Jan valve Eyck (c. 1390-1441 CE) to be a Netherlandish Renaissance painter that was well known in his own lifetime for his mastery that oil painting, colouring, naturalistic scenes, and eye because that detail. Among his masterpieces space the 1432 CE Ghent Altarpiece, otherwise recognized as The Adoration that the Mystic Lamb, and the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, a tour de pressure in optical illusions. A pioneer of using oils because that realistic effects, his job-related was prominent on Renaissance art however especially ~ above Italian artist in the second half of the 15th century CE.

Early influences & Style

Jan valve Eyck was likely born in Maaseik, Belgium c. 1390 CE. His household was aristocratic and also he might have had an elder brother, hubert van Eyck (d. 1426 CE), although this figure remains a very mysterious one in the human being of art (see below on the Ghent Altarpiece). Jan van Eyck was first active in art in 1422 CE once he operated for the Bishop that Liège. However, nobody of Jan"s beforehand works can be absolutely attributed to him. Works are usually associated with his hand because of a id (by no method certainly attested either) the he functioned as an illuminator the manuscripts as a young man. The is because that these stylistic reasons that january van Eyck (and/or his brothers Hubert) are frequently identified together the creators the the miniatures within the illuminated manuscript recognized as the Turin-Milan publication of Hours.

Another early on influence to be the work-related of Robert Campin (c. 1378-1444 CE) that was active in Tournai, Belgium. The realism and also luminosity in valve Eyck"s work may well have actually been motivated by Campin"s paintings, also if van Eyck overshadowed him during the Renaissance period and beyond. Valve Eyck"s later on works are an ext securely identifiable and are often signed or carry the inscription: "Johannes de Eyck". Second mark of authorship was the artist"s family members motto: "As ideal I can" or "As ns am able" (Als ik kan or Als Ich Can), perhaps additionally a pun top top his own name. That is in his later on works that we can best see his definite and quite unique style of painting.

Jan valve Eyck"s work has a high level of naturalistic detail, accomplished using the very finest the brushes.

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In the 15th century CE tempera continued to be the most famous medium because that paintings, yet Jan van Eyck would master the technique of oil painting, one of the very first Renaissance artists to carry out so, also if the was not a new medium. Oils permitted for higher subtlety in colours and also tone, and also they allowed the success of actual depth in a painting that tempera panels or frescoed walls can not match. Consequently, valve Eyck"s work is typified by its high level of naturalistic detail, completed using the an extremely finest that brushes. Everything in his paintings, native the skin that a confront to the distant hills seen through a lift window, is rendered in minute and also utterly convincing detail. Various other Eyckian attributes are the excellent colours, affluent texture and overall finish. Yet one more feature that the artist"s work is his regular use of daily objects in scene to obliquely signify religious ideas. A shell, for example, signified the resurrection the Jesus Christ while Gothic style symbolised the brand-new Covenant.

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The Virgin that Chancellor Rolin by january van Eyck
Web collection of arts (Public Domain)

A Court Artist

From October 1424 come 1425 CE jan van Eyck was employed as a miniaturist by john III, battle each other of Bavaria and also Count the Holland (l. 1374-1425 CE), a position which take it him to The Hague. The artist then relocated on to an additional court, this time that of Philip the Good, fight it out of Burgundy (r. 1419-1467 CE). Not only spending time in France, valve Eyck was sent by his employer to Portugal in 1427 and also again in 1428 CE, ~ above both occasions to help secure a mam for the duke. It remained in this volume that the painted Philip"s future wife, Isabella, daughter that the king, john I of Portugal (r. 1385-1433 CE).

Bruges & Portraiture

Jan valve Eyck went back to Bruges roughly 1430 CE, back he continued to job-related intermittently for Philip the good for the remainder of his career. Stable in the city, that bought a house and also married a girl referred to as Margaret in 1431 CE. Bruges was a bustling trade centre, and the rich sellers there, who contained many foreigners, were a good source that commissions for the artist. It remained in this period that that produced plenty of portraits, especially his Man v a Turban (1433 CE), currently in the nationwide Gallery that London, the The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (c. 1435 CE), now in the Louvre in Paris, and also the sumptuously coloured Madonna v Canon van der Paele (1436 CE), currently in Bruges" Groeningenmuseum.

The first of that trio is thought about by part art experts to be a self-portrait. Produced in 1433 CE, it reflects van Eyck wearing an intricate red chaperon, then fashionable headgear for the aspiring classes. The occupational is quiet in its original frame, interestingly, the just surviving initial van Eyck frame that to be gilded. Inscribed in ~ the peak of the structure is his motto in Greek letters while an additional at the bottom of the frame, this time in Latin, says "Jan valve Eyck do me, 1433, 21 October". The artist also painted a portrait of his wife Margaret in 1439 CE, currently in the Groeningenmuseum in Bruges.

The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait deliberately confuses the lines in between painted fiction & spatial reality.

The Chancellor Rolin is a portrait of Nicholas Rolin, then Chancellor of Burgundy, seated opposite the Madonna and infant Christ. Rolin is presented in prayer however the whole scene is symbolic that his wealth in this civilization with his sumptuous robes and also fine palace. The paint shows valve Eyck"s mastery that light and also colours, and also his passion for detail, ideal seen in the window"s columns and also the river past which leads away to even an ext distant and also hazy hills ~ above the horizon. The abundance of churches in the town on the Madonna"s side suggests this landscape was not meant to be a genuine one, or at least not that this earth.

An interesting double portrait is The Arnolfini Wedding, produced in Bruges in 1434 CE. It shows the cloth merchant Giovanni Arnolfini through his wife Giovanna Cenami (although identification is not certain). Between and also behind the two figures is a winter in i m sorry we check out their reflections, a cheat by van Eyck to make the pair seem to be standing closer come the viewer. Even more ingenious is his relenten of two much more people in the reflection, figures who must be standing wherein the viewer is, additional confusing the lines in between painted fiction and also spatial reality. The artist has, significantly, boldly signed the work above this mirror. The paint is now on screen in the nationwide Gallery of London.


Van Eyck"s portraits, prefer those of various other Netherlandish painters, to be striking in the direct relationship established in between sitter and also viewer, and in your high degree of realism, elements which would end up being standard in portraiture across Europe. Other much-imitated features of valve Eyck"s portraits are having actually his subject set against a plain dark background and having the subject standing or sit at a slight edge to the viewer. Much more famous than every one of these works, though, is the artist"s greatest contribution to western art, the altarpiece screen of Ghent cathedral.

The Ghent Altarpiece

Jan van Eyck created The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb altarpiece paint in 1432 CE. The work is more widely recognized simply as the Ghent Altarpiece. Over there is, however, a problem with definitely identifying valve Eyck as the writer of the piece. This is due to an inscription on it which states: "The painter hubert van Eyck, greater than whom nobody was found, began ; and also Jan, his brother, 2nd in arts through the task". That is date 1432 CE. The authenticity the this inscription, i m sorry is in reality a 16th-century CE transcription of the (possible) original, has been questioned by some art historians and linguists. Other chroniclers have welcomed the inscription and also sought to recognize which painted panels to be done whereby brother, back no consensus has been accomplished there either. The major problem is the there room no various other references everywhere else come Hubert"s authorized in the piece and also comments on it by such figures as Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528 CE), who saw the altarpiece in human being in 1521 CE, do no cite of anyone except Jan van Eyck. Neither does the chronicler Marcus valve Vaernewyck when he referred to the altar in 1562 CE. There to be really, the seems, a hobtration van Eyck together he plants up three times in the municipal archives that Ghent. However, date of the wood in the next panels reveals they cannot have actually been painted by hobtration who passed away in 1426 CE. Together the art chronicler H. L. Kessler summarises, "whether this hobtration van Eyck was concerned Jan and why in the 16th century the was attributed with the major share the the Ghent Altarpiece are concerns that remain unanswered".

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The Ghent Altarpiece by jan van Eyck
Web collection of arts (Public Domain)

The multiple-panelled, oil on oak altarpiece can encourage debate as to its authorship but one suggest on which art chroniclers all agree is that it is among the very greatest piece of Renaissance art. Written of 12 framed panels painted on both sides, it was initially meant to stand in what was then the Vijd Chapel, i m sorry has due to the fact that become St. Bavo Cathedral. The job-related was commissioned by Jodocus Vijd, and also he appears in the bottom left panel once the piece is closed shut; his wife, Elizabeth Borluut, shows up in the lower right panel. The various other panels ~ above the reverse side present two prophets, 2 saints, two sibyls, the archangel Gabriel, and the Virgin Mary. It is the other side, though, which has the star panels.

When opened, the altarpiece steps 5.2 x 3.75 metres (17 ft x 12 ft 4 in). The lower central panel offers the item its name and also shows a group worshipping a lamb, symbol of Jesus Christ and also his sacrifice in ~ the crucifixion. Above is God flanked by the Virgin Mary and also John the Baptist. The left soup of panels shows a nude Adam, to sing angels and also knights if the opposite wing has actually Eve, organ players, and hermit and also pilgrim saints. The overarching theme is possibly intended to be the redemption of humanity.

The figures in the often complex scenes are provided a reality three-dimensional appearance, yet this is due to colouring and also shading effects, they actually exist in a three-dimensional space which is illusional together mathematical view in art was then unknown in the short Countries. The numbers are provided hyper-realistic details - see, because that example, Adam in the far left panel and also the praying patron the the item with his concerned expression. The panels space all provided jewel-like colouring and also simulated yellow leaf the would have made the scenes shine out from the dim recess the the church"s altar.

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Madonna v Canon valve der Paele by jan van Eyck
Heritage Brugge (Public Domain)

The altarpiece has actually been threatened plenty of times, indigenous Calvinist extremists in the 16th century CE to German troops in the 20th century CE. Such to be the high esteem in i beg your pardon the altarpiece to be held, that was also mentioned in the 1919 CE contract of Versailles after ~ the an initial World War. The treaty included a i that Germany had to return the altarpiece come the civilization of Belgium. It was returned however then steal again throughout the 2nd World War. Fortunately, the altarpiece to be rescued indigenous its hiding ar in one Austrian salt mine. In the 1940s CE, it to be the very first work of Renaissance arts to undergo thorough scientific analysis. Today, that is back in the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, but not in its original position.

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Death & Legacy

Van Eyck died in 1441 CE and also was buried in the Saint Donatian church in Bruges. Famed in his very own lifetime, currently his legend grew also further many thanks to a plethora the admiring artists and also biographers. January van Eyck"s ability with oil paints, though, to be so high he was extremely an overwhelming to imitate, also if that was lot admired throughout Europe. His job-related did influence such numbers as the Flemish painter Hugo valve der go (d. 1482 CE) and also Gerard David (c. 1450 - c. 1523 CE). Valve Eyck was additionally studied by such listed figures as Albrecht Dürer. Italian painters to be keenly interested in valve Eyck"s methods using oils, specifically Piero della Francesca (c. 1420-1492 CE), Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510 CE) and also (at the very least in some works on linen) Andrea Mantegna (c. 1431-1506 CE). Indeed, through the finish of the 15th century CE most significant artists currently used oil paints when working at an easel, no tempera. His work was appreciated by non-artists, too, and was collected, notable beforehand aficionados gift Alfonso the Magnanimous, King the Aragon and Naples (d. 1458 CE), the d"Este family members in Ferrara, and also the Medici that Florence.

Editorial ReviewThis short article has been reviewed because that accuracy, reliability and adherence to scholastic standards before publication.


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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His distinct interests incorporate pottery, architecture, world mythology and also discovering the principles that all people share in common. He holds one MA in politics Philosophy and is the posting Director in ~ WHE.