Nils Büttner

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online September 2013 | | DOI:

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy


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This article concentrates primarily on landscape art and the visual depiction of natural scenery. It took a long time before the term “landscape” gained acceptance as the name of a painting genre. It first came into general use during the course of the 17th century, though as early as 1521, Albrecht Dürer had referred to his Antwerp colleague Joachim Patinir as a “gut landschafft mahler” (“good landscape painter”). The term became commonly used by 1604, when Karel von Mander used it in the prequel poem to his Schilder-Boeck (“painter-book”) for young painters, where he dedicated a whole chapter to landscape. The first landscape paintings originate from a time long before panel painting and its generic terminology were established. Among ancient wall paintings, many landscape images have survived. Furthermore, there is at least some literary evidence for the existence of antique panel paintings, for example in the work of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio; in particular the Vitruvian ideal of decorating interiors with “topia,” or evocations of places, which was postulated in his De architectura libri X (Book 7, chapter 5, Parts 1–3) exerted an important influence on early modern art. Examples can be found in the landscape paintings alleged to Studius (or Ludius), mentioned in Gaius Plinius Secundus’ work Naturalis historia (Book 35, chapters 116–117) Apart from chorographia, usually translated as “depictions of specific geographical regions or nations,” the locus amoenus, or “pleasant place” or idyll, was one of the most popular subjects in both secular and sacred contexts. From ancient times landscape images have combined esthetic pleasure with allegorical reference. Landscape paintings were used to depict geographical regions based on explorers’ interest, but could also be instrumentalized to legitimize claims of ownership, which may be the reason why landscape murals retained their unbroken popularity as a decorative element until the early modern period of privileges and power claims, landscape images have ornately decorated the palaces of the mighty from the Middle Ages to modern times. Yet landscape motifs also played an important role in the privileged imagistic media of tapestries and book and calendar illustration. Especially in the field of court art, the whole range of functional and receptional contexts noted from the era of antiquity onward remained alive. Thus, landscape imagery in panel painting remained a form of art in its own right and was in no way limited to merely forming the backgrounds of sacred history paintings.

Article.  6113 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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