oil plant against fresco

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Oil paint was perfected, as a medium, in the early 1400’s in Northern Europe. At the time, the Renaissance was beginning in Italy, but artists there were using tempera and fresco for their works.

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In the first half of the 15th century Jan van Eyck, a great Northern European painter, produced an impressive, large-scale painting called The Ghent Altarpiece, while in Italy a great Early Renaissance painter, named Masaccio, created a work called The Tribute Money.

Research each of these works and write brief essay.

For each work, offer a brief history. Then consider the medium of each piece. (Focus on close-up images of God from The Ghent Altarpiece, and Jesus from The Tribute Money.) Zooming will let you see the differences better.

What is each medium made from?

How does the oil painting look different from the fresco?

What is it about the respective media that make them look different from one another?

In the case of these two works, did each medium have its own advantages? If so, what were they?

Jan van Eyck, God, panel from The Ghent Altarpiece, ca 1432. Church of St. Bavo, Ghent Belgium.

Masaccio, The Tribute Money, ca. 1427, Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence.


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