What was the impact of the Black Death on the arts in fourteenth-century Europe?
The Black Death is one of the worst pandemics in human history. Between 75 and 200 million people died during the plague (Platt, 2014). This plague left the world with much despair and sadness and greatly influenced art from the late 14th to 17th Century. There was a direct connection between the plague and religion. Most people interpreted the plague as punishment from God (Meiss, 1978). The fear of hell and respect for God increased significantly. This influenced the artists, forcing a lot of religious-inspired art.
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The Black Death reinforced realism in art. Most of the art developed in this period reflected the religious climate of the time. For instance, various medieval art from the Black Death depicts a woman surrounded by men and children, signifying an angel and human beings seeking salvation for the sins that were taking place on earth (Meiss, 1978). Portraits and sculptures that reflect the idea of death were also very popular in this period. The concept of “omnia vanitas,” tran”lating to “all”is vanity,” was “he mood then. “any art based on this concept reflected death as the future (Medrano-Cabral, n.d.). They encouraged people to live a positive life because they were all approaching death, which would determine whether they would go to heaven or hell. Black Death also influenced artistic buildings, especially those of wealthy men. Homeowners developed structures aiming at protecting themselves from the plague. Therefore, many systems designed at this time tend to have fortification elements.
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Medrano-Cabral, S. (n.d.). The Influence of Plague on Art from the Late 14th to the 17th Century. Retrieved from: www.montana.edu/historybug/yersiniaessays/medrano.html
Meiss, M. (1978). Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death: the arts, religion, and society in the Mid-fourteenth Century (Vol. 1148). Princeton University Press.
Platt, C. (2014). King Death: The Black Death and its aftermath in late-medieval England. Routledge.
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