Faces of Europe

Divinity and discovery

Gothic art in medieval Europe developed at different times with distinctive variations across countries. Artistic commissions for medieval artists came mainly from the church and other wealthy and influential members of society.

An example of Bohemian gothic – and the beginning of the Beautiful style, a central European variant of the International gothic style – is shown in this painting by the Master of the Třeboň Altarpiece from the Augustinian Monastery church of St Giles.

In southern Europe, Andreas Pavias painted at a time when the Greek island of Crete was under Venetian rule and known as the Kingdom of Candia, a production centre for Byzantine iconography.

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.

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 brought a sculptural perspective and emotional impact to his art, in work such as Cristo morto nel sepolcro e tre dolenti from 1470-74.