- Term Papers and Free Essays

History Of Art

Essay by   •  December 10, 2010  •  2,779 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,100 Views

Essay Preview: History Of Art

Report this essay
Page 1 of 12

The Protestant Reformation and its impact on Art

In the sixteenth century the Protestant Reformation took place in Northern Europe and put an end to the unity of the Roman Catholic Church. This movement started when a man by the name of Martin Luther got frustrated with what was going on around him such as corrupt practices and posted his 95 Theses on the church door. The 95 Theses was a list of his complaints against the Catholic Church. He took this extreme measure after noticing the practice of church officials selling indulgences in order to raise money for artistic commission. Indulgences were purchased by common everyday people from church officials and they basically allowed those who were sinful to pay their way into heaven. Martin Luther strongly felt that this was wrong and not what God or Jesus intended. The church asked him to take back his 95 Theses but he refused.

Luther then questioned the church’s authority to grant salvation because he strongly believed that human salvation should be based solely on an individual’s faith. Luther also believed that everyone should be able to read and interpret the bible on their own therefore he translated the bible making this possible. Lastly Luther disapproved of the Church’s use of art due to it being materialistic. Luther was eventually excommunicated from the Church in 1520. He then came up with the Protestant Reformation and challenged the Catholic Church. Due to the invention of the printing press, Luther's reforms were quickly spread through Europe bringing much support from his followers.

Art during the Protestant Reformation was limited and close to even being banned due to the idea of iconoclasm. Protestant reformers rejected the use of visual arts in the church hence they did not even have many churches. Protestants were so severe in their beliefs that stained glass windows were broken, images of the saints were destroyed and pipe organs were removed from the churches. The only reason they used art was to teach the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, hence the subject matter was based on daily life and events. For example there were paintings of people during that time and it was mostly unrelated to religion.

Albrecht Durer was a German artist from this time period. He was a follower of the Protestant beliefs which is clearly shown in his piece The Four Apostles. In this painting, two figures, John the Evangelist and Saint Peter, are shown reading the Bible. This is representative of the Protestant ideal of getting common everyday people to read the Bible. There is also an inscription on the bottom of this piece stating that people should be aware of those prophets who fallaciously attempt to teach from the bible.

Likewise another major work of art produced during the Protestant Reformation is the piece Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a donor and his family (Triptych of a Protestant family) by Ludger Tom Ring. This piece was produced in between 1575 and 1580 and it was painted as oil on wood on a central panel. Its dimensions are 31 3/8 by 37 and 5/8 inches with each wing being 32 by 14 and 5/8. It is currently located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This painting is a triptych meaning it is a three piece panel and this dates back to the Flemish period. During the Flemish period many artistic techniques were discovered such as the oil medium, the use of disguised symbolism, and humanism. Using an oil medium was an efficient procedure in art because it brought the painting to life and made it look more realistic. The usage of disguised symbolism was a way for artists to include various everyday objects in their artwork while giving their piece a deeper meaning with these objects. Lastly humanism was also carried on from the Flemish time period to the Protestant Reformation because it brought heavenly figures down to earth and allowed person to relate to them which was a major ideal of the Reformation.

In this middle ground Christ is standing behind a table surrounded by a devout family from Westphalia. This family seems to consist of a father, mother, two sons, and a daughter. This painting possibly depicts the wedding of the thirty three year old son to the eighteen year old girl. The family as a whole has not been identified but they are painted in close proximity to Christ indicating that they were Protestant since Catholics would not have been allowed to be depicted as having such a familiar relationship with Christ.

The people in the painting are extravagantly dressed indicating that it is an important occasion. The women are dressed in black and gold dresses and wearing lavish necklaces and the men are wearing fur like coats. In the foreground there are many objects in the piece which serve as disguised symbolism. On the table below Christ there are flowers scattered across and a bible on the left side underneath the man’s hand. The flowers symbolize themes of a wedding such as love, commitment, faith, and fertility. The Bible is a symbol that it is read on a daily basis in this specific home. In the background on the wall, there are hangings which are different texts from the Gospel of Saint John and Psalms.

This piece of art and many others during this time period was clearly an emphasis upon literacy of the bible which reflects Luther’s teachings during the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s final goal was to have individuals read and interpret the Bible for themselves rather than depend on a clergyman. As a result the Protestant Reformation removed public art from religion as they moved towards a more secular style of art which embraced the concept of glorifying God through the portrayal of the natural beauty of His creation and by depicting people who were created in His image.

The Counter Reformation and its impact on art

Following the Protestant Reformation the Counter Reformation was initiated by the Roman Catholic Church as a response to the threat of the Protestant Reformation and iconoclasm. Art during this time followed several guidelines such as greater clarity, realism, emotional drama, dogmatic instruction, and the avoidance of genital nudity. Biblical subjects were supposed to show maximal faithfulness to the Bible and to Christian history, avoiding legendary saints and events invented in the middle ages. The Baroque style of art emerged from this reformation in which art was a synthesis between classical idealism and naturalistic detail along with the use of intense drama, emotion, and action.

To deal with the challenges of the reformation, Pope Paul III convened a church council which met



Download as:   txt (15.6 Kb)   pdf (169.6 Kb)   docx (15 Kb)  
Continue for 11 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 12). History Of Art. Retrieved 12, 2010, from

"History Of Art" 12 2010. 2010. 12 2010 <>.

"History Of Art.", 12 2010. Web. 12 2010. <>.

"History Of Art." 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010.