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Realismus als Katalysator. Der Genter Altar – vom Bildsystem zum Gattungssystem

Wolfgang Kemp

Published online:

22 Nov 2020



The Ghent Alterpiece organizes twelve panels in horizontal registers in its closed, and 14 in its open state. This interpretation takes up three topics: the ordering of the individual panels in their horizontal and vertical display, the formal treatment of the two principal orders of Christian art – thematic (e.g., the Deesis) and narrative (e.g., the Annunciation) –, and the rise of new genres such as portrait, landscape, still life, and interior within the structure of the multipanel altarpiece. What can be identified as the driving force is the realistic mode. In a unique way it unites the whole – namely through acknowledging one single exterior source of light for every item – yet divides it at the same time by honoring the intrinsic qualities of particular objects and situations. This is the beginning of what Yirmiyahu Yovel has called “the adventure of immanence.”

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Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte Issues

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