Visual Arts: Glossary

A passageway running parallel to the nave in a church, separated from it by an arcade or collonade.

A painted or carved piece of work placed behind or above the altar of a church.

Fra Angelico
(1400?-1455) Dominican friar and Italian painter of the early Renaissance, Fra Angelico was noted for his great piety as well as his use of elegant realism and perspective to create paintings of serene religious subjects.

A series of arches supported by piers or columns.

A building or part of a church, often round or octagonal, in which the sacrament of baptism is performed.

barrel vault
A semicylindrical structure composed of successive arches.

block prints
A printing technique in which the pictures and/or text of a book are carved into a block of wood. Ink is applied to the wood and then the block is pressed onto paper, leaving a stamped impression.

Book of Hours
A private prayer book containing the devotions for the seven canonical hours of the Roman Catholic Church, liturgies for local saints, and sometimes, a calendar. These Books were often highly ornamented for persons of high rank.

Botticelli, Sandro
(1445-1510) born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, a Florentine Renaissance painter whose works are characterised by a strong emphasis on lines and a certain melancholic elegance. His paintings are filled with tiny details. After apprenticing with Fra Filipo Lippi and working with Pollaiuolo, he spent most of his life working for the great families of Florence, especially the Medicis, and some of his best known paintings include Primavera and Birth of Venus, which reveal his interest in the revival of classicism, as well as the numerous renditions of the Madonna.

Cambio, Arnolfo di
(c.1245-c.1302) Italian late Gothic architect and sculptor who combined classical Roman forms with Gothic motifs, heralding in the Renaissance style. He apprenticed with Nicola Pisano and, c.1294, he began work on the Florence Cathedral. His style remains evident in the cathedral even though the plans underwent numerous changes before its completion more than a century after Cambio's death.

The order was founded in 1098 by Robert of Moslesmes at Citeaux in eastern France. The Cistercian ideal was a compromise between the ascetic extremes of the hermit communities and the relatively lax discipline of the Cluniac houses, The order followed strict rules on diet, silence, and manual labour, and an emphasis was placed on solitude and on simplicity of life and liturgy. The Cistercian constitution combined local autonomy with control by superior authority and avoided centralisation. In 112, St. Bernard hoined the Cistercian order and shortly afterwards was directed by the abbot to establish Citeaux's third daughter house in Clairvaux. As abbot in Clairvaux, St. Bernard made his monastery a model of Cistercian asceticism. He subjected his monks to an uncompromising and severe regime, and this intense life at Clairvaux made the monastery very popular. Daughter houses had to be established to accomodate aspiring monks. By the end of Benard's life in 1153, more than 300 monasteries had been founded by Cistercians of the daughter houses of Clairvaux, including a parallel orde rof nuns.

A row of windows in the upper part of a wall built to admit light.

A series of regularly spaced columns.

da Vinci, Leonardo
One of the versatile figures of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo's interests encompassed a number of diverse fields such as painting, sculpture, civil and military engineering, anatomy, biology, and architecture. He began his career in Florence in the painting studio of Andrea del Verocchio. He later sought and gained employment with the Sforza family in Milan. In Milan he continued to paint great works, including "The Last Supper" freso. However, his interest in science began to engage most of his time. From the numerous notebooks he kept, his exceptionally inventive mind and truly remarkable powers of accurate and painstaking observation are evident.

di Bondone, Giotto
A Florentine painter, sculptor, and architect, Giotto is generally considered to be the first Renaissance artist. A transitional figure, he broke away from the influence of the Byzantine style and began to develop stylistic tendencies that later became the dominant features of Renaissance art. These included realistic portrayal in three dimensions and an emphasis on the depiction of nature rather than complex, elaborate symbolism. He had a profound influence on other Italian painters who studied and imitated his work closely. His most noted works are the frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

A Florentine sculptor, Donatello is a transitional figure between Gothic and Renaissance art. His study of Roman sculpture led him to develop a widely imitated style that emphasized the realistic portrayal of form and the expression of emotion. Of an enormously productive life, the most noted of his works are his "Gattamelata" in Padua, and "Mary Magdalen" and "David", both in Florence.

From the French word for jests, the small figures that decorate the margins of late medieval manuscripts.

The art of incising a design on metal. In printing, the design is etched onto a metal plate which is then inked and imprinted onto paper. The nature of metal allowed for greater detail to be included with engraving plates than could be achieved with wooden blocks.

The principal face or front of a building.

flying buttresses
Exterior arched masonry bridges designed to support walls, flying buttresses extend from the upper nave wall to a solid pier. A characteristic feature of Gothic architecture, architectural advances eventually reduced the need for these exterior supports and flying buttresses became ornamental elements before they were eliminated completely.

Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade turned into a campaign against Christians. Its instigator was the powerful Innocent III. Because the crusaders could not pay the costs of their passage to Egypt, they struck a bargain with the Venetians. In return for their passage, they attacked Zara, a port on the Adriatic and a trading rival to Venice (1202). The Crusaders were then side-tracked to Constantinople where they became embroiled in a conflict between rivals for the Byzantine imperial throne. The deposed emperor, Isaac Angelus, offered the crusaders financial and material assistance for their crusade if they helped restore him. This the crusaders did, but when it became clear that the former emperor was unable to give them the promised money, troops, and supplies, and amidst a great deal of political scheming in the capital , the crusaders took Constantinople for themselves in 1204. They installed their own emperor and proceeded to carve up the empire. While the Latin Empire was overthwon in 1261 and the Greek emperors were restored, the Fourth Crusade dealt Byzantium a blow which it was never fully able to recover.

This mendicant order grew out of the movement inspired by the life and preaching of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). The Rule of St. Francis, which was based on Matthew 19:21, 16:24 and Luke 9:3 prescribed poverty, itinerant preaching and manual labour. Francis sought papal approval for his brotherhood but did not seek to found a formal order. In 1223, however, the Regula Secunda (Second Rule) received papal approval and marked the foundation of the order. The simplicity of life Francis sought in his rule did not long characterize the entire order. Even in his lifetime, tensions arose between two movements within the order, the Spirituals and the Conventuals. The Spirituals insisted on retaining Francis' original ideal, while the Conventuals were prepared to abandon the rule of absolute poverty. The Conventuals believed that monks could hold property in common but not individually. In the fourteenth century, the Spiritual Franciscans were frequently prosecurted, partly because some accepted the teachings of Joachim of Flora and were declared heretical. The conflict continued for generations. After the effective suppression of the Spirituals, the Observant branch of the order continued to oppose the Conventuals and frequently urged reform of the order.

Frederick II
Surnamed "Stupor mundi" ("Wonder of the World,") Frederick (1194-1250), was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI (the son of Frederick Barbarossa), who was also king of Naples and Sicily. Frederick inherited the Regno (as Naples was referred to) at the age of about three. He did not gain the throne of the Empire until 1215, after it was passed through several of his uncles. A brilliant man, soldier, politician, diplomat, scholar, Crusader, proto-civil rights leader (he allowed Muslims and Jews complete religious freedom in his realms) and scientist (his book on falcons is still of value), Frederick spent most of his life struggling with the papacy over their respective roles in world affairs. So acrimonious was the relationship that the Pope actually excommunicated Frederick for going on Crusade, and even preached a Crusade against him. Frederick was the ancestor of a number of prominent people during the Hundred Years' War.

From the Italian word for fresh, fresco is the technique of painting on wet plaster so that the pigments are absorbed by the plaster, becoming a part of the wall itself. Another technique, fresco secco, involves painting on plaster that has already dried.

Ghiberti, Lorenzo
A Florentine painter and scupltor, Ghiberti's work shows evidence of the transition from the Gothic to Italian Renaissance style. His most famous works are the bronze door pancis of the Baptistry in Florence. The pancis show the influence of Ghiberti's study of Roman relief sculpture. They are realistic, exhibiting an attempt to imitate nature, a manner of depiction that became a dominant feature of Renaissance art.

groin vault
The intersection of two barrel vaults of equal size.

Hundred Years' War
A war fought on French soil between England and France. Initiated by the clash between the English claim to the French throne and the French monarchy's expansionist policy, the war was fought off and on between the years 1337-1453 and resulted in the loss of the majority of the English territory in France.

From the Italian word for in paste, impasto is the technique of applying paint, usually oil paint, very thickly.

The innermost and strongest structure of a medieval castle, the keep was sometimes used as living quarters as well as for defense.

Lippi, Fra Filipo
(1406?-1469) Italian early Renaissance painter whose works emphasize the human qualities of his subjects and his use of light and perspective places traditional religious scenes in mysteriously receding settings. His later works return to a Gothic emphasis on flowing draperies and lengthened figures. His earlier life was tinted with scandal when, as a Carmelite monk, he seduced a nun. The couple were released from their vows and permitted to marry.

Masaccio (1401-1428)
(1401-1427?) born Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Mone, first great Italian Renaissance painter. Despite his brief life, Masaccio's brilliant and innovative use of scientific perspective and principles of natural lighting provided the foundation for modern painting. The striking naturalism and three-dimensionality of his works owe less to other painters than to the architect Brunelleschi and the sculptor Donatello. Along with these two artisists, Masaccio is considered a founder of the Renaissance.

Master of Flémalle
The unnamed Flemish master whose works display an awareness of perspective and a solidity of human form. The details of his paintings provide an amazing insight into daily life in the early fifteenth century. Although the Master's identity has not been irrefutably confirmed, many scholars believe that the Master of Flemalle was Robert Campin (1378?-1444), a Flemish painter who was active in Tournai from 1406 until his death. Campin's influence can be seen in the work of his pupil, Rogier van der Weyden, as well as in those of Jan van Eyck.

A Florentine familiy of bankers and businessmen, the Medici influenced religious, political, cultural and economic development in Italy through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the fifteenth century, under the leadership of Cosimo, Piero, and Lorenzo the Magnificent respectively, the Medici family was at the peak of its power. They and their supporters effectively ruled Florence, and they were among the most powerful of the Italian city-state rulers. They were generous in their patronage of authors, artists, and philosophers. Many of the brilliant figures of the Italian Renaissance were financially supported in their endeavours by members of the Medici family.

Michelangelo (1475-1564)
A Florentine painter, poet, sculptor and architect, Michelangelo was one of the foremost Renaissance artists. Michelangelo oerfected his technical skill while apprenticed to the artist Ghirlandalo. This skill, when combined with his thoughts on relihion and Neoplatonic philosophy enabled him to create works of enduring genius. A sculptor by preference, Michelangelo's paintings reflect this influence to a great degree, Their clarity, brightness, and absence of shading were innovative methods and much imitated.

From the Latin word for walls, a mural is a large painting or decoration, either painted directly on the wall, such as a fresco, or prepared separately and affixed to the wall.

The central aisle of a church.

panel painting
Painting, usually in tempera, done on a wooden panel.

A technique for representing spatial relations and three-dimensional objects on a flat surface. Atmospheric perspective involves the gradual decrease in colour intensity to imitate distance. One-point linear perspective, developed in Italy in the fifteenth century, is a mathematical system that defines the vanishing point of the horizon.

From the Latin words for pity and piety, an artistic representation of Mary grieving over the dead Christ. No corresponding scene exists with the scriptural accounts of the Passion and the image was entirely invented, creating a tragic counterbalance to the image of the Madonna and Child.

Plague or Black Death
The combination of bubonic and pneumonic plagues that entered Europe along Eastern trade routes, sweeping across Europe between 1347-1350. Spread by rats carrying infected fleas, the Plague eliminated between one-fourth and one-third of the population in its first wave. Subsequent outbreaks, which continued into the seventeenth century, were far less severe. The Black Death had profound effects on all aspects of medieval life and deeply affected the psychological outlook of Europeans.

A raised platform in a church from which a clergyman delivers a sermon or performs a service. The railing, base, and enclosing wall are often elaborately decorated.

The religious movement of the early sixteenth century that set out to reform the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in the establishment of Protestant churches.

The projection of a figure or a part of a figure from the background of a carving. Relief sculpture can be either "high" or "low," depending on the height of the projection.

ribbed vault
Molded stone ribs cover the seams of groin vaults.

ribbed groin vault
A groin vault which has ribs added for structural support and decoration.

rose window
A large, circular window filled with stained glass and tracery.

stained glass
Decorative windows composed of small pieces of dyed or painted glass held in place by lead strips within a heavy metal frame. The large window spaces of Gothic architecture provided the perfect display for these works of art during the twelfth to fourteenth centuries.

Suger, Abbot
A talented statesman and Cistercian abbot of the French royal monastery of St. Denis, Suger served as chief royal advisor to Louis VI ("the Fat") and Louis VII between 1130 and 1151. Suger's reconstruction of the abbey church of St. Denis in 1140 vaulted the Gothic style to a position of architectural dominance.

A technique and a medium for painting in which pigments are mixed with egg yolk and water, creating a quick-drying, long-lasting paste.

From the Italian word for cooked earth, a naturally reddish-brown earthenware that is used for pottery, sculpture, and as a building material. It is often glazed in various colours.

The ornamental stonework in Gothic windows; also a style of ornamentation applied to screens, walls, etc.

A cross arm in a church at right angles to the nave.

A devotional picture, carved or painted, with one central panel and two hinged wings.

An arched roof or ceiling, usually made of stone, brick, or concrete.

van der Weyden, Roger (c.1400-1464)
Roger van der Weyden was one of the leaders of the Flemish school of painting. He was Van Eyck's chief rival as the finest representative of Flemish painting. Van der Weyden's most famous works include the Descent from the Cross, the Madonna with Saint Luke, the Last Judgement and the Adoration of the Magi.

Van Eyck, Jan (c.1390-1441)
Jan Van Eyck was one of the leading European painters of his day. He was considered the founder of the Flemish school of painting of the late medieval period which was famous for its meticulous concern with fine detail and its achievement of intense realism. The Flemish painters of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries were worthy rivals of their early Renaissance Italian counterparts. In some ways, they were even superior to the Italians, especially in the use of oils in painting. Jan Van Eyck's most famous work is the Chent Altarpiece (1432). Other famous works are the Virgin and Child in Church and the Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini and Giovanna Cenami.

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