In the middle of the fourteenth century a cultural transformation took place, this transformation was initiated by Italy and was called Renaissance. It separated the Middle Ages from the New Modern Age and is where Humanism and Reformation blossomed. Portraiture became a huge part of the Renaissance Era and artists became intrigued in trying new and unique styles. During most of the fourteenth century, only royalty had portraits made because they required status and wealth. A portrait is typically defined as a representation of a specific individual.
A portrait does not merely record someone’s features, but something about whom he or she is, offering a sense of a real person’s presence. Royal Portraiture is especially unique because it has to show the status and wealth of the ruler and appeal to many. The traditions of portraiture extend back to ancient Greece and Rome, but change every century to new styles by being tweaked slightly every so often. New artists are always testing out new ways to spice up an old style of art and were willing to try slightly new and tweaked styles of painting.
Portraits of Rulers became popular to assert their majesty in places from which they were absent. Many rulers ruled more than one area of land and had a broad area of land that they looked after and could not be everywhere at once. Most rulers would travel around their land constantly, but there was always still an absence when they were not around. Portraits became a way of allowing these rulers to show that they are present even if they are not physically there. Many churches would have paintings or sculptures so that even when the rulers were not around, the community could see an image of their ruler.
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In addition to recording appearance, portraits had social and practical functions as well. Portraiture was a way for the royals to show their lavishness, which in turn showed their dignity as a ruler. Royals had a way of wanting to flaunt their status and were able to do this through portraiture. The Portrait of John the Good by Girard d’Orleans, was important because it showed the significance of having a portrait made. This was the first profile in Northern Renaissance Art and signified a rebirth beginning. The side profile for a portrait was typical of Antique coins and medals.
This new style of portrait painting emphasized the empirical. John the Good resembles Jesus in his portrait and has a “God-Like” feature. Hans Holbein did a considerable amount of Travelling throughout Europe. He was primarily a court painter, and was employed by Henry VIII and did many portraits for him. He paid special attention to portraying likeness, which was very important for royalty. His work is rich in detail. Part of why portraiture was so appealing to royals was because it could do more than show what a person looked like. It could show how a person looks powerful and unapproachable which is shown in Henry VII.
It could also show vulnerability or a way to be relatable to the viewer. Showing that a ruler was scholarly along with worldly was important and in Ghent’s Duke Federigo of Urbino and his son Guidobaldo the importance is shown. Federigo the scholar, is reading from a manuscript displaying his worldly success. His military prowess is evident with his armor showing. Frontal portraiture was more common and traditional among artists for portraits. One example of this is Jean Fouquet’s portrait Charles VII. This portrait is interesting because the bust of Charles is abnormally large compared to his face.
His bust is actually life-size, but the rest of his body seems as though it isn’t proportional. Charles seems stern and sad, which is not typically what a royal portrait looks like. Royalty typically want to give off the impression that they are powerful, tough and wealthy but Charles show a sad and vulnerable side, yet still showing sternness with his bust pushed out and large. Royalty art showed a lot of realism. Many rulers were not afraid to show themselves just the way they were. The art was extravagant and showed the rulers status, but kept them very real.
In Jean Malouel’s Portrait of Philip the Bold, there is a sense of descriptive realism. The portrait is not beautiful, it shows warts and all, but at the same time it shows the exquisite detail of the fur and of the jewels, which was so important for rulers to show in order to show their status and wealth Hans Holbein the Younger did a variety of portraits for Henry VIII. All are beautiful and extravagant portraits. Henry VIII has beautiful vivid colors and the hat and cloaks show status and wealth. The attention to detail and realism of the painting is common in royalty art.
The portrait is close and has little room for anything but Henry VIII. He is the center of attention and is the only thing to look at in the portrait. The broadness of his chest and the size of his forearms are a show of power and strength. Henry VIII is the only thing to look at it. He is confronting you and making it so that he is the only thing to look at, there is no way to ignore him. This occurs again in other portraits in the past and the future. Another Hans Holbein portrait shows Edward VI as a Child in the same bright rich clothing that his father Henry VIII is wearing in his portraits.
Edward takes up a majority of the image and this portrait most likely had a great significance to Henry VIII. The bottom of the portrait has writing saying how great Edward will be when he grows up. This portrait was most likely a gift to Henry VIII that he cherished. It shows the wealth and status of his young boy whom he loved and waited with great anticipation to watch him grow. The significance of the degree of the face looking at the viewer changed frequently. There were times that the side profile gave the idea that Royals were “Holy” or spiritual.
At times, the full frontal portrait gave the look of power and sternness, something rulers wanted to portray. There was also the forty-five degree angle portrait. This angle is a worldly and thoughtful portrait. It gives off the impression that the ruler in the portrait is in thought and is not looking directly at someone else, nor are they looking directly at the viewer. An example of the forty-five degree angle portrait is Bernard van Orley’s Portrait of Charles. This, along with Jean Perreal’s Portrait of Louis XII are examples of this portraiture.
Both rulers are neither looking at someone else, nor the viewer which is the introduction to a new style of portraiture. The few tapestries in the exhibit show the royals in their lives. Attention to detail in these tapestries is exquisite. Vivid deep colors in these exhibits show the status of the royals, a commonality between all royal Art. The deep gold colors are a way of showing wealth. All of the colors in the exhibits are so deep and vivid, with attention to the shading in the background and the outline in some of the different portraits. The attention to detail in every royal renaissance art is beautiful.
Realism and Humanism in the portraits is very clear with how realistic the rulers look. The details down to the hair, fur, and jewels are extremely fine, never leaving even a single detail out to ensure that it has the quality of looking at someone in person. Overall, Royalty in Northern Renaissance Art is broad and unique. Some rulers wanted to be depicted as strong, powerful and unapproachable. Others wanted to be seen as spiritual and almost “God-like”. Some rulers only have portraits done of their upper body, some of only their face, and some rulers had their entire bodies painted into their portraits.
All of these rulers and their artists felt that the way they were painted would be how they were depicted by the world and chose the style accordingly. 1. Girard d’Orleans Portrait of John the Good Before 1356, Musee du Louvre, Paris. John the Good had a court painter, Girard d’Orleans who accompanied him during his travels and time in England. This artist painted the King’s portrait on a canvas type panel. This painting is a clear indication of a new type of painting at the time, the profile portrait. The importance of this portrait is the outlining of John the Good’s face.
It is questioned whether or not it was intended to give the king a magical or spiritual essence. John the Good’s portrait looks like it could be a portrait of Jesus. It is also argued that it is just the first example in a long line of portraits that had a state function. 2. Jean de Liege Charles V, 1375-80. Musee de Louvre, Paris. 3. Nicolas Bataille King Arthur, Tapestry Series of the Nine Worthies 1385. The metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 4. Jean Malouel Portrait of Philip the Bold, 1400. Musee National du Chateau de Versailles. . Dieric Bouts Justice of Emperor Otto III 1470-75. Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van Belgie, Brussels. After Dieric Bouts was appointed city painter in 1468, he received two important commissions. One of those was the Justice of Emperor Otto III. Bouts’ advisor ordered this rather gruesome example of justice. Take note how many of the bystanders in the painting appear to be portraits. These small portraits within a painting show the beginning of group portraiture that was then followed by Netherlandish painters for two centuries.
Bouts combined a rigid and mechanical regimentation of single portraits placed to the side of the narrative scene. Members of Bouts’ workshop finished this panel after he died. 6. Joos Van Ghent Duke Federigo of Urbino and his Son Guidobaldo 1475. Galleria della Marche, Urbino. Duke Federigo aspired to be understood as well as a powerful leader. In this portrait, the duke of Urbino is clothed in armor and his ducal mantle. Federigo’s son is at his side, which shows that Federigo is advancing him as his rightful successor. This portrait displays Federigo’s military prowess, his political authority and his humanist learning.
Although most portraits are frontal to imply hierarchical power, this portrait however is not frontal because when he was young he lost an eye and nose. To conceal this disfigurement, Duke Federigo was always show in his left profile. 7. Jean Fouquet Portrait of Charles VII After 1451. Musee du Louvre, Paris. In the Portrait of Charles VII, the bust on Charles appears to be life-size. His heavy doublet is dark claret with fur trim. Fur and fancy clothing is a way of showing your social class, only the wealthy and essentially only the royals can afford the furs and typically show them off in portraits.
Charles is tawny and ruddy in complexion and with a sad expression on his face, not exactly what you would expect a royal to show in a portrait. It is generally assumed that the portrait commemorates the Treaty of Arras as a victory of the monarchy. 8. Monument to Philippe Pot 1480. Musee du Louvre, Paris. This monument is a part of the tradition of Burgundian funeral art. Philippe Pot was a Lord of Burgundy. The detail of the tomb is a way of showing the status of the Lord. The realism of the ceremonial spectable is vividly presented to the viewers with the hooded figures, life size, and marching in solemn procession.
These figures whose heads are hidden and are inclined in prayer show the mourning of their Lord. The mourners can only be identified by the coat of arms on their habits. The traditions of the past are being reshaped for another age in French art. 9. Jean Perreal, Portrait of Louis XII 1512-1514. Royal Collections, Windsor Castle. 10. Albrecht Durer Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony 1496. Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. 11. Lucas Cranach the Elder Duke Henry the Pious of Saxony 1514. Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Kunstmuseam, Dresden.
Duke Henry stands proudly in this portrait with arms akimbo and his leg turned out awkwardly. His wealth and status shows with what he is wearing. He is in a stunning costume with a bright red suit and stockings under a dark green cloak, both garments are slashed to reveal the rich gold lining. The Duke is giving the viewer a stern state as he grasps his long sword showing his symbol of power and rank. It is interesting that this is a full body portrait. You will notice that is resembles the Arnolfini Wedding. This panel goes along with the Duchess Catherine of Saxony. 12.
Lucas Cranach the Elder Duchess Catherine of Saxony 1514. Gemaldegalerie, Staatliche Kunstmuseam, Dresden. 13. Hans Burgkmair Emperor Maximilian on Horseback 1508. Clarence Buckingham Collection, Art Institute, Chicago. Burgkmair had a ready patron in the Emperor because Emperor Maximilian sought to have his likeness and politics circulated in visual form throughout the Holy Roman Empire. This print of Maximilian was the first major print experiment in colored printmaking. Maximilian was willing to experiment because of is urge to get his name and likeness out to everyone that he could.
This ceremonial picture shows a strong profile image of the mounted emperor on an ideal horse underneath a well-understood triumphal arch, redolent of both the military success and the Roman imperial rank claimed by the commander. 14. Hans Holbein the Younger Henry VIII 1539-40. Galleria Nazionale, Rome. 15. Hans Holbein the Younger Henry VIII, His Father Henry VII, and Their Wives 1537. National Portrait Gallery, London. 16. Hans Holbein the Younger Edward VI as a Child 1538. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. Edward VI was Henry’s prized son.
Holbein executed at least two portraits of him for Henry while Henry watched Edward grow with great anticipation. In this portrait Edward is only about two years old but looks healthy and resembles his fat-faced father. This was most likely a present for Henry. The inscription on the portrait most likely greatly pleased Henry. It says that if Edward imitates Henry he can be the heir of the throne. It says that you only equal the acts of your parent and that if you surpass your father, then you have surpassed all the kings of the world and then none will ever surpass you. 17. Lucas Horenbout Henry VIII 1525-36.
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. This portrait is unique because it is showing Henry VIII in a three-quarter pose and beardless, which was not typical for Henry VIII. It is also just a shoulder-length portrait against a plain blue background, there is no special shading or dark background to show status. Its diminutive size and polished technique on a vellum support soon became hallmarks of this pictorial genre. This type of genre was quickly adopted by Holbein and also took deep root in England, home to generations of specialist miniature painters well into the nineteenth century. 18. Bernard van Orley Portrait of Charles V 1516.
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. 19. 18th century copy. John the Good and Clement VI or Urban, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. 20. Parisian miniaturist of the late 14th century. The Banquet of Charles IV of France in Paris, from Les Grandes Chroniques de France. 1375-79. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. 21. Antonis Mor. Fernando Alvarez de Toledo. 1549. Hipic Society of America, New York. This portrait is a splendid example of Antonis Mor’s achievements in aristocratic portraiture. Mor created his own type of court portraiture, which became widely imitated in the second half of the half-century.
Mor painted with unflinching objectivity, but the noblemen that he painted like Fernando are more than very important people. These portraits were not meant for our eyes but instead for the eyes of Fernando’s peers at court. This portrait is a statement of high status as cultivated products. Mor’s portraits display a singular superiority among men, but they still remain distinct individuals and don’t become idealized types. 22. Antonis Mor. Portrait of Mary Tudor. 1554. The Prado, Madrid. 23. Rogier van der Weyden. Isabel of Portugal. Mid 1400s. J. Paul Getty Museum. 24. Antonis Mor. Catherine of Austria. 1552.
Prado, Madrid. 25. Jean Bondol. Portrait of Louis II, Duke of Anjou. 1412-15. Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Charles M. Rosenberg, The Court Cities of Northern Italy. New York, NY. 2010. 334-337. [ 2 ]. Richard Vaughan, Philip the Bold. Longman, London and New York. 1962. 188-208. [ 3 ]. Alison Weir, Henry VIII: The king and his Court. New York, NY. 2001. 260-264 [ 4 ]. Greg Walker, The Private Life of Henry VIII. London and New York. 2003. 11-26. [ 5 ]. John Oliver Hand and Martha Wolff, Early Netherlandish Painting. Washington D. C. 1986. 216-218
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