(Fine Arts Museum, Valencia)

The International Gothic aesthetic became a highly decorative and recognisable style that dominated Europe in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

* Report by Karla Ingleton Darocas, Hons. B.A. (KarlaDarocas.com)

The style found its roots in the development of European society and culture during the late Middle Ages. A new social class emerged in the cities that was not tied to land or a lord. European cities flourished as commercial and economic centres that were now independent of the power of the church or the feudal aristocracy 

The bourgeoisie developed as a middle class of craftsmen and merchants who worked together to create a new economic reality and new social values. These guilds were an important part of mediaeval society. They looked after the economic interests of individual localities and became regulators of the economy.

The nobles of the feudal aristocracy, on the other hand, had to abandon their castles and fortified manors and move to the cities, where they were closer to the courts of their rulers.

As the century progressed, the courtly nobility gradually adopted the new economic and social values of the bourgeoisie, while the bourgeoisie struggled to gain prestige and copy the aristocratic way of life.

This was also a time of great cultural exchange. In this way, the painterly taste and techniques of the international Gothic spread throughout Europe.

The works of the International Gothic were expensive and refined, richly coloured and decorative, with abundant use of gold. The lines were flowing and curved. Costumes were made with great care and adorned with an abundance of sinuous folds. The figures of the characters were stylised. The women were pretty, the old men had extra-long beards, and they all had elongated fingers 

Icon painting was abandoned in favour of a more rational use of perspective, modelling and backdrops, creating a style all its own, unknown in the West.

There was a new trend towards paying attention to nature and depicting the world more realistically. Animals, plants and the elements of daily life were carefully and faithfully reproduced. But symbolism was not lost either, a visual language that appealed to the cultured clientele at the aristocratic courts 

The narratives were friendly and entertaining. There was a mixture of sacred stories with secular characters and of course patrons were included in these tales. The style was presented with a chivalric and courtly flair.


The Golden Age of Valencia was a great cultural movement. It encompassed all the sciences, medicine, humanities and arts of the time and produced the best literary works written not only in the Kingdom of Valencia but also in the Valencian language 

This century between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was enlivened by close relations with the Italians. The King of Aragon, Alfonso V the Magnanimous (1416-1458), settled in Naples, where he maintained a glittering court until his death in 1458. He was a patron of the arts. He founded the Academy of Naples and had a magnificent triumphal arch installed at the main gate of the Castel Nuovo for his entry into the city in 1443. His son Ferdinand II succeeded him in Naples with the same splendour.

From Valencia, Alfonso the Magnanimous began an expansive foreign policy in the Mediterranean. The bourgeoisie of Barcelona fled to the Kingdom of Valencia, where work was plentiful. Barcelona suffered a severe decline and sank to 14,000 inhabitants, while the city of Valencia grew to 75,000 in the middle of the century. 

The Valencian capital became the economic, political and social centre of the Crown of Aragon and so the intellectual, literary and artistic circles flourished and spread their benefits and influence throughout the kingdom.

It was in Valencia that the first Bible in the Romance language in Europe was printed (1478), by Fray Bonifaci Ferrer, brother of Saint Vincent, with the authorisation of the Vatican. This was a big deal, because Bibles were only allowed to be written in Latin.


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