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The Flemish Primitives: The Masterpieces Hardcover – September 7, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The gorgeous reproductions, with many large details, are as good as they come with a text that's readable and informative."--Seattle Times

"This is a truly gorgeous book with more than 200 sumptuous reproductions, a showcase for these master painters of the Northern Renaissance whose system of painting in transparent layers yielded colors of saturation and depth never before seen. The color is rich and exact and the detailed plates show every nuance of the gold and damask cloth depicted in these luminous painted surfaces."--Sue Hubbard, The Independent

"This is essentially a book that could be transformed into an astonishing exhibition."--Martin Gayford, Sunday Telegraph

"Though careful to incorporate the latest scholarly findings, de Vos keeps the tone lively and readable. . . . The Flemish Primitives deserves high acclaim as a model of a sumptuous and satisfying approach to artbook publishing."--Ann Landi, ArtNews

About the Author

Dirk de Vos, formerly Curator of the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, is the author of several books on Flemish painters, including "Hans Memling: The Complete Works" and "Rogier van der Weyden: The Complete Works".

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069111661X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691116617
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 9.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,251,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Buy this book for the pictures. If you're here not by accident, then you must buy this book. There is almost nothing of this breath-taking pictorial quality, especially for the details. Are the letters "JANEYCK" hidden in the letters of the "Campin's" Merode vase? Did you know the Eyck's Adam had hairy nipples? This book may well allow you to see/believe that Hubert was not Jan's shadow, but actually the better painter, as the contemporary inscription always claimed. Shiver as you see the enamelling under the jewels on Jesus' medallion, then check out His hem-stitchery. See Jan's red shadowing of wrinkles in his self-portrait centuries before Rubens. The Portinari triptych: Is there smoke coming from St Anthony's nether region and did you see the shoe in St Margaret's monster's mouth? At least now you can clearly see.
Should you find what you're looking for in the text, that's a bonus. To me a lot is arthistoriantalk, mixed with some of what's available as scholarship. Description of routine skinfolds as "calligraphic", a routine thumb as a "taut crescent moon" are over the top. Then again, how does one describe chocolate or espresso other than via perfumery? You'd be hard pressed describing the male hands of the Goes "Adoration" without hyperbole. Buy this book. Perhaps other publishers will realize the standard they need to meet. So too the coming generation of Eyckian revival painters now struggling to see, as the Flemish Primitives saw.
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Format: Hardcover
The Flemish Primitives by Dirk de Vos is one of the most beautiful art books I have ever seen. Each of the twenty chapters is devoted to a single work by one of the eight painters rather inappropriately dubbed the Flemish Primitives. Their work was anything but primitive in the everyday sense of that term. The work of the masters of the Flemish School of the fifteenth century is characterized by a heightened realism, crystalline clarity of light, extraordinary attention to minute detail, intensely saturated color, a profound religious sensitivity, and an astonishing ability to reveal character through facial expression and bodily gesture. Nevertheless, these works never let the staggering accumulation of precise detail and the intricate symbolism of objects and setting obscure the overall sense of design and pictorial unity. If you have never fully appreciated the work of van Eyck, van der Goes, Memling, or van der Weyden, this book will convince you of their greatness. It will also remind you that there was a Renaissance in the North as well as in Italy -- each cross-fertilizing the other and each distinct in its approach to the handling of color and light in its depiction of religious subjects and portraiture.

The text is authoritative and readable, written in clear language and refreshingly free of art-speak. It is brief, letting the magnificent color photographs, many of them full-page, speak for themselves. Most of the illustrations focus on details that cannot be fully appreciated in any other way. The power of the paintings comes through forcefully and with great effect.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book on the Flemish masters of the 15th century surveys the age with a discussion of twenty selected masterpieces. The author, Dirk de Vos, has written a number of books in the field, including two major studies of the complete works of Hans Memling and Rogier van der Weyden. He writes with assurance, but never talks down to his reader. Scholarly details are kept down and de Vos does a good job presenting the works in a more generally accessible style. The title though is inexcusable. There is nothing 'primitive' about these masterpieces, and despite his disclaimer de Vos should know better than to use so loaded and pejorative an adjective.

The breakdown of works discussed:

Robert Campin - The Flemale Panels, The Merode Triptych
Jan van Eyck - The Ghent Altarpiece, Man in a Red Chaperon, Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, The Madonna with Canon van der Paele.
Rogier van der Weyden - The Descent from the Cross, Triptych with the Adoration of the Magi (Columba Altarpiece), Portrait of Anthony of Burgundy, Diptych of the Crucifixion.
Petrus Christus - The Nativity.
Dieric Bouts - Triptych with the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus, Altarpiece with the Last Supper.
Hugo van der Goes - The Adoration of the Magi (Monforte Altarpiece), The Death of the Virgin, The Portinari Triptych.
Hans Memling - The Last Judgement, The St. John Altarpiece, Diptych of Maarten van Nieuwenhove.
Gerard David - The Judgement of Cambyses.

This good-sized hardcover allows these works a reasonable format, but for half as much you might consider as an alternative Early Flemish Painting by Jean-Claude Frere
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