Eyck, Jan van

Eyck, Jan van
(bef. 1395-1441)
   Jan van Eyck is among the greatest innovators of the 15th century. Both Giorgio Vasari and his Northern counterpart, Karel van Mander, wrote that it was Jan who invented the oil painting technique. He is documented in the court of John of Bavaria, Count of Holland, in 1422, leaving in 1424 after the count's death to settle in Bruges. There he received the attention of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and became his official painter in the following year. He remained in the duke's service until his death in 1441, as painter and diplomat. In this last capacity, he was sent to Catalonia, Spain, in 1427 to paint the portrait of a possible marriage partner for Philip. This alliance was not to be, but, in 1428, Jan traveled to Lisbon for the same purpose, a journey that ended in Philip taking Isabella of Portugal as his bride. Van Eyck's brother Hubert was also a painter, though not a single work can be attributed firmly to him. An inscription on the Ghent Altarpiece (c. 1425-1432; Ghent, Cathedral of St-Bavon) identifies Hubert as the one to have executed the work, with Jan completing it in 1432. The Crucifixion and Last Judgment panels at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (c. 1430-1435) are also thought to have been a collaboration between the two brothers.
   In Jan's case, nine of his works include his signature, the earliest being the Madonna in a Church (c. 1425; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie). Here the Virgin is taller than the nave arcade of the Gothic structure to symbolize that, according to Catholic doctrine, she is Ecclesia, the Holy Mother of the Church. Jan's Annunciation (c. 1428; Washington, National Gallery) shows the Virgin kneeling in front of her book of devotions. On the ground, the tiles feature scenes from the Old Testament that prefigure the coming of Christ and the months, with March, when the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated, at Mary's feet. The Madonna with the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin (c. 1433; Paris, Louvre) and Madonna of Canon George van der Paele (1434-1436; Bruges, Groeningemuseum) are also among Jan's masterpieces. The first presents the chancellor of Burgundy in prayer in front of the Virgin, who receives her crown from an angel. The detailed landscape in the distance denotes Jan's dependence on the Flemish miniaturist tradition. In the second painting, the Virgin and Child are brought closer to the viewer and centralized. Canon van der Paele kneels to the right, his eyeglasses increasing the size of the lettering in his book of devotions. Another element within the painting that denotes Jan's interest in optics is the inclusion of his own reflection in St. George's armor. Both works establish the devotion of the men depicted toward the Virgin and Child, creating the sense that they imagine the divine figures in their presence as they engage in their daily prayers.
   Another work where Jan's attention to visual phenomena is shown is the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait (1434; London, National Gallery), where he included his reflection in the convex mirror that hangs on the back wall. Several single portraits by Jan also exist, including the famed Man in a Red Turban (1433; London, National Gallery), believed by some to be a self-portrait, and the portrait of his wife, Margaret van Eyck (1439; Bruges, Groeningemuseum). Jan's interest in rendering every detail with exactitude is clearly seen in these works. Every strand of hair, skin fold, and vein is clearly denoted. Both figures are in a three-quarter position, with eyes firmly fixed on the viewer.
   Jan's art mingles the visual with the symbolic and the secular with the religious. Carvings in the spaces populated by his figures and everyday objects laden his images with deep spiritualism. His rendering of every detail betrays his close observation of the world and desire to replicate it on the pictorial surface, while his masterful manipulation of the oil painting technique resulted in realistic atmospheric and lighting effects. His most faithful follower was Petrus Christus, who some believe to have been Jan's pupil and who continued the Eyckian emphasis on realism, interest in depicting reflective objects, and richness of surface and colorism.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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  • Eyck,Jan van — Eyck (īk), Jan van. 1390? 1441. Flemish painter who with his brother Hubert (died 1426) founded the Flemish school of painting. Jan s works, characterized by brilliant coloring and minute realistic detail, include Arnolfini and His Wife (1434).… …   Universalium

  • Eyck, Jan van — born before 1395, Maaseik, Bishopric of Liège, Holy Roman Empire died , before July 9, 1441, Bruges Flemish painter. He is recorded in 1422 as a master painter working for John of Bavaria, count of Holland, and later was employed by Philip III… …   Universalium

  • EYCK, JAN VAN —    a famous Flemish painter, born at Mass Eyck; was instructed by his eldest brother Hubert (1370 1426), with whom he laboured at Bruges and Ghent; reputed to have been the first to employ oil colours (1389 1440) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

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  • Jan Van Eyck — L’Homme au turban rouge, autoportrait probable Naissance Maaseik vers 1390 Décès 9 juillet …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) — Jan van Eyck Jan van Eyck L’Homme au turban rouge, autoportrait probable Naissance Maaseik vers 1390 Décès 9 juillet …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • Jan van Eyck — or Johannes de Eyck (IPA2|jɑn vɑn ɛik) (before c. 1395 ndash; before July 9, 1441) was an Early Netherlandish painter active in Bruges and considered one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century.There is a common misconception,… …   Wikipedia

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