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Clara Erskine Clement

Vase-painting was another art very much practised by the ancients. So much can be said of it that it would require more space than we can give for its history even in outline. So I shall only say that it fills an important place in historic art, because from the thousands of ancient vases that have been found in one country and another, much has been learned concerning the history of these lands and the manners and customs of their people; occasionally inscriptions are found upon decorated vases which are of great value to scholars who study the history of the past.

The Middle Ages extend from the latter part of the fifth century to the time of the Renaissance, or about the fifteenth century. The painting of this period has little to attract attention if regarded only from an artistic stand-point, for we may truly say that, comparing it with the Greek art which had preceded it, or with the Italian art which followed it, that of the Middle Ages had no claim to the beautiful.

The paintings of the catacombs date from the third and fourth centuries after Christ. The catacombs, or burial-places of the early Christians, consist of long, narrow, subterranean passages, cut with regularity, and crossing each other like streets in a city. The graves are in the sides of these passages, and there are some larger rooms or chambers into which the narrow passages run. There are about sixty of the catacombs in and near Rome; they are generally called by the name of some saint who is buried in them.

During the Romanesque Period (950-1250) architecture was pursued according to laws which had grown out of the achievements and experiences of earlier ages, and had reached such a perfection as entitled it to the rank of a noble art. But this was not true of painting, which was then but little more than the painting of the Egyptians had been, that is, a sort of picture-writing, which was principally used to illustrate the doctrines of religion, and by this means to teach them to peoples who had no books, and could not have read them had they existed.

The Gothic order of architecture, which was perfected during this period, had a decided influence upon the painting and sculpture of the time; but this influence was not felt until Gothic architecture had reached a high point in its development. France was now the leading country of the world, and Paris came to be the most important of all cities: it was the centre from which went forth edicts as to the customs of society, the laws of dress and conduct, and even of the art of love. From France came the codes of chivalry, and the crusades, which spread to other lands, originated there.

The reawakening of Art in Italy which followed the darkness of the Middle Ages, dates from about the beginning of the fifteenth century and is called the Renaissance. The Italians have a method of reckoning the centuries which differs from ours.

Flanders formerly embraced a larger part of Belgium than is contained in the present Belgian provinces of East and West Flanders. It also covered a portion of Holland and some territory in the northwest of France. The principal Flemish towns connected with the story of Flemish art were Bruges, Tournai, Louvain, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Mechlin, Liege, and Utrecht.

Spanish painting had its birth during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and may be said to have been derived from Italy, through the influence of the Italian painters who went to Spain, and the Spanish artists who made their studies in Italy. But in spite of this strong Italian influence Spanish painting has its own characteristics which separate it from all other schools, and give it a high position on its own merits.Antonio del Rincon (1446-1500) was the first Spanish painter of whom we know.

The French school of painting does not date earlier than the sixteenth century, and the painters of that time were few in number, and little is known of them. Before the time when a French school could be said to exist the kings of France employed foreign artists to decorate their palaces and churches, and they naturally turned to the Italians for all that they needed. Hence it happened that in its earliest days the French school was almost entirely under Italian influence, and I shall first speak of French masters who studied in Italy.

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