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Belgian And Dutch Renaissance - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )

A general comparative analysis of essential differences between Gothic and Renaissance architecture is given on p. 547.

A. Plans.—The internal planning of Gothic churches was often trans-formed to suit changes in ritual, but this applies more especially to Holland. New churches were not built till late in the period, and then chiefly in Belgium, where they followed the ordinary Renaissance model or affected the newer Baroque freedom in plan. In secular architecture, plans indicate a growing regard for domestic convenience, while the purpose for which the new town halls and guild houses were designed is seen in the large rooms of assembly which were now required. The science of elaborate symmetrical planning for public buildings reached its greatest development in the Palais de Justice, Brussels.

B. Walls.—Walls, decorated with Orders and pierced with large windows (pp. 656, 666) were of stone or brick, or a combination of both. They lack the pronounced horizontal cornices of Italy, and are instead generally finished off by scrolly gables, often containing the crane or hoist. They are picturesque in appearance, often Baroque in outline, and over-ornate in detail (p. 665 B).

C. Openings.—Arcades were unusual, because unnecessary owing to the absence of that strong sunlight which made them universal in Italy. The Italian method was, however, sometimes followed, as in the court-yard of the Musee de Plantin, Antwerp, where arcades served as covered ways between the domestic and business premises (p. 666 B). Doorways display much fertility in design, and were enclosed by the Orders and often surmounted by pediments with niches, statuary, and heraldic carving (p. 671 E). Window openings still needed to be large, as the previous period ; mullioned and transomed windows were still favoured, and, with their architectural treatment, they often occupied a large part of the wall surface (pp. 666, 668).

D. Roofs.—The high-pitched roofs suitable for a northern climate are utilised for storage, and the gables enclose the crane for hoisting goods, which is so characteristic and useful a feature in the houses of the trading families of the Netherlands (pp. 668 c, G, 671 c). Dormer windows, storeyed spires and chimney-stacks break the roof surface (pp. 666 B, 668 D, E).

E. Columns.—The Orders, which play a conspicuous part in the design, often show great elaboration of detail in rustication, panelling, and grotesquely carved capitals (pp. 665, 668 G, 671 G), and many novelties in treatment were introduced when the Baroque style came into fashion.

F. Mouldings.—Mouldings have the same tendency to coarseness exhibited in the Gothic period ; but the mouldings of rood lofts and other church fittings, which are executed in marble or wood, often display greater refinement (pp. 668, 671). _

G. Ornament (pp. 668, 671).—Ornament is seen in church fittings (p. 671 A, B), carved panels (pp. 668 F, 671 F), stained glass, staircases (p. 671 H), doors (p. 671 D), and household furniture. The High Altars, baldachinos, rood lofts, choir screens, organ cases, pinnacles, finials (p. 668 A, B), pulpits, canopies, and confessionals, with their wealth of carved ornament (p. 671 j, x), form some of the most notable achievements of the woodcarvers' craft in Europe. The remarkable " tabernacle " in S. Leonard, Lean (A.D. 1552), rises to a height of 50 It. in nine tapering stages. It is a Renaissance version of a Gothic spire, and here Hermes figures, columns, niches, and carved statues jostle one another in elaborate confusion. There is a reproduction in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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