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Merode Altarpiece essay

Merode Altarpiece essay - Everyday Life Interrupted by...

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Everyday Life Interrupted by Religious Iconography Robert Campin's Merode Altarpiece is a triptych painting depicting the annunciation of the Virgin Mary. The panel on the left displays the donors who commissioned the painting. They are kneeling on the ground outside and peering through a door as they attempt to catch a glimpse of Mary. The center panel, which is the largest of the three panels, displays Mary who is lounging and sitting across from the archangel Gabriel. This panel also includes a tiny figure, possibly representative of Christ, flying in through the window holding a cross. Occupying the right hand panel is Joseph who is working as a carpenter to produce mousetraps. According to art historian Meyer Schapiro in his article “Muscipula Diaboli,” the Merode Altarpiece is laden with religious iconography. The piece has a deeper theological meaning which makes it appealing to spectators. The physical objects represented throughout the images each possess a specific religious meaning. This coincides with the idea that the Merode Altarpiece is indicative of everyday life. At first glance, the images appear realistic but simultaneously too idealistic to correspond with everyday life. Schapiro delves deeper into this notion by dissecting the functions of the seemingly mundane objects presented throughout the images and imbuing them with religious meaning. The central panel of the triptych conveying the annunciation of Mary is idealized through its intricate style. Mary sits on the right hand side of the image reading a book while Gabriel stares in her direction from the other side of the table in between them. Mary appears aloof and completely unaware of what is going on around her, in fact there is no indication that she is even aware of Gabriel’s presence. Instead she sits on the ground performing the common action of intently reading a book. Mary appears very still in the midst of what is occurring around her. This scene Campin depicts is representative of an everyday action Mary might perform, however
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the way in which he paints her is almost too convincing to be real. Both Mary and Gabriel appear angelic due to their flawless skin and golden curls. The paint is opaque and does not display much depth or tone through its coloration. However each area is so intricately painted that it is almost believably real. Also, this scene takes place in a house, a familiar domestic setting. The intent of setting the scene in this location is to further associate religious iconographical images with a sense of everyday life.
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Merode Altarpiece essay - Everyday Life Interrupted by...

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