Monday, November 9, 2009

JOHANNES DE EYCK FUIT HIC




"Johannes de eyck fuit hic 1434"
("Jan van Eyck was here 1434")
From Wikipedia


Jan van Eyck or Johannes de Eyck (before c. 1395 - 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, which dates back to the sixteenth-century Vite of the Tuscan artist and biographer Giorgio Vasari, that Jan van Eyck invented oil painting. It is however true that he achieved, or perfected, new and remarkable effects using this technique.
Jan van Eyck has often been linked as brother to painter and peer Hubert van Eyck, because both have been thought to originate from the same town, Maaseik in Limburg (Belgium). Another brother, Lambert van Eyck is mentioned in Burgundian court documents, and there is a conjecture that he too was a painter, and that he may have overseen the closing of Jan van Eyck's Bruges workshop. Another significant, and rather younger, painter who worked in Southern France, Barthelemy van Eyck, is presumed to be a relation. (From Wikipedia)
in 1425 van Eyck entered the service of the powerful and influential Valois prince, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. Van Eyck resided in Lille for a year and then moved to Bruges, where he lived until his death in 1441. A number of documents published in the twentieth century record his activities in Philip's service. He was sent on several missions on behalf of the Duke, and worked on several projects which likely entailed more than painting. With the exception of two portraits of Isabella of Portugal, which van Eyck painted on Philip's behest as a member of a 1428-9 delegation to seek her hand, the precise nature of these works is obscure.
As a painter and "valet de chambre" to the Duke, Jan van Eyck was exceptionally well paid. His annual salary was quite high when he was first engaged, but it doubled twice in the first few years, and was often supplemented by special bonuses. His salary alone makes Jan van Eyck an exceptional figure among early Netherlandish painters, since most of them depended on individual commissions for their livelihoods. An indication that Van Eyck's art and person were held in extraordinarily high regard is a document from 1435 in which the Duke scolded his treasurers for not paying the painter his salary, arguing that Van Eyck would leave and that he would nowhere be able to find his equal in his "art and science." The Duke also served as godfather to one of Van Eyck's children, supported his widow upon the painter's death. (From Wikipedia)


Man in a Turban (actually a chaperon)
possibly a self-portrait, painted 1433
Oil on wood
National Gallery, London
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of a Young Man (Tymotheos)
1432
Oil on wood
National Gallery, London
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of a Goldsmith (Man with Ring)
c. 1430
Wood (without frame)
Romanian National Museum, Bucharest
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of Margareta van Eyck
1439
Oil on woodGroeninge Museum, Bruges
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of Jan de Leeuw
1436
Oil on wood, 24,5 x 19 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy
c. 1435
Oil on oak, 26 x 20 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini
c. 1435
Oil on oak
Staatliche Museen, Berlin
From Web Gallery Of Art


Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife
Very hi-resolution
From Wikipedia


The above work is a portrait of Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife, but is not intended as a record of their wedding. His wife is not pregnant, as is often thought, but holding up her full-skirted dress in the contemporary fashion. Arnolfini was a member of a merchant family from Lucca living in Bruges. The couple are shown in a well-appointed interior.
The ornate Latin signature translates as 'Jan van Eyck was here 1434'. The similarity to modern graffiti is not accidental. Van Eyck often inscribed his pictures in a witty way. The mirror reflects two figures in the doorway. One may be the painter himself. Arnolfini raises his right hand as he faces them, perhaps as a greeting.
Van Eyck was intensely interested in the effects of light: oil paint allowed him to depict it with great subtlety in this picture, notably on the gleaming brass chandelier. (The National Gallery)


Very large detail of mirror and artist's signature
From Wikipedia


Picture: Detail of the chandelier
From Wikipedia


Exceptionally for his time, van Eyck often signed and dated his paintings on their frames, then considered an integral part of the work (the two were often painted together). However, in the celebrated Arnolfini Portrait (London, National Gallery) van Eyck inscribed on the (pictorial) back wall above the convex mirror "Johannes de Eyck fuit hic 1434" (Jan van Eyck was here, 1434). The painting is one of the most frequently analyzed by art historians, but in recent years a number of popular interpretations have been questioned. This is probably not a painted marriage certificate, or the record of a betrothal, as originally suggested by Erwin Panofsky. The woman is probably also not pregnant. (From Wikipedia)
The range of responses to Jan van Eyck's Double portrait in the National Gallery is an indication of the painter's stupendous achievement. The mystery has only grown with the passing centuries. This picture seems both too alien to grasp and at the same time entirely straightforward--encouraging scholars of every variety to register their own different interpretations in print. The dominant account has been that of Erwin Panofsky, who published his first treatment of the picture as long ago as 1934. No matter how certain scholars have become that Panofsky was mistaken, however, his reading is the one every subsequent author must address. It will be necessary therefore to rehearse Panofsky's arguments, as well as those of some of his critics.
Panofsky argued that the picture showed a clandestine marriage ceremony, witnessed, he claimed, by the painter himself, shown in the reflection in the mirror. With the addition of his signature, Panofsky concluded, Jan van Eyck endowed his image with the power of a legal document. Arguably, only a masterful scholar could have convinced so many people to accept such an unlikely scenario. His reading was to play the leading role for more than hall a century, so compelling was his erudition and so elegant his prose. One part historical research, one part manifesto, this was the essay in which Panofsky launched his influential but misleading concept of 'disguised symbolism' (whereby an ordinary object painted in a naturalistic way functions as the sign for an idea that--because the symbolism is unknown to modern viewers is hidden). This essay was also the popular test case of Panofsky's ambitious method of 'iconology' that was to dominate the discipline until recent times. Due to its persuasiveness and prestige, then, nearly all subsequent scholars, and the informed public at large, still follow Panofsky and refer to the picture as the Arnolfini wedding. (CBS Interactive Inc.)





Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
From Web Gallery Of Art


Despite this legendary objectivity, van Eyck's paintings are perhaps most remarkable for their pure fictions. He frequently aimed to deceive the eye and amaze the viewer with his sheer artistry: inscriptions in his work simulate carved or applied lettering; grisaille statuettes imitate real sculpture; painted mirrors reflect unseen, imaginary events occurring outside the picture space. In The Arnolfini Portrait, the convex mirror on the rear wall reflects two tiny figures entering the room, one of them probably van Eyck himself. By indicating that these figures occupy the viewer's space, the optical device of the mirror creates an ingenious fiction that implies continuity between the pictorial and the real worlds, involves the viewer directly in the picture's construction and meaning, and, significantly, places the artist himself in a central, if relatively discrete, role.
Despite his individual fame, van Eyck’s achievement was not carried out in isolation: as was customary, he employed workshop assistants, who made exact copies, variations and pastiches of his completed paintings. Such works no doubt helped to supply a vigorous demand for his work on the open market, while contributing to the recognition of his name throughout Europe. After Jan's death in June 1441, his brother Lambert, who was also a painter, helped to settle his estate, and perhaps oversaw the closing of his workshop in Bruges. (Susan Jones, Department of Art, Caldwell College at Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)


Dagging
From Wikipedia


In the most substantial early source on him, a 1454 biography by the Genoese humanist Bartolomeo Facio (De viris illustribus), Jan van Eyck was named "the leading painter" of his day. Facio places him among the best artists of the early 15th century, along with Rogier van der Weyden, Gentile da Fabriano, and Pisanello. It is particularly interesting that Facio shows as much enthusiasm for Netherlandish painters as he does for Italian painters. This text also sheds light on aspects of Jan van Eyck's production now lost, citing a bathing scene as well as a world map which van Eyck painted for Philip the Good. Facio also recorded that van Eyck was a learned man, and that he was versed in the classics, particularly the writings of Pliny the Elder about painting. This is supported by records of an inscription from Ovid's Ars Amatoria, which was on the now-lost original frame of the Arnolfini Double Portrait, and by the many Latin inscriptions on his paintings, using the Roman alphabet, then reserved for educated men. Jan van Eyck likely had some knowledge of Latin for his many missions abroad on behalf of the Duke. (From Wikipedia)


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