Art and Devotion in Northern European

Please note: this is archived course information from 2023 for ARTHIST 203.


Northern European Art 1400-1600 is a survey of art in Northern Europe with the focus on developments in painting and sculpture and to a lesser extent in manuscript illumination and tapestry. The emphasis is on the changes and developments of art within the Low Countries during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Various themes such as religious symbolism, the techniques of painting, the portrait and approaches to landscape representation will be examined, as well as the development of new genres such as still life and peasant subjects. There will also be study of major individual artists such as Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hugo van der Goes, Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel.

Each week there will be two lectures on the art of the period and one tutorial. The tutorial programme is intended to compliment the lectures and will address general themes such as the treatment of religious subjects, Italian attitudes to northern art, drawing and underdrawing, genre and low life painting, and Northern Mannerism.

Availability 2023

Not taught in 2023



Recommended Reading

The two standard works on the period are:

Panofsky, E., Early Netherlandish Painting, Its Origins and Character, 2 vols.

Friedländer, M. J., Early Netherlandish Painting, transl. H. Norden, 14 vols (arranged according to artist; the volumes are listed under the individual artists below)

As both these texts were written quite some time ago they do not include any recent research findings. For this material see the reading lists.


A good new introduction is:

Nash, Susie, Northern Renaissance Art


Other useful general books are:

Cuttler, C., Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel

Snyder, J., Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture and the Graphic Arts from 1350-1575

Dunkerton, J., Foister, S., Gordon, D., and Penny, N., Giotto to Dürer. Early Renaissance Painting in The National Gallery

Campell, L., The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Schools (This is the catalogue of early Netherlandish Painting in the National Gallery, London and contains valuable new information on Bouts, Campin, Van Eyck, Rogier and Memlinc.)

Campbell, L., The Sixteenth Century Netherlandish Paintings with French Paintings before 1600, 2 vols. (This is the new sixteenth century catalogue with valuable new information on Bosch, Gossart, Bruegel, Patinir and Beuckelaer among others)

De Patoul, B. and Van Schoute, R., Les Primatifs flamands et leurs temps ( In French, but the most up to date survey and very good colour plates)

Ainsworth, and Christiansen, K., From Van Eyck to Bruegel, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum, New York, 1998. A useful recent survey.

Harbison, C.,  The Art of the Northern Renaissance (a brief recent survey)

Stechow, W., Northern Renaissance Art 1400-1600, Sources and Documents

Wolfthal, D., The Beginnings of Netherlandish Canvas Painting 1400-1530

For painting techniques, the most recent and comprehensive account is:

“The Methods and Materials of Northern European Painting 1400-1550", in National Gallery Technical Bulletin, 18 [1997], pp. 6-55.


Coursework + exam


ARTHIST 203: 15 points


15 points at Stage I in Art History and 30 points passed