Close Looking- A Comparative analysis of Masaccio vs. Campin

Masaccio’s Holy Trinity and Rogier Campin’s triptych of the Merode Altarpeice were painted at about the same time. Compare and contrast them from the point of view of:

1) scale ( intimate private devotion versus life-sized scale for public viewing);

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2) handling of the medium ( tempera vs. fresco) ;

3) treatment of space ( domestic versus monumental, intuitive vs. measured space) and;

4) “contemporary ” references that would affect the viewer’s experience

What is inconsistent about Campin’s definition of space, and points of view? Explain how Masaccio’s use of vanishing point perspective makes his painting more of an “event” from the point of view of the person standing right in front of it. How do the two works reflect the different concerns of Italian and northern European artists? ( obsession with textures, miniature details, and lighting effects, vs. complex and precise definition of a plausible space that appears to project in front and behind the figures)

Look at the symbolic references in each painting. Identify the “disguised” symbols in the everyday objects in the Merode altarpiece. Where are the patrons located in each work and how do their how similar poses reflect upon the sacredness of the scene? What is the Virgin Mary doing in each painting? Where is the holy spirit indicated in each painting? How is the sacrifice of Christ portrayed in each painting?

In each painting locate the various symbolic references to past, present, and future times, including the immaculate birth of Christ, the defeat of the devil and the inevitability of human death. Identify the various “here and now” details in each work that augment the “reality” of what is being shown to the viewer.

Compare and contrast the various references that these artists make to the world beyond the scenes they depict ? ( city life, continuity with an actual chapel). Why do you think that Campin included ”anachronistic” views outside the windows and doors in the Merode Altarpiece that do not describe ancient Bethleham? Why do you think Masaccio was so concerned with defining an architectural space behind and in front of Christ in the Holy Trinity? How does “illusionism” in each work of art operate to make it seem as if the religious vision is happening in real time and space?

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