Divinity and Discovery

Perfection in paint and perspective

From the late 14th century, the Renaissance spread from Italy through France and Northern Europe bringing a level of technical skill that raised the status of the artist in society and affected many fields of intellectual pursuit. Flemish painter Jan van Eyck was considered revolutionary within his own lifetime through his virtuoso use of oil paint, combining realism with brilliant colour. Van Eyck’s oil on panel painting The Virgin and Child with Canon Joris Van der Paele, completed between 1434-36, is one of the artist’s largest pictures and has a complex iconography (to learn more about this, visit this page by the Flemish Art Collection).

Both Flemish and Italian influences can be seen in this double portrait from the late French Renaissance in the style of the second school of Fontainebleau. The sensuality of the portrait of royal mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées and her sister made it a popular success.

In Italy, Andrea Mantegna’s use of perspective brought a striking sculptural realism and emotional impact to his art, in work such as The Lamentation of Christ from 1470-1474.

It is an absolute peak in Mantegna’s production, a work whose expressive force, severe composure and masterly handling of the illusion of perspective have made it one of the best-known symbols of the Italian Renaissance.

Pinacoteca di Brera

Venice was a unique gateway between Europe and Byzantium. The workshop of several generations of the Bellini family was a focal point for the Italian Renaissance. The monumental canvas St Mark preaching in the square of Alexandria, Egypt was commissioned from Gentile Bellini in 1504 but was left incomplete on his death in 1507, and finished by his brother Giovanni. It adorned the reception room of the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice, one of the city’s most prestigious and powerful confraternities.