French Arts – Gothic


The core landscape of the Gothic is the Île-de-France, where influences from Burgundy (pointed arch, triforium), Normandy (ribbed vaults) and Provence (three-portal facade) formed a logically well thought-out building system. The first early Gothic building was built around 1130 under Abbot Suger New abbey church of Saint-Denis (vestibule consecrated in 1140, ambulatory completed in 1144). Early Gothic cathedrals are those of Sens (1140 ff.), Chartres (burned down after 1130 ff., 1194; the west facade with the two towers and the crypt), Noyon (around 1150 ff.), Senlis (1153 ff.), Laon (around 1160 ff.) And Paris (Notre-Dame, 1163 ff.). What is new about the early cathedral buildings is the increasing dissolution of the wall through large colored glass windows. The structure of the external building also became more and more delicate, as the high arching had to be supported by buttresses. The Romanesque demarcation of individual components (central nave, side aisles, transept, choir) gave way to the lighted overall space. The function of load-bearing and load-bearing components was made visible down to the smallest details. The classic high-Gothic building is the new building of Chartres Cathedral (after 1194), from which inspiration for architecture all over Europe emanated. He was succeeded by the cathedrals of Soissons (1180 ff.), Reims (1211 ff.) And Amiens (1221 ff.). The tendency was to lengthen the choir so that it was almost the same size as the central nave, with the chapel wreath and walkways even exceeding the central nave in width. This moved the transept into the middle between the choir and nave. The galleries above the arcades were omitted, the window openings in the upper arcade were given the same dimensions as the arcade openings. Their grouping, each with two pointed arched windows and a rose window, was decisive for the further development. The tracery window became a main theme of Gothic building. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Gradually, the cathedrals were made oversized. In Bourges (1195 ff.) A five-aisled basilica was created, which was further developed in the Le Mans choir (1217 ff.). The high choir of Beauvais Cathedral (1225 ff.) Collapsed in 1284. The further course of the Gothic period produced an abundance of delicate, seemingly fragile forms, but no new constructive architectural possibilities. The small Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1241 / 42–48), completely dissolved in glass, is symptomatic. It was probably Pierre de Montreuil who, inter alia. the south transept facade of Notre-Dame in Paris created (1258 ff.), its master builder. The other French art landscapes reinterpreted the Gothic style in their sense. In Normandy, the wall was dissolved into an abundance of plant ornaments (Lisieux Cathedral, after 1160 ff.). In Poitou the hall church continued to dominate (Cathedral in Poitiers, 1162 ff.). Decorative and architectural elements were only adopted in detail in the south. In the cathedral of Albi (1282 ff.), One of the most important Gothic buildings in southern France, the vertical was emphasized by pillars and slender windows, but the overall impression remained well-fortified. In Burgundy, the harmonious proportions of the early Gothic were preferred (Notre-Dame parish church in Dijon, around 1230 ff.).

From the 13th century on, secular architecture gained increasing importance: palaces, fortress-like castles and city reinforcements (Sens, Archbishop’s Palace, around 1240; city fortifications of Carcassonne, 13th century), later also bourgeois houses and public administration buildings. As a result of the Hundred Years’ War, construction activity, with the exception of Charles V’s buildings in Paris (enlargement of the Louvre, construction of the Bastille, etc.) and the Papal Palace in Avignon (1334–52), came to a temporary standstill. Numerous residential and town halls from the 15th and 16th centuries have survived (Palace of Justice in Rouen, around 1500; town halls of Compiègne, Arras, Douai, Noyon and Saint-Quentin; houses in Rouen and Bayeux; the house of Jacques Cœur in Bourges, 1443-53).

In the 14th and 15th centuries there were hardly any major church buildings of any importance (renewal of the choir of the abbey church of Sainte-Trinité in Vendôme, 1306 ff.; Abbey church of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, 1318 ff.). The Gothic ended in the flamboyant style. In addition to the representative cathedral architecture, buildings of the reform and mendicant orders were built. The simplicity of the architecture, straight choir closures and the lack of towers were characteristic of the Cistercian churches, which were exemplary in the subsequent period (Fontenay, around 1130–47). Franciscans and Dominicans also did without towers, their churches had no transept (Église des Jacobins in Toulouse, founded around 1227, renewed in 1260 ff.).


Even in the Gothic period, sculpture remained mostly associated with architecture, albeit in a new way. At the west portal of Chartres Cathedral (king portal, around 1145–55) the figure detached itself from the background in full plastic and became a statuary as a column. The robes were strictly stylized and adhered to the body, which only loosened around 1170 in the portal figures of the Senlis Cathedral and appeared in the High Gothic in a free, relaxed posture (transept portals of the Cathedral of Chartres, around 1200 ff.; vestment statues of the central west portal of the Reims Cathedral, second quarter to the middle of the 13th century; figures of the Apostles in the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, 1243–48). New types of images emerged such as the “Beau Dieu” of the central west portal of Amiens Cathedral (around 1230) and the “Vierge dorée” (standing Madonna with child, around 1255–60) on the south portal. The grave sculpture gained in importance especially in the 14th century; A greater resemblance to portraits was sought (grave figures Roberts II of Artois, 1317–20, and King Charles V, 1364 ff., In the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis). Around 1400 Burgundy became a center of monumental sculpture, v. a. by the Dutch C. Sluter (portal and Moses fountain of the Chartreuse de Champmol near Dijon, 1386–1401 and 1395–1404 / 06; tomb of Philip II the Bold, 1384–1411; Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts). The second center next to Burgundy was in the 15th and 16th centuries. Century the Touraine. The monumental sculpture was v. a. further developed by M. Colombe, whose work already led to the Renaissance (tomb of Francis II, Duke of Brittany, and his wife, 1502-07; Nantes Cathedral).


In the course of the 12th century, the monastic centers lost more and more importance for illumination, and in the 13th century Paris became the decisive center for the illumination of manuscripts. This is where, among other things, the most important testimony to the transition from Romanesque to Gothic, the Ingeborg Psalter (around 1210; Chantilly, Musée Condé), and the psalter of Louis IX the saint (between 1256 and 1270; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France). The architectural motifs are Gothic, the figures act vividly, their shapes are supple, a striving to represent the real world becomes clear. The miniatures of the newly developed type of “Bible moralisée” (inter alia 1230–40; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France) followed on from the stained glass of the cathedrals. In the early 14th century J. Pucelle created a courtly and elegant style in his miniatures; the spatial allusions are inspired by Italian art (“Book of Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux”, around 1325–28; New York, Metropolitan Museum). His successors increasingly strove to understand people in their natural environment (Bible of Jean de Cis, around 1355; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France). Related to contemporary miniatures are the passion scenes of the »Antependium of Narbonne« (around 1375; Paris, Louvre) painted on silk. Among the most important achievements in book illumination of the 15th century are the books of hours of the Limburg brothers created forJean de France, Duke of Berry (including “Très riches heures”, completed by J. Colombe between 1411 and 1485; Chantilly, Musée Condé). The highlight are the works of J. Fouquet, including the miniatures for the »Antiquités judaïques« by Flavius ​​Josephus (probably between 1470 and 1476; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France) and “Les grandes chroniques des rois de France” (around 1465; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France). One of the last masterpieces of French illumination was created by his successor J. Bourdichon with the “Great Book of Hours of Anna of Bretagne” (around 1500-07; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France).

Due to the large number of tracery windows, wall painting lost its importance. It was replaced by stained glass with outstanding achievements, particularly in the cathedrals of Chartres, Le Mans, Bourges, Laon and in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Wall painting took off in Avignon in the 14th century under Italian influence (frescoes in the Papal Palace, 1343/44). Avignon also became the center of panel painting. The main masters of the Avignon School are E. Quarton (“Pietà von Avignon”, between 1454 and 1456; Paris, Louvre) and N. Froment (“The Burning Bush”, 1475/76; Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Sauveur). Masterpieces of panel painting are also by J. Malouel and H. Bellechose, both of Dutch origin and active in Dijon at the Burgundian court, as well as passed down by S. Marmion, the master of Moulins and in particular by J. Fouquet.


The famous »Apocalypse of Angers«, which was probably made for the cathedral (today Angers Castle) from drawings by J. Bondol, is an excellent testimony to image weaving. The center of goldsmithing was Paris, where, in addition to Limoges, the art of enamel was cultivated.

French Arts - Gothic