During the past week or so our group has been doing a research assignment on Gothic art and architecture. In the following paragraphs, we will be discussing Gothic art and architecture, the Rayonnant Gothic period, and sculpture.
From about 1140 to the end of the 16th-century religious buildings, stained glass, and illuminated manuscripts and other decorative arts came to be known. The architecture was predominant in this period.
At the beginning of the second half of the 12th century, the creation of large cathedrals in northern France took full advantage of Gothic vaults. Vauts with intricate patterns are the main architectural ornamentation. With the Gothic vault, a ground plan could take on a variety of shapes.
The general plan of the cathedrals, however, consisting of a long three-aisled nave intercepted by a transcript and followed by a shorter choir and sanctuary, differs little from that of Romanesque churches. A cathedral is a church of the Bishop. It must be the largest, finest, and most richly adorned in the district. Mainly they are figures of people, animals, plants, scenes from the Bible, figures of saints, and representations of virtues.
Next, during the long reign of Louis IX, from 1226 to 1270 Gothic architecture entered a new phase, known as the Rayonnant. The word Rayonnant comes from that of radiating spokes, like those of a wheel, especially of the enormous rose windows that are one of the features of the style.
Also, height was no longer the prime objective. The architects reduced the masonry frame of the churches, expanded the window areas, and replaced the external wall of the triforium with traceried glass. In most cases, all these features of the Rayonnant were incorporated in the first major undertaking in the new style, the rebuilding of the royal abbey church of Saint-Denis.
However, of the earlier structure, only the ambulatory and the west facade were preserved. In the evolution of Gothic architecture, the progressive enlargement of the windows was not intended to shed more light on the interiors, but rather it provided an increasing area for the stained glass.
Flamboyant architecture originated in the 1380s by the French court architect Guy de Dammartin. Flamboyant architecture received its name by the flame-like forms of curvilinear tracery. The style was used mainly in churches. Flamboyant style traveled extensively in France from the late 15th century to the early 16th century. The interiors were simplified drastically when they eliminated the capitals of the piers and reduced them to masonry supports.
Gothic sculpture in the 12th and 13th centuries were predominantly architectural in character. The largest and most important of the figures are the over-life-size statues on either side of the doorways. Romanesque statues assume a feeling of grace, sinuosity, and freedom of movement in the 1180s. They are supported by colonnettes, which are known as statue-columns. The statue-column lead to free-standing monumental statues, a form of art unknown in Western Europe since Roman times.
The earliest surviving statue columns are at Chartres. In 1400 Claus Sloter did sculpture for Phillip the Bold, Duke of Normandy. He did sculptures of slender willowy figures, firgures in vast voluminous robes, and he created images of sorrow out of drapery. His best works were in the late Gothic period. The gothic sculpture had a creative heartland in France, yet it had some outstanding sculptural monuments in Germany too.
In the early Gothic period, slim columns support the vaults, and dividing were now eliminated for flowing space in later interiors. In the High Gothic period the second-story gallery, from Romanesque churches, was omitted and a simple third story was added. The third story gave them height. The clerestory was lite in the bays or a rose window. The high Gothic period was inaugurated at Chartres.
The influence of French Gothic architecture on Europe was profound. In England itself, it only twice saw French Gothic architecture. The English had their own art form that was based on length and horizontality. The first adopted full repertory of the french Gothic ways was by Giovanni Pisano. English devised their own Gothic style from putting all the Flamboyant style together. They called it Perpendicular Style. Perpendicular Style devised fan vaulting, which spreads panels to be in accord with rectangle panels usually on walls and windows. Stained glass emulates designs of moralized Bibles.
Magnified versions of dormer windows, called lucarnes are attracting features of the exteriors of cathedrals. Secular movements were large in the late Gothic period. They included civic halls, belfried towers, and town halls. They were eventually replaced by graceful chateaux. In the beginning, the Gothic period was known as such. The middle ages were barbaric to most Renaissance Italians and the Goths were known as Barbarians, so the style became known as Gothic art.
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