Comparing the Art of Gentile da Fabriano & Robert Campin

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  • 0:01 Forerunners of 15th…
  • 0:45 Gentile da Fabriano
  • 3:02 Robert Campin
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the various artistic styles of 15th-century masters Gentile da Fabriano and Robert Campin. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Forerunners of 15th Century Art

The 15th century was a tremendous time for art. Some styles were reaching their highest points ever, while other styles were just kicking off. In artistic terms, Europe was a mixture of veterans and rookies - experienced artistic styles being fully mastered and new styles in an age of energetic experimentation. Representing the veteran styles of art we have Gentile da Fabriano, one of the last great masters of the International Gothic style. On behalf of the rookies, we've got Robert Campin, first great master of the Northern Renaissance in the Netherlands. They may have had different styles, but both contributed to the meaning of art across the 15th century.

Gentile da Fabriano

Gentile da Fabriano was an Italian painter in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. Although Italy in the 15th century is most remembered for the Renaissance, older artistic styles still existed in the region. Fabriano was perhaps the last great master of the International Gothic style, an artistic movement that mixed medieval abstract and other-worldly figures and new levels of realism.

Coronation of the Virgin

Here's an example of Fabriano's work in the International Gothic style. This is his Coronation of the Virgin. The figures of Mary and Christ are more realistic than medieval figures, but their poses and movement still reflect the stillness of this time period. Also, there is a lot of gold here! Did you notice that? No realistic backgrounds or spatial depth, just a flat gold sky and a floor that, while beautifully detailed, does not show realistic depth.

Adoration of the Magi

Fabriano was noted for his mastery of this style, mixing incredible amounts of detail with the still, flat looking surface of the painting. His undisputed masterpiece, often referred to as the greatest work of the International Gothic style is this, the Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1423. Gothic paintings were done in tempera, paint made from mixing pigment with egg yolk. This is one giant narrative showing the journey of the three magi to see the Christ Child. The story begins in the top left corner and moves clockwise around the panel, culminating in the magi presenting their gifts to Jesus Christ in the bottom left. There is more of a realistic sense of movement in these figures and even some attempt at creating realistic spatial depth.

True to form, Fabriano provides an incredible amount of details, from the intricate patterns on the clothes of the magi to the exotic camels and monkeys that are part of this massive procession. However, the main figures are still somewhat flat and have that very typically-Gothic golden halo around their heads. Plus, the entire piece is nearly monochromatic in the amount of gold and yellow, so this is unmistakably part of the International Gothic style. But more than that, it is perhaps the best example of this style, right as Italy was fully transitioning into the Renaissance.

Robert Campin

As Gentile da Fabriano was bringing the International Gothic to a dramatic close, up in Northern Europe another artist was starting the 15th century with new innovations. Robert Campin is considered the first great master of Netherlandish painting, starting the Northern Renaissance. Campin not only embraced many techniques of the Italian Renaissance, especially the realistic senses of space and movement, but also introduced his own innovations.

Saint Veronica

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