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Early Renaissance painting

Early Renaissance painting bridges the period of art history between the art of the Middle Ages and the art of the Renaissance in Europe.

Two regions of Europe were particularly artistically active during this period: northern Europe (essentially Flanders) and Italy. The Renaissance is considered to have reached northern Europe in the 16th century. Thus, most of the Early Renaissance works in northern Europe were produced between 1420 and 1550.

Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and wife
Jan van Eyck - Painted 1434

Table of contents
1 Themes and symbolism
2 Techniques
3 Flemish artists
4 German artists
5 Italian artists
6 Works
7 Main viewing locations

Themes and symbolism

The works of art of this period feature mainly religious themes (the Church was the main client of these artists), but also some purely figurative themes.

The religious symbolism is largely drawn from the work of Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend (1260).

Some more mundane themes were treated, but they were often treated via a religious or mythological representations. For instance, Early Renaissance artists sometimes used the theme of Adam and Eve as a way to represent female and male nudes in a then morally acceptable way. Sometimes a fig leaf covered their genitals.


The use of perspective is also notable in these paintings.

Flemish artists

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Adoration of the Lamb
(interior view) painted 1432.

German artists

Italian artists


Main viewing locations

The Pre-Raphaelite painters of the 19th century - literally before Raphael (1483-1520) - copied the style of Early Renaissance paintings.

See also: International Gothic