Many paintings have been acclaimed due to various reasons. This article aims to look deeper into the works of art identified as the Merode Altarpiece which was attributed to Robert Campin, who was given the title as the Master of Flémalle and the Holy Trinity painted by Masaccio. Said pieces of work is said to have been created during the same period that is 1425 to 1428. Nevertheless, their paintings demonstrates different and various influences of the Italian and northern styles, correspondingly, which bring about pristine and unusual work of art.
The Annunciation triptych recognized as the Merode Altarpiece, is said to be an oil paint on wood consisting of a center panel with a size of 25 1/4 x 24 7/8 inches, a left wing with a size of 25 3/8 x 10 3/4 inches and a right wing with a size of 25 3/8 x 11 inches. Thus, it is said to be a thumbnail image. The painting is said to be found in the Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
On the other hand, The Holy Trinity is set on coffered vault painted alter with skeleton and is said to look like a marble. It was positioned at the eye level of normal persons looking at the painting which is 5 feet high. The portraits in a genuflecting position are life sized. Accordingly, the external scaffold is life-sized too. The length of the archway is 7 feet; based on the said figure a determination of the circumference of the arch is calculated to be around 11feet. The coffers are said to be of 1 foot wide and the ridges are 4 inches.
Looking at the details of the miniature image of the Altarpiece, it is said that its subject is Annunciation, as it portrays divine figures, excepting the patron figures which are painted at the left wing. At its center, it shows the Archangel Gabriel proclaiming to the Virgin Mary about her pregnancy with the child Jesus. Both are clothed in their flowing robes. At its right wing shows the clattered workshop of Joseph.
The painting depicts the images at their most comfortable positions, but far from lavish interior that would represent wealth. Instead it is coordinated by the plenty of fixtures, domestic device, and junks. Though the Holy Spirit also has the same characters, its portrait is much different since it depicts a grown up Christ place at the upper half, in a coffered, barrel-vaulted church. On the other side is the Virgin Mary, and at its opposite is St. John. It also shows Christ supported by God the Father with the Dove of the Holy Spirit resting on Christ’s halo. Beneath the altar is tomb and within the tomb is a skeleton that other says representing Adam.
Based on the above description, it can be stated that Masaccio’s Holy Trinity do not focus its work on enhancement and idealistic flair of the International Style. Instead, it stressed on the naturalistic and humanistic vision of the figures. It made used of its observation and mathematics combined with the method of linear perspective of creation, as popularized by Brunelleschi. Thus, the illustration of portraits at the external portion of the doors is so alive that they seem to fade as they viewers move further from it. This is because linear perspective replicates the outcome of forms getting smaller as the distance extends. Besides, it has also made used of the pyramidal composition which at the time of Renaissance period was well-known.
The whole creation of the painting therefore is said to be stable yet dynamic. On other points of the painting, it also said the robe have profound creases and tucks that augments the impression of shadows. As to the human form, its total appearance is not perceived; the effect only gives a faint representation of the figure. Massacio uses the forms symmetrically in the creation of the painting which gives every detail its own weight and mass. The wall painting is peaceful, and has the tendency to produce a sad mood. The frame of mind or mood is advanced by the dimness of the painting, and the heavy shadows cast.
As regards, Robert Campin’s style, it demonstrates the homely facet and down-to-earth naturalism which may be related to the artist. In its entirety, his works are illustrated by a vigorous and extremely developed realism and interest for the particulars of every day existence. Thus, it comprises most of the stylistic progression. Moreover, the aristocratic style and ornamental technique has been transformed to a serious and clear-cut realism. The ornamental creation of line is still evident in the intricate folds of the Virgin Mary’s piece of clothing. This may also be seen in the apparent painting of the figures. It is for this reason that he became one of the influential and significant creative painters.
As to the message which the painter want to impart to its onlookers, the picture of the Merode Altarpiece is made to show to us that the holy family is easily reached by each and every one of us, including the common man. Furthermore, the portraits, although heavenly, are not withdrawn and majestic figures of a divine kingdom but down-to-earth and devoid of halos. Aside from the fact that it illustrates a depiction of significance in internal domesticity one can also say that the objects in the portrait have religious symbolism. Other even says that in a way it has a disguised representation. For example the lilies signifies the purity and wholesomeness of the Virgin, while that of the snuffed candle denotes that material light fail in the attendance of the holy light of God.
Another is the small figure of the child Jesus, handling a cross and soaring in through the closed window pane. The said figure can be said as pictographic to be symbolic, but it does convey that Christ was conceived by Mary as though the light penetrates glass. In fine, the chaotic familial ambiance of the central panel and Joseph’s workshop has made the symbols in this Annunciation painting as comfortable. Though others say that the work failed to achieve a workable perspective, the representations in this painting has contributed in making Robert Campin a master of extreme accuracy in presentation of objects and people.
In contrast, though passing away and suffering are the central idea in the Holy Trinity, it can be said that it is a symbol of hope since the river at the back of St. John, symbolizes baptism, and the wine-red sky signifies the blood of Christ. It is in these representations that hope of salvation is depicted to the viewers and on-lookers.
Furthermore, the most probable understanding of the Trinity is that the work of art alludes to the time-honored medieval twofold chapel of Golgotha, in the company of Adam’s tomb in the lower portion in addition to the Crucifixion in the higher part. Nevertheless, it can also simulate the importance of the expedition that human spirit have got to undertake to achieve deliverance, commencing from the mortal life, the physical being, then by prayer as shown the genuflecting figures and the intervention of the Virgin and John the Evangelist to the Trinity.
In sum, the painting shows the divinity and earthly life of the Holy family that is their lives here on earth and in heaven. It also goes to show that we as humans need deliverance with the help of saints in as much as we are susceptible to evil. In the end, it reminds us the divinity of Christ and that only Him can deliver us to a life ever after.
Portico, The Merode Altarpiece, http://www.portifex.com/LArts/Merode.htm
Merode Altarpiece, http://www.artchive.com/artchive/C/campin/merode_altarpiece.jpg.html
Masaccio`s Holy Trinity