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In the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Europe experienced a period of unprecedented cultural vitality. Artistic ideas and techniques were widely shared, on paper – supported by the invention of printing – and in person, thanks to ever-growing mobility. At first, the church dominated the life of medieval people and much of the art was religious.
In the fifteenth century, mounting interest in classical antiquity and the discovery of distant continents sparked new cultural impulses. With the Renaissance came different ideas about mankind, society and belief – first in Italy and then in the rest of Europe. The ordinary citizen became more independent and more prosperous, and increasingly commissioned works of art, particularly portraits. Artists grew more self-assured and developed their own style and image.
Many aspects of this effervescent European art scene come under the spotlight in this book. At its heart are more than a hundred highlights from the Rijksmuseum’s collection: pieces made between 1100 and 1600 in the most important cultural centres of the period. This book provides a fascinating glimpse into a lesser-known area of the Rijksmuseum’s collections and a valuable, wide-ranging overview of five centuries of flourishing culture in Europe.