In this piece van der Weyden depicts the words of blessing from low to high and rightward toward Christ, and the words of damnation are high and move downward toward those that have been damned. The rise and fall of the verbal decisions of the traditional locations of those that have been blessed and those that have been cursed. The artist even went so far as to use color to support the words, which was uncommon at the time; helping to make the distinction in a very visual way.
Acres maintains that although some conclude that a significant amount of modern interpretation of the work of 15th century Netherlandish paintings has been misguided, the most prevalent lesson is a reminder that images' meanings were and are able to "circulate well beyond the purview of contracts and other remnants of early documentation" (p. 109).
According to Pacht in his 1953 article "Jean Fouquet: A Study of His Style" posits that there have been rare instances in which clearer light on the significantly radical changes in the "position of the creative artist at the end of the middle ages than the part now played by the individual in the cultural relations between different countries" (p. 85). He argues that the work of the artist during that time was merely an exponent of s particular tradition that was common to productions of his native country and had been that way for centuries. However, beginning in the 15th century, Pacht goes on to say, artists were able to "exert considerable influence" internationally and still manage to bring the artistic milieus closer together. Fouquet is said to have benefited from this newfound artistic fame, and was the first French artist, as a personality, that was well-known outside of his own country and recognized as an international figure. However, Pacht posits, international recognition failed to garner influence of any artistic movement in other countries (Pacht,
French artistic stylings had been taken up in many countries including Germany, Italy, Spain and England around 1400; however more progressive movements in Flanders and Florence abated the spread. Fouquet was not able to stem the time of this drifting from classical French style. This adrift is said to have been impacted by artists such as Masaccio and van Eyck forcing French artistry further into the background and was regarded as a conservative country.
Fouquet was the first French artist to be widely accepted in Italy and is said to have brought France in touch with Italian Renaissance; helping the country to move from a gothic to Latin country. Fouquet is said to have been influenced by the Florentines of early Renaissance and van Eyck in Flanders; quickly adopting the Italian style shortly after learning the van Eyckian style. However, even though the styles he adopted where vastly different, his work seems to work one continuous and unbroken developmental line. This ability to seamlessly integrate dichotomous styles is what has given Fouquet is distinction (Pacht, 1953, p.86).
As with van der Weyden, Fouquet's work and life are scarcely documented and as such, the validity of his work cannot be significantly expounded on says Pachet. Fouquet created a series of miniature paintings that according to art historians helped to bridge the gap between French stylings of the 1430's and his work after 1450. Durrieu, in attempting to ascribe the origin of Fouquets' work has significantly criticized several of the miniatures maintaining they were of 'inferior quality'. Pacht, however, attributes the level of quality to Fouquets' physical age and level of artistic maturity.
Fouquet's artistic style as described by Pacht reportedly is in keeping with old figure types; using the traditional form and vocabulary of composition as the generations that preceded him; however, the artist is said to see these traditions in a new and different way. Learning from the Flemish, the artist has mastered the skills of atmosphere and light; which involves a "delicate transformation of the old subject matter" (Pacht, 1953, p. 88). Some saw Fouquet's work as a disintegration of the old because it so closely mirrored much that had taken place before. However, Fouquet's work fused forms, compressed figures, and changed faces. His style is described as less forceful and aggressive than his predecessors; offering a more delicate treatment of tonality as opposed to sharp contours. In his later work, Pacht maintains that the artists; swift modeling stands in stark contrast to the composition and compactness that presented as stable in his earlier works.
Fouquet is said to have learned a great deal from Fra Angelico who worked for then Pope Eugenius (1445-1449), and Massaccio, regarding the new spatial conception and new classical treatment of the human form. Jacopo Bellini from Venice reportedly taught the artist the use of perspective in compositions involving crowds. Theory was not reported to be the artists' strong suit, as he pictures are recorded as rarely conforming to any scientific methodology. This is reportedly played out in his paintings where there isn't a single form that coincides with the picture plane in any material way; while at the same time, nothing is disorderly or accidental.
Pachet poses the question, "are we not deceiving ourselves and do we not se the art of the past through our modern eyes and therefore necessarily distorted?" (p. 93). To address this question, he posits, there is a look for modern day evidence and Fouquet provides such evidence. Fouquet is said to have been the master of encapsulating single episodic movement within mass movement; leaving not a picture of an isolated event or a swift change in action, but rather a lasting large impression of full-scale action and movement.
It is clear that all three artists, van Eyck, van der Weyden and Fouquet, each in their own way made a significant mark in the 15th century in portraiture. What is also clear is how each artist's contribution to the artistic community has impacted modern day interpretations of art both in comparison, contrast, and composition in portraiture specifically and art in general. Van Eyck, of the three, is most documented both in art history and in the scholarly literature. His work has been distinguished by disguised symbolism and has provided much fodder for scholarly discourse as to the relevance of concealed symbolism. This discourse continues today; with some taking the position that modern day perspectives cannot relate to 15th century symbolism.
Van der Weyden, although frequently compared to van Eyck made his mark in the masterful use of text in his portraits. His life and work were not documented to the depth and breadth of van Eyck however, his skill set and influence seems undeniable. Van der Weyden is most noted for his skillful use of written biblical text in his paintings that reflect religiosity and art in the same spatial context. His work was representative of the relationships that exist between text and image to which may somehow refer to as document coding, symbolism, illustration, embodiment, fulfillment of a contract or documented cultural conditions.
Fouquet, was reportedly a student of many great artisans of his time including van Eyck, but managed to distinguish himself by incorporating varied styles in a seamless and indistinguishable manner. Fouquet has been touted as the master of the miniature portrait; maximizing perspective in crowd composition, light, and the delicate transformation of tradition into a new medium designated as his own.
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