Category Archives: Northern Renaissance

The eeriness of hanging, dripping mosses

Following my previous post[1], Paul Rumsey identifies the mystery print[2] as one from the hand of Georg Lemberger, an Austrian artist so obscure he does not even have an English language Wikipedia page.

One of Lemberger’s paintings, Saint George Freeing the Princess (Lemberger)[3], has an Italian-language Wikipedia page, which I’ve partly translated and partly augmented:

The scene takes place in a fantastic forest. St George is preparing to face the monstrous dragon, hitting him with a spear, while the horse rears its head and front legs, according to the traditional iconography.

On the left the princess kneels in prayer.

Despite the small size of the work, it is emblematic of the role of landscape in the German art, full of fantastic effects and symbolic meanings, which characterizes the Danube School.

The trees are particularly elongated, and seem to germinate the one above the other, waving their spectral fronds, like in a dream vision.

The forest has a feeling of great mossy humidity and the branches of the trees seem to be covered with hanging, dripping mosses, like Spanish moss.

The feeling of being lost in the dark forest prevails and the work conveys a sense of the unknown, dominated by mysterious forces of nature.

In praise of uncertainty

Of all the works I re-examined while reading Hans Holländer‘s Hieronymus Bosch: Weltbilder und Traumwerk, the detail of The Last Judgment (Bosch triptych fragment) is the one that caught my attention most. Just look at this delightful brightly coloured critter!

Ultimately, I find it very satisfying that nothing of the work of Bosch can be said with certainty.

So: in praise of uncertainty!

The anthropomorphic landscapes of Joos de Momper

The Four Seasons are a series of four paintings by Joos de Momper, allegorically depicting spring, summer, autumn and winter in the form of anthropomorphic landscapes. As of 2013, all four of these paintings are in private collections. At least one of them is believed to be in the collection of Robert Lebel. I saw all four of them over the weekend in Lille, France at the superb exhibition Flemish Landscape Fables. This weekend is your last chance to get a look at them.





See also

Nightmares of emptiness and nightmares of overgrowth

The Jamnitzers were a family of goldsmiths who lived in the 16th century. They worked for very rich people and filled the ‘Schatzkammer‘ of Northern Europe with highly luxurious items, fuelling the general economy.

However, it is their works on paper which interest us here.

First there is the father, Wenzel Jamnitzer (1507/08 – 1585). He is the author of Perspectiva Corporum Regularium (1568), a fabulous work on  perspective and geometry. Of special interest in the Perspectiva is a series of architectural fantasies of spheres[1], cones[2] and tori[3].

Second there is the grandson, Christoph Jamnitzer (1563–1618). Where his grandfather favoured mathematical precision and the sounding voice of reason, the grandson, author of Neuw Grottessken Buch (1610), favoured sweeping curvilinearity, abject grotesqueries and feasts of unreason. The most famous print of Neuw Grottessken Buch is the Grotesque with two hybrid gristly creatures, shown left.

If you see the work of grandfather and grandson side by side, both Jamnitzers seemed to have been plagued by the sleep of reason, the grandfather suffering from nightmares of abandonment and the grandson challenged by nightmares of being overwhelmed by the dark forces of nature.

Introducing Dino Valls

Introducing Dino Valls
Dino Valls by Mujer Lagarto
Click for credits

Barathrum by luogo

Click for credits

Dino Valls is a Spanish painter born in 1959 in Zaragoza, presently living and working in Madrid. This self-taught artist studied Italian and Flemish masters of the 16th and 17th centuries and currently makes use of egg tempera.


Having previously obtained a degree in medicine, he is now one of the Spanish representatives of the vanguard of new figurative art[1], along with Odd Nerdrum in Norway and John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage in America where there is also the Lowbrow art movement, presided over by critics such as Suzanne G..

His work is also classified as fantastic art.

Here is an interesting YouTumentary with a soundtrack by Funkstörung.[2]

Art history revisionism

Grotesque Head (c. 1480-1510) by Leonardo da Vinci, clearly the inspiration for The Ugly Duchess
Grotesque Head (c. 14801510) by Leonardo da Vinci,
clearly the inspiration for The Ugly Duchess
The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys

The Ugly Duchess (1525-30) by Quentin Matsys

In my previous post I argued for a revisionist approach to art history, favoring discarded art historical movements related to the grotesque and the fantastic. I called for a start of art history with the work of Bosch rather than Da Vinci. I realized when writing it that I sort of short-changed da Vinci since the latter has also made many lesser-known works including several grotesques [1] and caricatures[2]. See the book Leonardo Da Vinci: The Divine and the Grotesque by Martin Clayton.

The reason I short-changed da Vinci is that he is much better known for “mainstream” works such as the Mona Lisa and Vitruvian Man. While researching da Vinci’s relation to the grotesque I came up with Grotesque Head, a powerful caricature which is clearly the inspiration for Quentin Matsys‘s The Ugly Duchess. Enjoy.

Icons of erotic art #19

Venus (1532) by Lucas Cranach the Elder.  From March 8 until June 8, 2008, the London Royal Academy of Arts will hold a retrospective of Cranach's work. The posters for the expo were considered offensive for the officials of the London Underground, who stated that

Venus (1532) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

From March 8 until June 8, 2008, the London Royal Academy of Arts will hold a retrospective of Cranach’s work. This advertising poster for the Cranach expo (which displays the Venus painting) was recently considered offensive to the officials of the London Underground, who banned it and stated that

“Millions of people travel on the London Underground each day and they have no choice but to view whatever adverts are posted there. We have to take account of the full range of travellers and endeavour not to cause offence in the advertising we display.”

Lucas Cranach the Elder (Lucas Cranach der Ältere, 1472 –  1553) was a German painter and printmaker in woodcut and engraving of the school now known as Northern Renaissance. His influence is readily displayed in the work of 21st century American artist John Currin [1].

Previous entries in Icons of Erotic Art here, and in a Wiki format here.

Grace, age, woman and the Northern Renaissance

Coming back to the Northern Renaissance of earlier posts, I’d like to introduce you to the work of Hans Baldung Grien (c. 14801545). German Renaissance artist as painter and printmaker in woodcut. He was considered the most gifted student of Albrecht Dürer:

The 7 Ages of Woman – Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545)

Three Ages of Man and Three Graces (1539) – Hans Baldung Grien
Image sourced here.

On the representation of the Graces, Pausanias wrote,

“Who it was who first represented the Graces naked, whether in sculpture or in painting, I could not discover. During the earlier period, certainly, sculptors and painters alike represented them draped … but later artists, I do not know the reason, have changed the way of portraying them. Certainly to-day sculptors and painters represent Graces naked.”

Death and Woman (1517) – Hans Baldung Grien

Baldung was extremely interested in witches and made many images of them in different media, including several very beautiful drawings finished with bodycolour, which are more erotic than his treatments in other techniques.

On the grotesque nature of his work the 1911 Brittanica remarked:

“Without absolute correctness as a draughtsman, his conception of human form is often very unpleasant, whilst a questionable taste is shown in ornament equally profuse and baroque. Nothing is more remarkable in his pictures than the pug-like shape of the faces, unless we except the coarseness of the extremities. No trace is apparent of any feeling for atmosphere or light and shade. Though Grün has been commonly called the Correggio of the north, his compositions are a curious medley of glaring and heterogeneous colours, in which pure black is contrasted with pale yellow, dirty grey, impure red and glowing green. Flesh is a mere glaze under which the features are indicated by lines.”

Three Ages of the Woman and the Death (1510) Hans Baldung Grien (1484 – 1545)
image sourced here. [Mar 2005]

Typical for his subject matter are also the Danse Macabre, the Three Graces and Death and the Maiden.

Death and the maiden () Hans Baldung Grien
image sourced here.

Thou shalt not tempt

Yesterday as I went for a quick book shopping trip to the city, I glimpsed a detail of the The Temptation of St. Anthony painting by Patinir and Matsys on the cover of a Dutch language book on the history of witchcraft in the Low Countries.

That Northern Renaissance gets my vote over Italian Renaissance any day was confirmed once more.

Detail Temptation Metsys Patinir

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys

Temptation of Saint Anthony by Patinir and Metsys (detail)


Please excuse the poor quality of the scans compared to the image I saw on the cover of that book. I would need a photographic cliché to reproduce the details well enough.

Thanks La boîte à images.

I acquired a copy of Marvellous Méliès. More on The Temptation of St. Anthony and the allure of Northern Renaissance later.