Arts Essays - Devotional Diptych

Devotional Diptych

As one enters the Chrysler’s medieval room, one is non instantly drawn to the Andachtsbild nestled in the corner. It hangs unobtrusively, waiting for a viewer’s quiet contemplation. Once discovered, the spectator sees Christ, Man of Sorrows, painted by Aelbrechts Bouts ( 1455-1549 ) . This oil painting depicts a “close-up” of the caput and shoulders of a crucified Jesus. He holds his custodies face out demoing the lesions inflicted at his Crucifixion. His robe is red, his tegument a semitransparent cool puce viridities juxtaposed with his ruddy cloak. He wears a braided Crown of irritants, his face tear-streaked, demoing the shadows of hurting. His hair is long and dark, and he wears a face fungus. His caput jousts down, and his eyes look toward the bottom right of the canvas ; they are bloodshot. Jesus is set against a gold background reminiscent of Byzantine art. It is dotted ruddy to reiterate his unfastened lesions and bloody face, underlining Christ as a holy icon removed from a specific clip or topographic point. It is speculated that the picture was originally paired with an image of the Virgin Mary in her function as Mater Dolorosa. Why did these images, particularly Andachtsbild diptychs, resonate with the Northern personality ; what are their beginnings and map? This paper will endeavour to research briefly the development of devotional diptychs and their map, the society in which they gained popularity, and Aelbrechts Bouts, the creative person and his work.

Development of the devotional diptych

So what is a devotional diptych? Simply, it is a image or other work of art dwelling of two parts confronting one another, hinged together to make a ‘book’ . It was created to promote an intimate connexion with the spiritual figures portrayed and to promote requests for redemption, to mediate on behalf of the individual praying ; and, in the instance of the devotional portrayal diptych, the giver. Devotional Images and diptychs are non new ; their beginnings can be traced to the consular diptychs of the Greeks around the 6th century before Christ.

There are four major types of devotional diptychs ; the Man of Sorrows confronting the Mater Dolorosa was based on an ancient Byzantine paradigm. The dual portrayal, developed during the 15th century, showed a married twosome ; created to mark their matrimony or the birth of a kid. Last, the devotional portrayal, in half or full-length, portrayed a giver portrayal confronting the Virgin and Child.

Diptychs can be rectangular or gabled and folded in half to protect the images within if moved. The diptychs signifier made it easy for the Renaissance frequenter to transport it with them to pattern their devotednesss wherever they wished. It could be held in one’s custodies, placed somewhat unfastened on a pillow, or placed ‘standing’ on an communion table.

The most common devotional diptych was that of the Man of Sorrows, like our work in the Chrysler. This image developed from the Byzantine epitaphios image, which perchance dates to the 8th century. By the 13th- century it was going common in the West as an Andachtsbilder for private contemplation and supplication. They were vastly popular among the Catholic faithful and used to emphasize the handiness and human nature of the Madonna and her agony Son.

History of the Netherlands 1450 – 1550

Before one can get down to understand the power and usage of these images, one needs to understand the historical context in which they arose. “From the late Middle Ages on, backing of the humanistic disciplines in the northern Netherlands was a characteristic characteristic of the civilization of the Church, the tribunals, the nobility, the metropoliss, corporate groups, burgher households, and in ulterior centuries, cultural organisations and individuals.”

The earliest tribunal of the northern Netherlands, that of Duke Albert I of Bavaria ( r1358 – 1404 ) commissioned a big aggregation of art. A ulterior trustee, John of Bavaria, brought Jan new wave Eyck to The Hague in 1422. A brief diminution ballad with the Dukes of Burgundy while seated in Dijon and Brussels. Art backing was revived under Mary of Guelders who corresponded with her comparative Jean, Duc de Berry. Yet most plants were underestimated in that they were patronized by a adult female. Finally, it is the Valois Court which had the most impact on the devotional diptych and which this paper will concentrate.

‘The Burgundian Netherlands is a part consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and northern France ruled by the Valois Court, a plebe line, from the terminal of the fourteenth to the terminal of the 15th – century. Their regulation was a disruptive clip of territorial enlargement and political control ; it was besides an epoch of great artistic productiveness and cultural growing. Burgundian Netherlands was one of Europe ‘s richest centres of commercialism, agribusiness, maritime and the humanistic disciplines.

The Court attracted some of the most gifted creative persons of the Renaissance period. Philip the Good ( 1396–1467, r. 1419–67 ) and Charles the Bold ( 1433–1477, r. 1467–77 ) were celebrated art frequenters. The big tribunal was based in Brussels around 1441, but because the dukes liked to go from one abode to another, their impact and backing were widespread and stimulated the humanistic disciplines throughout the part. Bruges, a favorite finish of the dukes, was home to such Masterss as Jan new wave Eyck, Petrus Christus, Hans Memling, and Gerard David. Appointed official tribunal painter by Philip the Good, new wave Eyck undertook artistic committees and traveled extensively on the duke ‘s behalf. Rogier van der Weyden ( 1399/1400–1464 ) settled in Brussels and, although non an official tribunal painter, painted for Burgundian tribunal. We see manuscript light, small-scale spiritual panels and votive images in cherished metal grow. These objects allow us insight into the devotional patterns of the ducal circle and an influence on common mans every bit good.

The Valois tribunal impact on the commissioning of devotional diptychs was impressive. “Evidence from the Chartreuse of Champmol, every bit good as from the ducal stock lists, shows that the dukes were the first to committee and possess devotional diptychs” The first ocular grounds tie ining the a diptych with the tribunal is that of the Virgin on one wing and Christ on the other, seen in a commemorating image, demoing Eues IV showing Pope Clement VI, owned by the Duke of Burgundy. Their presence stimulated local trades and industries, such as the production of metalwork for armour and arms, rock sculpture for funeral memorials, enamel and Ag work for mundane and ceremonial objects, and tapestries, and expressed the prevailing tribunal gustatory sensation for luxury goods.

Following the accession of Charles the Bold ‘s girl, Mary of Burgundy ( 1457–1482 ) in 1477, and her matrimony to the hereafter Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian in the same twelvemonth, the impact of Burgundization was slowed and diluted. In the early 16th century, Mary and Maximilian ‘s girl, Margaret of Austria ( 1480–1530 ) , who would go trustee of the Netherlands, initiated an ambitious resurgence of Burgundian patronage—but under Habsburg regulation.

Religious influence: The Church, Devotio Moderna, and the outgrowth of the Reformation

From the late Middle Ages on, backing of the humanistic disciplines was a feature of the Church. The Church sought to supply cathedrals which inspired backing at smaller ecclesiastical constitutions ( parish churches, collegiate churches, convents, and monasteries ) , local tribunals, temporalty, civic organisations and the person.

Devotio Moderna

A group of Christian humanists sought to analyze Bibles in their original linguistic communications and to return to the first rules of their faith. Purpose on distributing spiritual apprehension, they began to interpret the Bible into the common linguistic communications. The terminal of the 15th century saw a popular religious resurgence of a more mystical nature, characterized by such plants as Thomas a Kempis ‘Imitatio Christi. The Renaissance belief in the “ perfectibility of adult male ” made people less content with things as they were and more interested in bettering the here and now. The church was “corrupt” : keeping huge wealth, exerting tremendous political power and waging war.

TheDevotio modernamotion, ( developed by Gerard Groote and Florent Radewijns ) emerged. They stressed the importance of an individual’s interior life, with great accent on speculation. Following the illustration of the crude church, they lived a devout, communal life, wore simple vesture, practiced spiritual and religious exercisings which centered on speculation on wickedness, decease, judgement, heaven and hell, and the humanity of Christ. Their purpose was to function God and to bring on others, by their illustration, to seek redemption. The Brethren besides maintained residence halls or inns for hapless students go toing local schools.

“The Brethren were encouraged to execute religious exercisings that were within the capacity of all, including speculation before a devotional image or after reading a text. Nicholas of Cusa ( 1401–64 ) , a protagonist of the Brethren, summed up in a discourse in 1451 what must hold been the attitude of many of the Brethren towards art: ‘All images are worthwhile ; they are venerable in so far as they call to mind the saints and typify their lives.’ Owing to the figure of students in the Brethren’s attention, these thoughts were permeant and must hold spread throughout the artistic community. The evident crudity and realistic exactitude and the accent on expressiveness to be found in much 15th-century northern Netherlandish art owes something to the thoughts of theDevotio moderna.” It must be noted that commissioning of pretentious plants was non the in the vain of the Devotio Moderna. They saw it as a fiscal load and a undertaking motivated by pride and amour propre.

The temporalty ( both Devotio Moderna and others non associated with their motion ) felt the church had more involvement in run alonging their pockets than in advancing the public assistance of their “ flocks ” . The Christian humanists criticized these all-too-human weaknesss, while endeavoring for a purer church. There was no peculiar purpose of interrupting from the church at this clip, simply a passion for bettering it.


In 1517, a monastic, named Martin Luther, produced his 99 Thesis. A difference about who was entitled to a cut of the grosss generated by apostolic indulgences provoked the contention. It was Luther ‘s belief that Christians are saved by religion, and faith entirely, and that no sum of plants ( including the purchase of indulgences ) made any difference at all. This along with the “media explosion” , and an addition in literacy created a powerful consequence on the public. The right to read and construe Bible lead to the throwing off of the ironss of papal and ecclesiastical authorization, and a duty of laymans in their ain spiritual devotedness and piousness.

It is this opulent and devout society of Aelbrect Bouts in which the devotional diptych reached its Zenith. Before we conclude let’s expression at Aelbrect Bouts and his topographic point and plants, in this disruptive clip.

Who was Aelbrect Bouts?

Aelbrect Bouts, considered a Flemish primitive, was the boy of Dieric Bouts, official painter of Leuven and a laminitis of the Haarlem school of painting with Albert new wave Ouwater and Geertgen tot Sint Jans. Dieric was known for his part to 15th – century Netherlandish picture. Not much is known about him or his work.

Aelbrect was born in Leuven c. 1452-5 vitamin D 1549, and married twice. Described as a ‘moderate painter’ , he established a workshop which specialized in modest devotional plants and were sold in the market at Antwerp. However, as merely three plants carried his monogram, the ascription of legion plants presumed to hold been painted by Aelbrect and his workshop are questionable, particularly when one considers the pattern of mass production in the Antwerp market. Most plants attributed to him are of the crude iconography in the signifier of a diptych with a flop of Christ as the Man of Sorrows, juxtaposed with a flop of the praying Virgin, Mater Dolorsoa. “He besides perpetuated composings invented by his male parent like the Last Supper and Holy Sacrament, and Christ in the House of Simon.”

His manner compared to that of his father’s is heavier, that is, the curtain on his figures has intricate pockets of creases hiding the signifier of the organic structure. His brushwork is thicker, colourss darker and muddier. He often followed the composings of his male parent and therefore that of Rogier van der Weyden, every bit good as Hugo van der Goes. “His designs tend to be overcrowded, and in his landscape backgrounds the lucidity in spacial projection is obscured by the repeat of landscape motifs… reflecting the passage between the 15th century manner of his male parent and the eclectic manner of Antwerp Mannerism prevalent in the early decennaries of the 16th century.”


In decision, the devotional diptych, although non new, gained popularity predominately in the Burgundian Netherlands due to the enlargement and mobility of the Valois tribunal and the desire of ballad individuals to take a more active function in their ain personal relationship with God. The spiritual motion of the Devotio Moderna and Martin Luther influenced Aelbrechts Bouts, like many creative persons of his clip, catered to the Netherlandish community by making plants of humanistic disciplines for personal devotedness.

Plants Cited

Conway, Martin: “New Light on the Flemish Primitives”The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 48, No. 274. ( Jan. , 1926 ) , pp. 24+28-31.

Davis, Virginia: “Brethren of the Common Life” Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, [ 3/3/2008 ] , hypertext transfer protocol: //

Friedman, Jane B. An Iconological Examination of the Half-length Devotional Portrait Diptych in the Netherlands, 1460-1530. Dissertation, Los Angeles, University of California, 1977.

Gelfand, Laura Deborah. Fifteenth-century Netherlandish Devotional Portrait Diptychs: Beginnings and Function. Dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, 1994.

Hand, John Oliver, Metzger, Catherine A. , and Spronk, Ron, eds. Prayers and Portrayals: Blossoming the Netherlandish Diptych. Washington: National Gallery of Art, Yale University Press and New Haven and London, 2006.

Maere, R. transcribed by Tinkler, Michael C. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume V. Published 1909. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York, [ 3/3/2008 ] hypertext transfer protocol: //

Panofsky, Erwin. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Beginnings and Character. Vol. 1. New York: Harper & A ; Row, 1971.

Ridderbos, Bernhard, Anne Van Buren, and Henk Van Veen. Eds. Early Netherlandish Paintings: Rediscovery, Reception, and Research. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

Schwartz, Gary: “ Kingdom of the Netherlands ” Grove Art Online. Oxford University

Imperativeness, [ 3/3/2008 ] , hypertext transfer protocol: //

Snyder, James: “Bouts: Albrecht” Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, [ 3/3/2008 ] , hypertext transfer protocol: //

Wisse, Jacob. “ Burgundian Netherlands: Court Life ” . In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000– . hypertext transfer protocol: // ( October 2002 )


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