[Dancing peasant couple] / AD [monogram].
Bradley Collection (Library of Congress).
During Middle Ages, Church considered dance as a sin and condemned it. Records of Medieval dance are fragmented and limited, but a noteworthy dance reference from the medieval period is the allegory of the Danse Macabre. During the Renaissance, dance experienced growing popularity. Country dances, performed for pleasure, became distinct from court dances, which had ceremonial and political functions. In Germany, originated from a modified ländler, the waltz was introduced in all the European courts. The 16th century Queen of France Catherine de' Medici promoted and popularized dance in France and helped develop the ballet de cour. The production of the Ballet Comique de la Reine in 1581 is regarded by scholars as the first authentic ballet. In the 17th century, the French minuet, characterized by its bows, courtesies and gallant gestures, permeated the European cultural landscape.
The term "Northern Renaissance" refers to the art development of c.1430-1580 in the Netherlands Low Countries and Germany. The Low Countries, particularly Flanders with cities Antwerp, Ghent, and Bruges, were, along with Florence, the most economically advanced region in Europe. As in Florence, urban culture peaked here. The common understanding of the Renaissance places the birth of the Renaissance in Florence, Italy. Rennaisance's ideas migrated to Germany from Italy because of the travels of Albrecht Dϋrer. Northern artists such as Jan van Eyck remained attached to Medieval traditions. In their paintings, Low Countries painters attempted to reproduce space, color, volume, and light as naturalistically as possible. They achieved the perfection of oil paint in the almost impossible representation of things and objects. Rather than draw upon Classical Greek and Roman aesthetics like their Italian counterparts, Northern European Renaissance artists retained a Gothic sensibility of woodblock printing and illuminated manuscripts which clearly distinguished Northern Rennaisance art from Italian. Unlike Italian artists, northern painters were not interested in rediscovering the spirit of ancient Greece. Instead, they sought to exploit the full potential of oil paint, and capture nature exactly as they found it. Unlike their Italian counterparts, who embraced a mathematically calculated linear perspective and constructed a picture from within, Dutch artists used an empirical perspective with precise observation and knowledge of the consistency of light and things. They painted as they saw and came very close to the effect of central perspective. Long before Leonardo, they invented aerial and color perspectives. More, as with real-world human vision, their far-away shapes lose contours, and the intensity of the colors fades to a bluish hue. Robert Campin (c.1378-1444), was noted for works like the Seilern Triptych (1410) and the Merode Altarpiece (1425); Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) was noted for the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) and The Arnolfini Marriage (1434); Jan Eyck's pupil Petrus Christus (c.1410-75), best known for his Portrait of a Young Girl (1470, Gemaldegalerie, Berlin); Roger Van der Weyden (1400-64) noted for his extraordinary realism as in his masterpiece Descent From the Cross (Deposition) (1435), for the Church of Notre Dame du Dehors (now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid); Dieric Bouts (1420-75) for his devotional pictures; Hugo Van Der Goes (1440-82) famous for The Portinari Altarpiece (1475) which influenced the Early Renaissance in Florence; Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) noted for The Garden of Earthly Delights (1510-15) and other moralizing works; Joachim Patenier (1485-1524) the pioneer landscape painter; and Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525-1569) known for landscape narratives such as The Tower of Babel (1563).