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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck (1390 – 1441) was a Flemish painter who was one of the founders of Early Netherlandish painting. He was employed as a painter to the ruler of Holland and later as court painter to the Duke of Burgundy until he moved to Bruges in 1429 where he lived until his death. He was highly regarded by the Duke of Burgundy and undertook several diplomatic visits abroad.

About 20 surviving paintings are attributed to him, as well as the Ghent Altarpiece and the illuminated miniatures of the Turin-Milan Hours. Van Eyck painted both secular and religious subject matter, including altarpieces, single panel religious figures and commissioned portraits.

Van Eyck’s work comes from the International Gothic style, but he soon eclipsed it, in part through a greater emphasis on naturalism and realism. He achieved a new level of virtuosity through his developments in the use of oil paint. He was highly influential, and his techniques and style were adopted and refined by the Early Netherlandish painters.

A Tour of Jan van Eyck’s Art

  • Arnolfini Portrait
    • “Arnolfini Portrait” by Jan van Eyck is a full-length double portrait. It depicts the Italian merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, in their home in the Flemish city of Bruges. Arnolfini was a member of a merchant family from Lucca living in Bruges, as an agent of the Medici family. The couple is depicted in their prosperous home. This masterpiece is considered one of the most original and sophisticated paintings in our heritage of early oil paintings.

      This painting is famous for its elaborate symbolism, detailed rendering, geometric perspective, use of light, and for the various detailed elements in the picture, such as the mirror, to create a realistic space. The vibrant colours highlight the material wealth and opulence of the subject’s world. Van Eyck quest for realism suggests he used a magnifying glass to paint the minute details. Details such as the highlights inf the amber beads hanging beside the mirror and the smaller pictures within the mirror’s surround. Museum: The National Gallery, London

  • The Crucifixion and The Last Judgment Diptych
    • The Crucifixion and Last Judgment Diptych consist of two small painted panels is attributed to the Early Netherlandish artist Jan van Eyck, with parts finished by members of his workshop. This diptych is renowned for its intricate and highly detailed iconography, and the technical skill evident in its completion. It was executed in a small format and was commissioned for private devotion. The original gilt frames contain Biblical passages in Latin.

      The left-hand panel depicts the Crucifixion with a view of Jerusalem in the distance. It shows Christ’s followers grieving in the foreground, soldiers and spectators surrounding the cross in the mid-ground and three crucified bodies in the top third of the painting. Crucifixion was a painful method of capital punishment in which the victim is tied or nailed to a large wooden beam and left to hang for several days until eventual death. The crucifixion of Jesus is a central narrative in Christianity, and the cross is the primary religious symbol for many Christian churches. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Jan van Eyck

A Tour of Artists and their Art

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“I Do as I Can”
– Jan van Eyck

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Photo Credit: 1) Jan van Eyck [Public domain]

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