Welcome to Fifteenth-Century Art, the website and blog of the project Identifying with the Art of the Fifteenth Century supported by the British Academy.
My name is Robert Maniura. I am an art historian at Birkbeck, University of London and I will be using this site to advertise events associated with the project and post material arising from research.
My project explores the art of the fifteenth century in Europe and the interests which have shaped its study. Occupying a central place in conventional narratives of western art, the period tends, however, to be viewed very selectively, especially in terms of geographical focus. My aim is to prompt an expansion of the field of view and open up a discussion of the range of issues raised by the art.
The history of the art of this period has long been urged to adopt a wider scope and especially to engage with the birth of colonialism in the age of exploration. However, the leap to a global focus threatens to marginalize still further currently neglected parts of Europe, and it would be a missed opportunity if the discipline failed to engage with the art histories of the ‘new Europe’ which has emerged after 1989. My project is a prompt to take up the challenge of the full diversity of the art of Europe in a period of radical change.
The header shows a view of the vault of the chapel of the Holy Cross in the cathedral on the Wawel hill in Cracow, the old capital of Poland. The paintings, dating from 1470, are by artists from what we would now call northern Russia and their appearance conforms to the traditions of Orthodox Christianity. They contrast sharply with the ribs of the gothic vault, also dating from the fifteenth century, a style associated with Western, or Latin, Christianity. This encounter exemplifies the richness and complexity of European traditions which the project aims to explore and highlight.