Foreshadowing the Reformation: Art and Religion in the 15th Century Burgundian Netherlands, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Foreshadowing the Reformation

Art and Religion in the 15th Century Burgundian Netherlands, 1st Edition

By Christopher Herbert


164 pages | 20 Color Illus.

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Foreshadowing the Reformation argues that paintings are the history of ideas in visual form. It follows, therefore, that if we are to fully understand and appreciate the late Medieval and Renaissance paintings of great Northern European artists such as Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden, we need to investigate the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of the time. It has been quite fashionable in Medieval and Renaissance Art History over recent decades largely to ignore the contemporary religious context and to concentrate instead on the part played by economics in the creation of works of art. Much has been made, for example, of the costs of materials, the role of markets, international trade and the commissioning process—all of which are undoubtedly important. This book looks to redress this balance through its description and analysis of religious and spiritual ideas, and by offering new, exciting and radical insights about some of the paintings, altarpieces and sculptures that were created. This book argues that there was a symbiotic relationship between those artistic and spiritual worlds and that by bringing the insights from those worlds together we can get a much richer appreciation of medieval life.


"…his combination of solid art-historical scholarship, theological insights and an enviable ability to ‘read’ a painting in both detail and depth is very rewarding indeed.(…) This excellent book must also be commended as an invaluable, and portable, accessory to viewing such artworks in situ."

- Graham Howes, Trinity Hall, Cambridge in Theology journal, issue 120.3 (May/June) 2017

Table of Contents

1. Foreshadowing the Reformation

2. An Overture to the Themes of the Book: Robert Campin: The Dijon Nativity

3. Religion and Art in the Service of the Burgundian Dynasty

4. Funerary Monuments and Entombment Groups: Religion and Art in Large Format

5. Books of Hours: Religion and Art in Small Format

6. Religious Belief and Practice

7. The Devotio Moderna

8. Paradoxes of Time and Place: Robert Campin: The Mérode Altarpiece

9. Political Power in a Theological Setting: Jan van Eyck: The Rolin Madonna

10. The Beauty of the Divine Drama: Jan van Eyck: The Ghent Altarpiece

11. Death and Salvation: Rogier van der Weyden: The Beaune Last Judgement

12. A Turning Point? Rogier van der Weyden: The Prado Deposition

13. The Individual’s Destiny? Hans Memling: The Last Judgement

14. Enriching Imagination: Hans Memling: Scenes from the Passion of Christ

15. Individual Devotion: Hans Memling: Christ at the Column

16. Concentrating on the Individual: Three Portraits and the Holy Face

17. Conclusions

About the Author

Christopher Herbert has a life-long interest in the field of art history and has also written numbers of books in the area of spirituality. He was Bishop of St Albans until his retirement in 2009. He has an M.Phil and a Ph.D. in the field of Art History from the University of Leicester, plus honorary doctorates from the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Bedfordshire.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christian Church / History