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A History of Art for Beginners and Students

In Germany there were guilds or trade associations


Another advantage on the side of Italian art was the fact that Italy was a land of grace and beauty; its people were more refined in manner, more elegant and picturesque in their costumes than were those of Northern Europe, and all the influences surrounding the Italian artist were far more favorable to a development of his artistic nature than were those of France or Germany. Then, too, the remains of antique art which were within reach of the Italian sculptor were quite shut off from others. For all these and other reasons the sculpture of the north was more tardy in taking on the better spirit and form of the Renaissance, and as a whole it never became as pleasing to most people as was the sculpture of Italy.

In a former chapter we have spoken of the sculptor Claux Sluter and his work at Dijon in the fourteenth century; the desire which he showed to make his figures like the men they represented, and a general study of nature rather than of older works of sculpture, had much effect upon the sculpture of his time, and gradually became much exaggerated. German sculptors tried not only to make exact portraits of the faces and heads of their figures, but they gave the same attention to imitating every detail of costume and every personal peculiarity of the model from which they worked. This tended to weaken and narrow their own designs, and the whole effect of their work is fantastic and exaggerated--an effect quite opposed to the noble and harmonious treatment of the whole which the best Italian masters strove to attain.

The attempt to produce startling effects in German art made such subjects as the Passion of Christ, the Temptation of St. Anthony, and the Martyrdoms of the Saints to be constantly repeated, and many reliefs are overloaded with such details as may very properly be used in painting, and which belong to _picturesque_ art, but which take away the dignity and calm grandeur which should make the spirit of sculpture. But there is one feature of German sculpture at this time which appeals to our sympathy--that is, the deep, earnest feeling which pervades it, and which constantly tried new methods of expression.

In Germany there were guilds or trade-associations, and the members of these guilds were allowed to work in the special branch only of sculpture which belonged to their company, so that this art was divided by more fixed lines than in Italy, where, in truth, at the period of which we speak, the Florentine school was a supreme power, and its sculptors, as we have seen, worked in as many sorts of sculpture as pleased them.

The schools of Germany were far more independent of each other, and the entire organization of art in Germany was very different from that of Italy.

One of the most prominent effects of the architecture of Germany was to drive the sculptors to seek for such work as had no relation to architecture, and an important result from this was the great attention which they paid to wood-carving; indeed, this was the favorite pursuit of the German sculptors for many years. About the middle of the fifteenth century the importance of this art in Germany was far greater than those of bronze-casting or stone sculpture.


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