Description: Ecole FLAMANDE du XVIIe siècle. Piéta, Plume et encre de Chine, lavis gris. Haut. : 18.5 - Larg. : 14.2 cm.
Notes: Early Netherlandish painting refers to the work of artists, also known as the Flemish Primitives, active in the Low Countries during the 15th- and 16th-century Northern Renaissance, especially in the flourishing Burgundian cities of Bruges and Ghent.
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The period begins approximately with the careers of Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck and continues at least to the death of Gerard David in 1523.
 The end of the period is disputed: many scholars extend it to the death of Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1569, or the start of the Dutch Revolt in 1566 or 1568, or to the start of the 17th century.
The period corresponds to the early and high Italian Renaissance but is seen as an independent artistic culture, separate from the Renaissance humanism that characterised developments in central Italy.
 Because the art of these painters represent the culmination of the northern European Mediaeval artistic heritage and the incorporation of Renaissance ideals, it is categorised as belonging to both the Early Renaissance and the Late Gothic.
The major artists of this period include Campin, van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Dieric Bouts, Petrus Christus, Simon Marmion, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, Geertgen tot Sint Jans, Gerard David, Hieronymus Bosch and Bruegel.
 These artists made significant advances in natural representation and illusionism, and their work often features complex iconography.
Their subjects are usually religious scenes or small portraits, with narrative painting or mythological subjects being relatively rare.
Landscape, although often lush and well described, was usually relegated to the background.
The works of this period are mostly panel paintings, which might comprise single panels or more complex altarpieces, usually in the form of hinged triptychs or polyptychs.
Illuminated manuscripts and sculptures were also common, being produced mainly for the higher end of the market.
The Early Netherlandish period coincides with the height of Burgundian influence across Europe.
The Low Countries became a political and economic centre, noted for crafts and the production of luxury goods.
Driven by the success of the Burgundian empire, the region enjoyed a period of financial prosperity and became an area of intellectual and artistic free thought.
The paintings of the Netherlandish masters were often exported for German and Italian merchants and bankers.
Aided by the workshop system, high-end panels were mass produced both for sale on the open market (usually through market stalls at fairs) and on commission.
The Early Netherlandish painters are as difficult to categorise chronologically as geographically.
Broadly the term applies to painters active in the areas under the control of Dukes of Burgundy and later the Habsburg dynasty.
The era is usually accepted as beginning with Campin, and in the strictest sense ends with the death of Gerard David.
However the mid and late 16th century Netherlandish schools, including Masseys and Bosch, are frequently associated, although their style and approach is often dramatically different from the 15th-century tradition.
The painters are known by a variety of terms; "Late Gothic" and the "Flemish Primitives" are earlier designations, espically in Dutch and German.
"Primitives" in the context of 15th- and 16th-century art does not refer to any perceived lack of sophistication; rather it identifies the artists as the originators of a new tradition in painting, notably for the innovative handling of oil paint over tempera.
Art historian Erwin Panofsky applied the term "Ars nova" ("new art") and "Nouvelle pratique" ("new practice"), thereby linking the movement with innovative composers such as Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois favoured by the Burgundian court of the time.
 "Late Gothic" emphasizes continuity with the Middle Ages, while "Flemish Primitives" is a traditional art history term borrowed from the French that came into fashion in the 19th century.
In English, the term Flemish has assumed many different meanings over the centuries, and since the early 20th century has been seen as too vague a descriptor.
 Following the lead of Max Friedländer, Erwin Panofsky, Otto Pächt and other German-language art historians, English-language scholars typically describe the period as "Early Netherlandish painting" (German: Altniederländische Malerei).
The use of the term "Early Netherlandish painting", as well more general descriptors like "Ars nova" and the inclusive "Northern Renaissance art", allows for a broader geographic base beyond current geopolitical designations of Flanders and the Netherlands for the artists associated with the period than the more exclusive "Flemish".
During the 15th to mid 16th centuries, the modern national borders of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands did not exist.
Flanders-a term that now refers specifically to distinct parts of Belgium.
Painters and merchants, both native and foreign, congregated in the Flemish cities of Bruges and Ghent, the main regional centres of international banking, trade and art.
Commentators often used the terms Flemish and Netherlandish (that is, "of the Low Countries") interchangeably: to 16th-century Italian painter and historian Giorgio Vasari, all northern painters were "fiamminghi", or "Flemmings".
A number of the artists traditionally associated with the movement had linguistic origins that were neither Dutch nor Flemish.
The Francophone Rogier van der Weyden was born Rogier de la Pasture.
 The German Hans Memling and the Estonian Michael Sittow both worked in the Netherlands in a fully Netherlandish style.
Simon Marmion is often regarded as an "Early Netherlandish" painter because he came from Amiens, which was intermittently by ruled the Burgundian court between 1435 and 1471.
With the advent of Mannerism in the mid 1600s, the work of the Early Netherlandish painters fell out of favour.
Little is known of the artists due to paucity of surviving documentation in the official record; very little is known about even the most significant artists.
The most significant early research on the painters occurred in the 1920s, in Max Jakob Friedländer's pioneering Meisterwerke der niederländischen Malerei des 15.
Jahrhunderts, which was followed by Erwin Panofsky's analysis in the 1950s and 1960s.
This research tended to focus on establishing biographies and interpreting the complex iconography, while more recent research (notably that of Lorne Campbell of London's National Gallery) relies on X-ray and infra-red photography to develop an understanding of the techniques and materials used by the painters.
Attribution is especially difficult; a problem compounded by the workshop system, which often produced multiple versions of a single work of its master.
It was not until the late 1950s, after the research of Friedländer, Panofsky and Meyer Schapiro that the attributions generally accepted today were established.
Even so, the major artists' biographies are, for the most part, scanty reconstructions from scattered mentions in legal records.
In many instances their identities are unknown or contested, and names of convenience, were used, largely by Friedländer, to group works sharing similarities of style, time and location.
The so called Master of the Legend of the Magdalen, who may or may not have been Pieter van Coninxloo, is one of the more notable examples.
In addition many surviving panels are either fragments or wings from lost larger altarpieces.
RediscoveryThe 16th century saw the rise of royal art collections.
Mary of Hungary and Philip II of Spain were the first of the period to seek out Netherlandish painters, and both shared a preference for van der Weyden and Bosch.
By the early 17th century no collection of repute was complete without Northern European works from the 15th and 16th centuries, however the emphasis tended to be on the Northern Renaissance as a whole, especially Albrecht Dürer, who was by far the most collectable northern artist of the era.
Giorgio Vasari in 1550 and Karel van Mander c 1604 placed the Netherlandish painters at the heart of Northern Renaissance art.
In his first edition of Vite, Vasari -mistakenly- credited Jan van Eyck with the invention of oil painting.
Yet, both writers were instrumental in forming the later international opinion as to which of the region's painters was the most significant, with emphasis on van Eyck as the innovator.
The Netherlandish and Flemish primitives fell out of fashion and were forgotten during the 17th and 18th centuries after the spread of Mannerism.
In 1821 Johanna Schopenhauer became interested in the work of Jan van Eyck and his followers, having seen early Netherlandish and Flemish paintings in the collection of the brothers Sulpiz and Melchior Boisserée in Heidelberg.
 She had to undertake primary archival research because, beyond official legal documents, there was very little historical record of the masters.
 Schopenhauer published Johann van Eyck und seine Nachfolger in 1822, the same year Gustav Friedrich Waagen published the first modern scholarly work on early Netherlandish painting, Ueber Hubert und Johann can Eyck.
In 1830 the Belgian Revolution split Belgium from the Netherlands of today and created new national divisions between the cities of Bruges (van Eyck and Memling), Antwerp (Matsys), Brussels (van der Weyden and Bruegel) and Louvain (Bouts).
The newly-emerged state of Belgium sought to establish a cultural identity, and during the 18th century, Memling's reputation came to equal that of van Eyck.
Memling was seen as the older master's match technically, with a deeper emotional resonance.
 Among later civic collectors, German museums were in the vanguard.
Edward Solly's unusually far-sighted 1818 purchase of six panels from van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece hung in Berlin.
 When in 1848 the paintings of Prince Ludwig of Oettingen-Wallerstein at Schloss Wallerstein were forced onto the market, his cousin Prince Albert arranged a viewing at Kensington Palace; though a catalog of works attributed to the School of Cologne, Jan van Eyck and van der Weyden was compiled by Waagen, there were no other buyers so the Prince Consort purchased them himself.
 In 1860, when Charles Eastlake purchased for the London National Gallery Rogier van der Weyden's The Magdalen Reading panel from Edmond Beaucousin's "small but choice" collection of early Netherlandish paintings that also included two Robert Campin portraits and panels by Simon Marmion, it was a ground-breaking acquisition.
ResearchSignificant research on the Netherlandish painters occurred in the 1920s, in German art historian Max Jakob Friedländer's pioneering Meisterwerke der niederländischen Malerei des 15.
This was followed by the analysis of Erwin Panofsky in the 1950s and 1960s.
This research tended to focus on establishing biographies and interpreting the complex iconography, while more recent research, notably by Lorne Campbell of the National Gallery, London, relies on X-ray and infra-red photography to develop an understanding of the techniques and materials used by the painters.
The modern academic rediscovery of the art of the period and era climaxed with Friedländer's two works, 1903's Meisterwerke der niederländischen Malerei des 15.
Jahrhunderts and the 1916 Von Jan van Eyck bis Bruegel.
Friedländer's work mainly focused on providing biographical detail on the painters, establishing attribution, and closely examining the major works, an extremely difficult task, given the lack of surviving biographical detail or even historical record on most of the major artists.
Working near contemporaneously, Panofsky followed Friedländer's lead but paid more attention to the painting's iconographic meaning, an area in which Friedländer had almost no interest.
 Panofsky was responsible for developing the language with which the Netherlandish paintings are usually described, and made significant advances identifying the rich religious symbolism of the major altarpieces.