van Eyck

Their Work

Of the van Eycks' works that have survived, the largest is an altarpiece in the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent, thought on the basis of an inscription of the frame to have been a collaborative effort of the two brothers, and completed by Jan in 1432. On the panels of the exterior are shown the Annunciation and representations of St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist, and the donors of the work, Jodocus Vijdt and his wife. The interior of the altar consists of an Adoration of the Lamb set in a magnificent landscape, and an upper row of panels showing God the Father flanked by the Virgin, John the Baptist, music-making angels, and Adam and Eve. Various parts of an illuminated manuscript, the Turin Hours, have also been credited to one or both brothers.

Jan van Eyck painted a number of fine portraits, which are distinguished by a crystalline objectivity and precision of draftsmanship. Among these are the Portrait of an Unknown Man (1432), thought to be the composer Gilles Binchois, and the Man with the Red Turban, possibly a self-portrait, both in London; the portrait of Jan de Leeuw (1436) in Vienna; and that of the painter's wife, Margarethe van Eyck (1439), in Bruges. The wedding picture of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Bride (1434; National Gall., London) shows the couple in a remarkable interior.

Van Eyck's interest in the texture and specific quality of material substances and his superb technical gifts are especially well demonstrated in two devotional panels, the Madonna with Chancellor Rolin in the Louvre, and the Madonna with Canon Van der Paele (1436) in Bruges. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., has a beautiful Annunciation that is generally accepted as his work. Some of Jan van Eyck's uncompleted paintings are thought to have been finished by Petrus Christus.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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