Geometers at Brou: Architecture and ornament in Spain, Brabant and Western Europe around 1500
Kavaler, Ethan Matt (University of Toronto)
Brou, a European Monument in the early Renaissance (2009)
In this essay I wish to discuss connections between the brabantine Late Gothic Ornament of brou and architectural trends in late fifteenth-century Spain. Markus Hörsch has already noted correspondences between the grand funerary churches of the catholic monarchs and margaret of Austria’s church – most notably the Carthusian monastery of miraflores outside Burgos, yet there is much more to be said about this relationship
Much of the visual interest of Margaret of Austria’s church at Brou derives from its distinc-tive use of ornament. Highly controlled, the decoration on the facades and the furnishings consists of coordinated ranges of different motifs and patterns. A rythmic counterpoint is established which creates a tension between segments of the structures, which is resolved by the attentive eye.
Brou is the foremost example of a Netherlandish mode of Late Gothic design that flourished at the beginning of the XVIth century. Its roots, however, seem to lie in Spain, particularly in the Kingdom of Castille, for it was there that artists had to contend with the Islamic legacy of profuse ornament. Yet Netherlanders and other northerners played a large role even here. Spain welcomed Gothic designers from the Netherlands, Germany and France who synthetized in their adopted land a new ornamental aesthetic.