Art: The Smell of Blood & Roses

The artist is generally supposed to reflect his time, but the old saw does not apply to the start of the 15th century. At that time, the Hundred Years' War was still raging, and Europe had yet to recover from the ravages of the plague. The Holy Roman Empire was hardly still an empire, and the church was grievously split between a Pope in Rome and another at Avignon. It was, in short, a time of disunity and violence—the very opposite of much of its art.

Last week Vienna's Museum of Art History had on...

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