Saturday, March 9, 2013

Northern European Renaissance (pt. 5)

The artist credited with inventing the techniques of oil painting was the Flemish master Jan van Eyck.
Above is van Eyck's oil painting of Saint Jerome in His Study.  Van Eyck far surpassed both Campin and Bosch in attention to detail.  The deep green color of the tablecloth, the deep red color of the cloak, and the deep blue color of the drapery all complement each other.  Look at the detail in the paper, wool, leather, and glass.
Here is the prime example of how patrons made not-so-subtle appearances in artwork around this time.
This is another work by Jan van Eyck.  The man on the left is the patron, Chancellor Rolin, who is bowing humbly before a Bible, with his hands folded in worship.  On the right are Mary (wearing red…again) and the baby Jesus sitting on her lap.  Jesus sits upright and pronounces blessing on the chancellor (a gesture with the index and middle fingers) while Mary is being crowned as the Queen of Heaven by an angel overhead.  But they are not in Heaven.  They are actually in the chancellor's house.  Fine place for Mary to be crowned Queen of Heaven, in the private residence of some guy in Flanders, but this is what the patron commissioned.  By the way, look at the fabulously designed tiles, the lines of which all help in creating the illusion of one-point perspective.
There is something a little more sinister in this painting, depending on how you look at it.  Remember the relief of Nike Adjusting Her Sandal back in Ancient Greece?  It took one of the Greek gods and lowered her to being construed as clumsy and quite human.  Now look at this painting again and notice that the Virgin Mary is alone with the chancellor in his private home, in what appears to be an upper room (usually the more intimate of rooms).  It begs the question: what is the Virgin doing there?

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