III. Medieval World

Rosalind Whitman

  • Expulsion from Paradise, tempera and gilding on panel

  • Maria Eva, tempera and gilding on panel

  • Maria Eva, hand coloured etching

  • The Expulsion from Paradise, hand coloured etching

  • The Annunciation and the Visitation, after Melchior Bröederlam, tempera and gilding on panel

  • Expulsion from Paradise, bronze relief

  • Man in a Turban after Jan van Eyck, tempera and oil on panel

  • The Magdalen Reading, after Rogier van der Weyden, tempera and oil on panel


The Medievals did in fact conceive of a beauty that was purely intelligible, the beauty of moral harmony and of metaphysical splendour. This is something which only the most profound and sympathetic understanding of their mentality and sensibility can restore to us nowadays.
Umberto Eco, 2002

The vibrant and profound images of the epoch that Eco describes were the motivation behind my exploration of early European painting, its aesthetic, and its specialised uses of methods and materials.

Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden

In order to begin to understand through hands-on experience how contemporary arts practice differs from that of medieval and Renaissance artists, I undertook in my research a form of training based upon the imitatio method.

Imitation did not mean mere copying, but the detailed absorption of past models of excellence, so that excellence is known from within.
(Maria Angelo, 2005)

In visual arts practice this process of imitatio begins with technique, moves forwards through critical reflection, and finally is transferred to the individual practitioner who participates through dwelling with it, thus making the image her own. Examples of early works provide models and exemplars as learning tools, but also provide a means to reach a deeper understanding of pre-modern approaches to the role of art, its practice, and – for my purposes - the medieval aesthetic.

My two paintings based on Jan van Eyck’s Man in a Turban, and Rogier van der Weyden’s The Magdalen Reading are examples of this method of research; also see my paintings, Maria Eva and Expulsion from Paradise, adapted from illuminations by The Limbourg Brothers and Berthold Fürtmeyer.