Saturday, October 4, 2008

16th Century Northern European Art Reflects Principles of the Protestant Reformation

German theologian Martin Luther sparked the Reformation by posting his Ninety-five Theses. He wanted to reform the Catholic Church due to the sale of indulgences. The only things they did that he accepted were baptism and Communion. Luther believed one could not earn their salvation, but it was received by the grace of G~d. Luther translated the Bible because it was the scriptural authority of G~d, and he wanted everybody to have access to it.

Woodcut prints were used as devotional aids by the Protestants because they were easy to print, distribute, and the least expensive to produce. Catholics decorated their church with religious art such as altarpieces and ceiling frescoes. Protestants believed that looking at religious images could lead to idolatry. During the Great Iconoclasm, statues, paintings and other artworks were destroyed because they were considered to be idolatrous.

Albrecht Durer’s Last Supper woodcut was based on Communion in remembrance of Christ. Durer painted Four Apostles and was not paid which indicates that he had strong beliefs for Lutheranism. After Durer went to Italy and studied, he included what he learned into his art. In his engraving, The Fall of Man, he used mathematical ratios for human proportions.

The Protestants belief in faith and following what the Bible said resulted in less extravagant art. They wanted to put a stop to the production of lavish ornamentation found in the Catholic churches. The artists’ influence and ideas during the time of the Reformation movement spread throughout European countries.

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