This painting is important to the Middle Ages, 476 CE-14th century, because it represents the political and economic structure of this time period, feudalism and manorialism. It is important that people recognize that this painting represents the Middle Ages in Europe because this was the way of life during this time period, and it is how the Middle Ages can be identified. This painting is relevant today because it is a perfect visual explanation of manorialism, making it a great reference to the Middle Ages in Europe.
Overview- This painting is a beautiful scene with the grand castle of a king, workers in a field, and a moat in between the two with rowers. There are multiple classes shown from the social hierarchy from this time in this painting.
Parts- The first thing we see is the workers in the field. The next focal point is the grand castle, where the lord lives, and lastly the moat surrounding the castle. The workers are most likely people who don’t own land, serfs, who are working on a fief, a piece of land the king granted them. They are planting crops and plowing the field, the plow being a technological advancement. The castle is surrounded by a great wall and and then surrounded further by a moat. It houses the king, and we can see bishops and/or noblemen who are walking inside the castle’s wall. The moat surrounding the castle, protecting it from invasion, has people rowing boats in the moat, with one working as a transporter of the higher class across the moat into the castle. If you look closely above the castle, there is a practically invisible chariot flown by two pegasus.
Title- The title of this piece is Feudalism, explains that this piece is a a depiction of a feudalistic society. The title prepares the viewer to expect a scene that must represent certain ideals of this time, such as the workers in the field working on land that is not their own, and a large castle of a king like the one in this piece.
Interpretation- This painting is meant to meant to depict the political ideals of this time. The message of work of art is that the serfs are meant to work in the fields and the king is meant to live in the castle. The chariot flying over the castle sends the message that the king’s reign is justified because he was chosen by god. This religious connection also justifies the king’s claim on all the land and all the people on the land, because the people were born on the land that god granted to the king.
Context- In medieval Europe feudalism was the way of life. In a feudal society, the king gives large pieces of land called fiefs to noblemen and bishops. People who don’t own land, serfs, were the ones who worked on the fiefs. They planted and harvested crops and had to give most of the produce to the landowner. These peasants were given land to live on in return for their work, and they were also promised protection from in invasion, but the latter was rarely carried through, because they only lived in huts outside the untouchable castle, so it was common for them to be torched during invasion. Feudalism was essentially a less severe form of slavery.
Conclusion- This piece of art depicts the every day life of different types of people in the Middle Ages. It shows that the artists at this time valued this political/economic relationship that existed between the lower class and the king. This is important to what we are studying because it shows us visually the entire set up of manorialism and feudalism, and just how the serfs tended to the fields and the vast wealth gap between the classes.
More about Feudalism can be found here.