The traditional account of the Renaissance holds that intellectual and artistic influence moved overwhelmingly in one direction—from Italy to the rest of Europe, and especially toward the North. A remarkable exhibition in Bruges, however, has made the case that traffic did not go just one way, at least so far as innovation in painting was concerned, because the vibrant cultural center of the Low Countries had a powerful and significant impact on southern Europe. That this case is made through art is an indication of how important it is to bring different disciplines to bear on our understanding of the past.

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