The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Northern European Renaissance

What is the Mérode Altarpiece?

The Mérode Altarpiece is an example of a triptych done by Flemish artist Robert Campin, also known as the Master of Flémalle. Painted in oil, the large central feature depicts the Annunciation, a scene in which the angel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she will be the mother of Christ. Gabriel’s wings are brightly colored and Mary’s drapery is deep red. She holds a Bible in her hands as if she has just been interrupted by the angel’s arrival. As is common in Northern painting, the Virgin Mary is shown in a bourgeois setting; the room looks like it belongs in an average fifteenth-century, upper-middle class home and is filled with everyday objects. On the smaller left panel, the work’s patron appears, kneeling and watching the Annunciation through a door. On the right panel, St. Joseph is shown in a workshop making mousetraps. TheMerodeAltarpiece blends the International Gothic style’s attention to detail with a sense of three-dimensional space; each of the three panels has its own single-point perspective system. It is one of the most famous Renaissance works from the Netherlands.


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