suffering of the world, and the martyrdom of the Son of God was of cental importance. This found its artistic heyday in the Baroque period.
Terracotta actually means ‘baked earth’ and is used to describe a frequently unglazed type of ceramic product. Unlike other ceramics, terracotta only needs one firing. In antiquity, terracotta experienced its first major heyday during the Minoan civilization on Crete some 2000 years BC. It gained popularity later in Greece and during the Italian Renaissance, especially in the workshop of Luca della Robbia.
The ´white gold´
Alchemy at Dresden
Porcelain of Meissen
Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724–60), the daughter of Frederick Augustus II of Poland and Elector of Saxony, married Charles, King of Naples and Sicily, later Charles III of Spain (1716–88). The founding of Capodimonte is certainly related to this marriage as the manufactory in Meissen, founded by her grandfather, had existed since 1710. Giovanni Caselli was appointed master decorator and his brother-in-law, Giuseppe Gricci, sculptor and modeller. Following the coronation of Charles as King of Spain in 1759, the whole manufactory moved to Buen Retiro near Madrid, together with the employees and the production facilities. The blue ‘under-glass’ Bourbon line became a distinguished brand.
Dresden and Naples
Porcelain of Capodimonte
A royal brand
Porcelain was originally a luxury article that was only available in the form of imported Chinese wares. It was not until 1710 that Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651–1708) and Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682–1719) succeeded in manufacturing hard-paste porcelain – often referred to as ‘white gold’. The manufacturing process could not be kept secret and almost sixty manufactories were established in Europe in the 18th century. These were exclusively owned by reigning monarchs and were inextricably linked to them. On the one hand, the production that was often housed within a palace complex, was a source of income; on the other hand it served to provide the court with luxury articles.
1001 Nights in Granada
As beautiful as in paradise
Our plate dates from the culture of the Moors who ruled large swathes of the Iberian peninsula and North Africa for several centuries. The Moorish emirate during the Nasrid dynasty is famous for its artistic and architectural masterpieces. Members of the ruling dynasty included Mohammed V (1338–1391) who had the so-called Courtyard of the Lions, with its surrounding gallery supported on columns, erected in the fortress palace, the Alhambra, in Granada. Under this emir Granada advanced into a centre of Islamic culture in western Europe.
In the Mediterranean
Majolica is an island
For the Spanish, the island was known as Mallorca, but the Italians called it Majolica in the Middle Ages. And this is the word used in Italy to describe the hugely popular Moorish ceramics, finished with a lustre glaze, that were exported from Spain via Mallorca. When the Italians learnt how to master the tin-glazing technique and underglaze painting applied on top of this, the name of these exported articles was transferred to their own product.
Knowledge in the Middle Ages
‘Delights’ for the mind
Herrad of Hohenburg (1125/1130–1195) was abbess at Hohenburg Abbey on Mont Sainte-Odile in Alsace. She wrote the important encyclopedia, the Hortus delicarum (Garden of Delights), that encompasses the theological and secular knowledge of the High Middle Ages. It also includes the oldest known pictorial depiction of a Madonna on the Crescent Moon.
Birth of a Genius
The inventor of book printing
Johannes Gensfleisch, called Gutenberg (c. 1400–1468), is born in Mainz. Around 1450, the printing press he invents, combined with movable type, replaces the work-intensive and time-consuming methods used in book production up until then. The mechanical mass production of books is now possible for the first time. The ‘Gutenberg Bible’ that is printed between 1452 and 1454 is considered Gutenberg’s most important work. Another form of printing that is also developed in the 15th century is coppperplate engraving. This was primarily used for illustrated works. Our Madonna is the product of this invention, being a copperplate engraving by Master E.S.
Francis van Bossuit
The first artist’s monograph in the history of art
In 1727, long before Raphael, Michelangelo or Bernini, Francis van Bossuit, who died in 1692 in Amsterdam, is honoured by the publication a monograph on his work that has preserved his name for posterity. Based on drawings of many of van Bossuit’s works made by Barend Graat (1628–1700), the sculptor’s son-in-law Mattijs Pool (1676–1740) creates copperplate engravings and publishes these under the title Cabinet de l’Art de Sculpture par le Fameux Sculpteur Francis van Bossuit. This novel type of publication is very successful as van Bossuit’s work is held in high esteem in the late 17th and early 18th centuries in the Netherlands.
Emperor Philip IV
The ‘King of the World’
When Francis van Bossuit is born in Brussels in 1635, Philip IV of Spain, called ‘The Great’ or ‘King of the World’, rules over the Burgundian Netherlands. He is considered the last Spanish sovereign to rule on the basis of Great Power politics. Philip IV himself dabbles in painting and poetry, promotes the arts and appoints Diego Velasquez – who paints frequent portraits of the monarch – as court painter.
A material long used uncritically
Its rarity and long, dangerous transport routes makes ivory an extremely precious material; its value is considered to be on a par with gold. Until the late 18th century ivory is used to make religious and secular works of art of the highest quality. This situation only changes after the colonialisation of the African continent and India, as well as through advances in hunting techniques. At the end of the 19th century more than 800 tons of ivory reach Europe; the material is used excessively and the very existence of the elephant is under threat.
The World in Chaos
Birth in Constance
In 1633, in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War, Christoph Daniel Schenck first sees the light of the world in Constance. That same year Swedish troops unsuccessfully beleaguer the city. Constance is spared – luckily for the future artist.
‘L’Etat c’est moi’
Louis XIV becomes King of France
While the Hundred Years’ War is raging in Christoph Daniel Schenck’s homeland, Louis XIV ascends to the throne of France at the age of four. Under him, France expands its position as a great power. The Sun King furthers the arts and sciences. The culture at the French Court radiates beyond its borders and becomes the model for all royal courts during the Baroque period.
Parents and Child
Is love self-evident?
In his seminal work Centuries of Childhood that was first published in English in 1962, the French sociologist Philippe Ariès argues that a loving interaction between parents and children is not something than is inborn in any way but the result of a ‘culture of emotion’ that first evolved in the 16th and 17th centuries. Ariès also draws on images in the visual arts and highlights changes. Time-wise, the so touching depiction of Joseph and the Christ Child fits perfectly and testifies impressively to Ariès’ thesis.
Tragic poetry in Athens
Pratinas of Phlius (d. probably 467 BC in Pratinas), one of the earliest tragic poets in Athens, is considered to be the father of the satyr play. It is a form of comedy in which fantastic and bawdy topics dictate the plot. Satyrs – mythological figures, half man, half animal – gathered around the god Dionysos, are at the centre of the action. The popular satyr play provided a contrast to tragedy and served to amuse and entertain the people of Athens. The satyr accompanied the Greeks in everyday life in antiquity as testified by the satyr playing the aulos (a wind instrument) that the Attic vase painter Epiktetos (520–500 BC) chose as a motif.
A material used by artists
Bronze was already used to create artworks in antiquity.
This alloy of copper and tin is poured into a mould. After cooling, the artist polishes the surface or continues working on the figure. Durability, the beauty of its patina and the metal’s high value are some of the reasons for its popularity. Unfortunately the recyclability of the material is a great disadvantage as many wonderful bronze figures were taken in times of war to make cannons. Others have been melted down to cast new figures with the metal as well
Lost in the course of time
The art of Ancient Greece was a great inspiration in the Renaissance. However, Attica and the Aegean Islands had to change sides, politically, at this time. Following the Sack of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottomans, large swathes of the Greek-speaking area then belonged to the Sultan’s realm. Even the naval power Venice did little to hold the conquerors at bay and gradually lost its position of supremacy in the Mediterranean.