German Masters of Art

Jun 12, 2012 by

First published in 1914, Helen Dickinson’s GERMAN MASTERS OF ART will be of interest to anyone who enjoys and/or studies German art.¬† Here are a few paragraphs to give you a sense of what you will find in this book:

In the arches of the transepts are scenes from the Life of Christ. In the “Driving out the Money-changers from the Temple” the idea of an inside room is conveyed by a gate or door through which one of the expelled is being urged, bearing his scales in one hand, the other upraised in protest. In the ‘Transfiguration’ the disciples are most curiously crumpled up on the ground as if wholly overcome by the revelation. The ‘Crucifixion’ presents Christ, the Virgin and St. John, and, contrary to custom in the mural paintings of the period, which usually content themselves with the small symbolic group of three, introduces Longinus and Stefaton the man with the vinegar sponge and also three inactive though interested onlookers. The Crucified is presented according to Byzantine tradition, his body draped, his feet nailed separately to the cross. On the walls of the transept are pictures of Emperors and Kings of the period. The decorative bands of leaves and birds separating the storytelling sections are of great beauty of design and colour. The frescoes in the upper church possess much less character and interest than those in the lower church. In the apse is shown the New Jerusalem in the midst of which Christ is seated on his throne, which is upheld by the founders of the church, Bishop Arnold and his sister. Around the throne are the martyrs and the symbols of the four Evangelists. In the arch above, Christ is again pictured surrounded by apostles, martyrs and saints. On the left wall of the apse is St. John, physically on Patmos, spiritually at the guarded gate of heaven marked Portarius, gazing at the figure of the Christ which is revealed to him in a burst of flame. Somewhat later, dating from about 1180, are the frescoes in the ceiling of the former Chapter House, now a reformatory, in Brauweiler near Cologne, illustrating the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews and legends of martyrs and saints; as Mary Magdalene and the repentant thief who was pardoned on the cross, Daniel and St. Thekla closing the mouth of the lion; Cyprian the Sorcerer and St. Justine quenching the fire; St. Emilian unhurt by the sharp¬† sword; Samson, Peter, Stephen and the others who triumphed through faith. Belonging to the same period are the ‘Ten Apostles’ in the Church of St. Cunibert and the very badly damaged remains of paintings in the crypt of Sta. Maria in Capitol, in Cologne. Considerably in advance of these technically are the XIII century figures of saints with the Emperor Henry II and Bishop Engelbert in the Baptismal Chapel in St. Gereon’s Church in Cologne, in which, in spite of their defacement, the forms possess a certain stateliness. The garments hang in full, curiously massed and broken folds, rather like piles of material than like draped robes. The frescoes in the Church of St. Mary in Lyskirchen, Cologne, painted about 1280, have been thoroughly restored. They present scenes from the life of Christ, from the life of St. Nicholas and from the martyrdom of various saints. Most of the forms are typical; some few show an attempt at individualisation, but it is difficult to say how much of this is original, how much the contribution of the restorer. In Cologne Cathedral are frescoes in the choir stalls which date from shortly after 1322. On the Gospel side, which was the Pope’s side, are scenes from the legends of St. Peter and St. Sylvester; on the Epistle side, which was the Emperor’s side, the ‘Adoration of the Three Kings,’ Below these are pointed arcades, in which are, on the one side, bishops, on the other, emperors, in statuesque poses. Above the pointed arches, on a reddish brown background, are introduced such as we meet with in book illustrations gay little figures looking out from among vines, with, below them, a sort of frieze of inscriptions with decorative initials. These frescoes are in tempera and are painted almost directly on the stone work. Unfortunately they are now draped with tapestries and are therefore inaccessible. “

 

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