Visiting the KHM’s Kunstkammer, a beautiful painting from around 1400 caught my attention. Probably part of an altar, it depicted biblical scenes in wonderful colors.I grabbed my camera and took several photos. Reviewing them on my computer at home, I took a closer look and was slightly perplexed by the exaggerated shape of each person’s forehead and by hands which looked like claws. As the anonymous painter was without any doubt a trained professional, I was curious about his reason for portraying the figures in this way.
My intention was to go back to the museum later and see, whether there would be other paintings similar to this one.
The third lockdown due to Covid 19 put a halt to this plan, as the museum was closed again for weeks.
A few days after reopening, I went to the Kunstkammer again. The painting which had caught my attention was unique compared with the other paintings, which did not share any similarities at all.
I decided to go to the next floor to check if the figures in paintings from the 1500’s had any similarities to those from the 1400’s. No luck,”my painting” was unique. On my way to the exit, I decided to visit the gift shop inside the museum. After weeks of cultural deprivation, it was absolutely tempting to do so. Among the books a small booklet stood out, as its cover showed a beautiful woman with an extended forehead.
I bought the book, hoping to find an answer to my question.
It was briefly mentioned in the book, that the chivalrous style of this period idealized figures with extended foreheads and overly long fingers. They were considered to be special, beautiful, graceful etc.
A surprising answer and slightly perplexing for a modern day visitor, which is not the point of course.
Background information is essential for understanding – a good lesson to keep in mind at all times.
Looking for an answer on the internet would have been an option as well. But exploring new territory by myself was definitely more inspirational and also more fun .
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