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Northern Renaissance Artby James Snyder
In many respects the text before you is an act of homage, a tribute to how well James Snyder's original text, now two decades old, has held up since it was written. At the same time, however, items and images have been added to introduce students to material that has attracted scholarly attention in the intervening years. A new design and expanded color have enhanced both the value of Snyder's analyses and the results of more recent scholarship. The text has been trimmed in places where Snyder was perhaps over-dependent on a few older scholars (e.g. Fraenger on Bosch, Tolnay on Bruegel), whose views are no longer held to be either essential or well-founded. Where Snyder used his own scholarship and his keen interests, particularly in Netherlandish painting, Dutch painting in particular, his insights remain lasting and fundamental, as valid as ever for today's students.
James Snyder also had his biases, and they sometimes made his book unbalanced. His preoccupation with the chronology of Jan van Eyck has been tempered and his apologetic comparisons of Northern art to the prevailing canon of the Italian Renaissance toned down. Relatively thin sections on Germany have been expanded to restore balance. More attention has also been paid to manuscript traditions in France, Flanders, and Snyder's beloved Holland. His discussion of sculpture and tapestry has been expanded to highlight historical developments in those media. In addition, his treatment of sculpture and prints has been reorganized. Whereas he confined sculpture and prints to their own separate chapters, in this edition they have been unified to unveil the accomplishments of those more versatile artists who worked across media, such as Schongauer (engravings and paintings) and Pacher (sculpture and paintings). Another result of this reunification of parts means that Snyder's own fundamental insights into Dutch printmaking and printed book illustrations can now be seen together with the paintings that he did so much to elucidate.
The revised text has also been arranged according to centers, except for a few chapters that focus on single artists. In fact, Snyder's original idea of starting with Bohemia sets the tone for the future considerations of place that follow, including chapters on regions as well as cities (Ghent, Bruges, Augsburg, and Basel), which form the main topics of organization for the artists and their works.
In editing and revising this text, our hope has been to update (especially in the notes and bibliography) and to clarify the valuable, evergreen textbook of James Snyder from 1985. Attentive comparison will chiefly reveal integration of media within reorganization by centers of art production, while still capturing Snyder's excitement for the period and its artists. We offer it anew to the current generation of students.
In closing, the authors would like to acknowledge the meticulous assistance of their students, Freyda Spira, Rebecca Merz, and David Malda, and the job-like patience of both their venerated teachers and long-suffering family members.
Larry Silver, University of Pennsylvania
Henry Luttikhuizen, Calvin College
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