Thesis Statement: The tapestry design Adoration of the Magi by an anonymous Brussels weaver in ca.1476-88 (Figure 1) will be examined, in order to explain the ways in which the values and style of this image reflect the values and style of the Renaissance in the North.
The artistic concepts and styles that emerged in Italy during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries fuelled extensive changes in the cultural life of Northern European countries (Cunningham & Reich 325). The traditional religious doctrines and conservative intellectual values of the Medieval era gave way to the introduction of humanism in Northern Europe, thereby producing a new breadth of vision. The values of humanism such as love and respect are evident in the expressions of all the figures in the scene. Moreover, one of the main characteristics of northern Renaissance art was its emphasis on individualism (Cunningham & Reich 325). In the selected tapestry, the traditional nativity scene portrayed has been created in various styles by numerous artists. However, this tapestry reveals individualism in its choice of fusing the foreground with the outdoor landscape in the background.
Another core element of Northern Renaissance art was the focus on the foreground of the composition, as reflected in the tapestry image. Moreover, each figure is shown in action, including the Baby Jesus, giving an effect of dynamic movement and animation to the scene. Two of the Wise Men kneel in respect, while the third stands with head bowed. Thus, the poses and facial expressions of the Magi powerfully speak of their adoration for the new prophet. Similarly, the others are also shown to be actively engaged in this event, emphasized by two faces peering in through the window at the back.
The northern Europeans painted precisely realistic art works. This style is evident in the realistic faces of the figures and exactness of details in the image. This tapestry reveals how