GOLD: Christmas At The National Gallery– Gold in Paintings

To mark the month of December, ChasingART traveled virtually to The National Gallery to view Stories of Gold. This marvelous collection of videos came out in 2017 to celebrate this special time of year.

The final video in the Gold at Christmas series explores the use of gold the 14th and 15th centuries.

During the 14th Century and Early Renaissance, the use of gold in painting reached its peak. Not only did gold add an element of grandeur and luxury to the painting, but this precious metal also infused a deeper symbolism. Artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Jacopo di Cione, and Nardo di Cione used gold to represent the divine, bringing a spiritual element to their works. Gold was also used to convey the idea of eternity and everlasting life.


Nardo di Cione Three Saints about 1363-5 Egg tempera on poplar, 159.5 x 148 cm Bought, 1857 NG581 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG581

Jacopo di Cione and workshop The Coronation of the Virgin: Central Main Tier Panel 1370-1 Egg tempera on wood, 206.5 x 113.5 cm Bought, 1857 NG569.1 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG569.1

Gold was also used to convey the idea of eternity and everlasting life.

Andrea Mantegna The Virgin and Child with Saints about 1490-1505 Egg tempera on canvas, 139.1 x 116.8 cm Bought, 1855 NG274 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG274

English or French (?) The Wilton Diptych about 1395-9 Egg on oak, 53 x 37 cm Bought with a special grant and contributions from Samuel Courtauld, Viscount Rothermere, C.T. Stoop and the Art Fund, 1929 NG4451 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG4451

This spiritual symbolism and its connection to the divine made gold a highly sought-after material in Early Renaissance painting.  The use of gold can be seen in the works of Andrea Mantegna and his circle as well as in the works of the brothers Nardo di Cione and Jacopo di Cione, who often used gold to create intricate patterns and backdrops.



The paintings of the 14th Century and Early Renaissance were full of gold leaf and gilding, which brought a richness and texture to the works that is not seen in other periods. 

The use of gold in painting, representing the divine, was an important part of this period’s art.

Duccio The Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Aurea about 1312-15 (?) Egg tempera on wood, 61.4 x 39.3 cm Bought, 1857 NG566 https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG566

The use of gold in painting is truly remarkable. It is a testament to the skill of the artists who created these unforgettable artworks.

GOLD Christmas at the National Gallery

Thank you for joining me at The National Gallery

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

18 thoughts on “GOLD: Christmas At The National Gallery– Gold in Paintings

    1. Frohe Weihnachten, mein Freund. Vielen Dank für ein wunderbares Jahr 2022. Ich freue mich darauf, gemeinsam in das Jahr 2023 einzutreten. Alles Gute für diese festliche und gesegnete Zeit für Sie und Ihre Familie.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. An amazing amount of detail went into the art of this period, Rebecca. It gives me the sense that they weren’t only great artists, they were artisans working to create exceptional pieces from a spiritual perspective.
    Incredible dedication!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Carolyn! I think of you at the Vincent Van Gogh exhibition and how immersed you were in the artwork. Paintings, even when viewed virtually, have the power to energize our spirit. Thank you for joining me at The National Gallery. All the very best of these festive season to you and yours. I’m looking forward to dancing with you in 2023!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would seem, Rebecca, we (K and I) are in for a ‘cultural’ period over the coming months encompassing the ‘arts’, so to speak.
        Dance has a temporary hold at the moment. Due to many conditions it (dance) is currently on the back burner.
        However, ‘La Boheme’ (the opera) is next on the agenda, mid Jan 2023. It is quite exciting to be looking forward to the changes to come!
        Have a wonderful Christmas.
        xoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This has been a fabulous series, Rebecca.
    I’ve always been bemused by the idea of egg tempera.
    When I go to the art supplies shop to by paper and paint… I think of the ancient artists buying eggs.
    Now, I add gold leaf to that.
    It is impressive how egg tempera has survived over the centuries.
    It appears that the subject matter is always religious, and there is great history behind that as well.
    So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays….Seasons Greetings…. Hanukkah… Kwanza.. all for everyone.

    I had a fab time taking pics of a sculpture a couple of days ago. I thought of you the entire time. It has replaced the Henry Moore that was out front of the AGO for at least 30 years. It is by a Vancouver artist. I’ll be posting it in January.

    HUGS!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to be with you when you shop for art supplies, Resa. Like you, I was amazed that artists are still using the same techniques that came from ancient times. I am very interested in the back story of these paintings. I try to imagine the artist, with brush in hand. What were they thinking as they painted? Did they take breaks? How did they embed their personal beliefs and values into paintings that were commissioned by patrons, who had specific requests?

      By the way, I’m again late in responding. Yesterday, I was on bucket brigade. With our cold weather, a suite above us had a pipe burst. Water was flowing into a neigbhour’s suite so our entire floor was mopping up the water as we wished each other a Merry Christmas. We even had someone hand out cookies. All is well today and a crisis was averted.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t know what the artists did, but we have their paintings to look at and wonder!
        OMG!
        What a Christmas gift!
        It’s really cold here, too. We leave the water running a bit so our pipes don’t freeze.
        Crazy!
        No worries about responding. We do what we can, when we can.

        I’m excited to post the sculpture I took pics of!
        I need to learn/discover more about taking pics of 3D objects.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Liz! These painting, even when viewed virtually, have a dynamic force. I have often wondered on how artists of today incorporate the learnings of past artists. One article I read said that artists of today are more likely to bring something personal to their painting as opposed to artists that were commissioned for specific projects, such as the Sistine Chapel. However, I found that this was a simplistic explanation. For example, Julius II told Michelangelo to paint a geometric symbol on the ceiling, but Michelangelo decided on Old Testament Scenes to tell a story.

      Sorry for the late response. I was on bucket brigade yesterday when the cold weather caused a pipe to burst on the floor above us and water came streaming in one of our neigbour’s unit. All is well today, and a major crisis was averted. Today, I’m having hot chocolate to celebrate. Merry Christmas and all the very best of this holiday season to you and yours!! 2023 – here we come!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. These are stunning images. The gold signifies the divine or the light of God. Did you notice the gold orb surrounding several of the heads in the images? It’s interesting how art and religion reflect this imagery to us. Merry Christmas, Rebecca. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How very well said, Colleen. Belief systems are wonderfully illustrated in artistic endeavour. I read an fascinating article on how mythology is found in modern arts.

      “Mythology is so prevalent in art because it resonates across time, embodying new forms while keeping a recognizable base. Like art, it has the capacity to compress past and present. “

      https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/book_report/icarus-prometheus-pandora-10-famous-contemporary-artworks-based-on-myth-55374

      I am looking forward to exploring the connection between art and poetry in the coming year. I am delighted that we will be entering 2023 together!

      Liked by 1 person

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