Baroque and Rococo

 

Baroque and Rococo Art Map








 

The Art of the Portrait


 


Masterpieces of European Portrait-Painting


1420-1670



 

 

 
   
  The Art of the Portrait
   
  The Great Age of the Portrait
  Origins of the Portrait
  Jan van Eyck: Tymotheos
  Jan van Eyck: The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini
  Jan van Eyck: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  Rogier van der Weyden: Portrait of a Lady
  Jean Fouquet: Etienne Chevalier Presented by St Stephen
  Hans Memling: Man with a Roman Coin
  Antonello da Messina: Portrit of a Man, known as "Il Condottiere"
  Early Portrait of a Ruler
  Piero della Francesca: Federigo da Montefeltro and his Wife Battista Sforza
  Portraits of Renaissance Women
  Pisanello: Young Lady of the Este Family
  Leonardo da Vinci: The Lady with the Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani)
  Leonardo da Vinci: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda)
  Giorgione: Portrait of a Young Lady ("Laura")
  Piero di Cosimo: Simonetta Vespucci
  Agnolo Bronzino: Laura Battiferri
  The Psychological Portrait
  Lorenzo Lotto: Young Man before a White Curtain
  Lorenzo Lotto: Man with a Golden Paw
  Moretto da Brescia: Portrait of a Young Man
  Portraits and Caricatures
  Quentin Massys: Old Woman (The Queen of Tunis)
  Portraits of Renaissance Humanists
  Luca Signorelli: Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man
  Agnolo Bronzino: Portrait of Ugolino Martelli
  Raphael: Baldassare Castiglione
  Lucas Cranach the Elder: Dr. Cuspinian and his Wife
  Hans Holbein the Younger: Erasmus of Rotterdam
  Mythologising Portraits
  Agnolo Bronzino: Andrea Doria as Neptune
  Nicoletto da Modena (?): Francis I of France as an Antique God
  Portraits of Popes and Cardinals
  Raphael: Pope Leo X with Cardinals Giuliano de' Medici and Luigi de Rossi
  Titian: Pope Paul III, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and Duke Ottavio Farnese
  Portraits of Artists and Collectors
  Lorenzo Lotto: Andrea Odoni
  Titian: Jacopo de Strada
  Artists' Self-Portraits
  Albrecht Durer: Self-Portrait with a Fur Coat
  Nicolas Poussin: Self-Portrait
  Rembrandt: Self-Portraits
  Portrait of a Friend
  Hans Holbein the Younger: The French Ambassadors to the English Court
  "Teste Composte"
  Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Vertumnus
  Portraits of 16th and 17th-century Rulers
  Titian: Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Miihlberg
  Anthony van Dyck: Charles I of England, Hunting
  Hyacinthe Rigaud: Louis XIV of France
  Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu
  Marriage and Family Portraits
  Peter Paul Rubens: Rubens and Isabella Brant under the Honeysuckle
  Jacob Jordaens: The Artist and his Family
  Portraits of Children
  Giovanni Francesco Caroto: Boy with a Drawing
  Jan van Scorel: The Schoolboy
  Diego Velazquez: The Infante Philip Prosper
  Dutch Civic Guard Portraits
  Rembrandt: "The Night Watch"
  Portraits of Regents
  Frans Hals: The Governors of the Old Men's Almshouse at Haarlem
  Anatomy Lessons
  Rembrandt: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
  Portraits of Fools and Dwarfs
  Diego Velazquez: The Dwarf "El Primo"
 
 

 

 



Origins of the Portrait


 

see also:


Jan van Eyck


Jan van Eyck:

Tymotheos (Leal Souvenir)

 

It is perhaps no accident that Jan van Eyck's earliest surviving portrait carries a date (10th October 1432), for temporality constitutes an important aspect of this work in other ways too. Traces of the passage of time - in the form of cracks, chipped-off or broken pieces of stone and "sgraffito"-like scratchmarks - are visible on a relatively broad, trompe-l'oeil parapet which serves as a repoussoir and suggests a frame, pushing the sitter back - though not very far - from the picture-plane. Even hard, apparently permanent materials do not last - what hope then for the human counterfeited here! An inscription, not unlike an epitaph, and yet evidently referring to a living person, is chiselled on the parapet: LEAL SOUVENIR, "loyal remembrance". The words anticipate that rapid process of change which the sitter, portrayed here on a certain day, will soon experience in his own life. The portrait resembles a record of something which is subject to continual change, and which the painter, or sitter, wishes to commit to memory, or preserve. It is as though images had magical powers, as if appearances could replace reality, or, indeed, be a substitute for life altogether. Yet all that remains is the apparently authentic reproduction of a physical sensation on the retina, in other words, the transmission of optical signs, of perceptions of light, via colour and paint.
 


Jan van Eyck
"Leal Souvenir" ("Tymotheos")
1432
 


Jan van Eyck
"Leal Souvenir" ("Tymotheos")
detail
1432

It is not clear what kind of document the man is holding in his hand. If the sitter was a musician, the scroll may be a piece of music. One theory suggests the paper is the plan for a sculpture.
 

The portrait is a three-quarters view of a man of about - according to Erwin Panof sky - thirty years, turned slightly to the left before an homogenously dark background. He sports a fashionable green head-dress from which a scarf hangs down onto his right shoulder. He is also wearing a red coat with a thin fur collar. His left arm is folded behind the parapet, his left hand obscured by his right, which is holding a scroll of paper.
The identity of the sitter has been the subject of considerable speculation. It would seem logical to expect the strange name which someone appears to have lettered onto the stone in Greek - TYMПOEOC (Tymotheos) - to provide a clue. In fact, the name did not occur in the Netherlands before the Reformation, a discovery which led Panofsky to see it as a scholarly humanist metonym whose purpose was to link the sitter with an eminent figure in Classical antiquity. As far as Panofsky was concerned, there was only one outstanding person of that name it could have been: Tymotheos of Milet, who revolutionized Greek music during the age of Euripides and Plato. It followed that van Eyck's sitter could only have been a musician, one equally renowned for his innovative contribution to the art. What was more, there had indeed been a radical upheaval in early fifteenth-century music, centred in Burgundy and known as "ars nova". Its leading exponents were the courtly composers Guillaume Dufay and Gilles Binchois. Since Dufay was known to have been abroad when the portrait was painted, the sitter - according to Panofsky - can only have been Binchois.
Wendy Wood's more recent, alternative explanation is based on a similar argument. Rather than the musician mentioned above, Wood traces the antique Tymotheos to a sculptor celebrated for his bas-reliefs. Seeking an analogous sculptor at the Burgundian court, she identifies "Tvmotheos" as Gilles de Blachere.

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see also:


Jan van Eyck


Jan van Eyck:

The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini


 
 


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife
1434
National Gallery, London
 

 

This double portrait, dated 1434, is described in the inventories of Margaret of Austria as a painting of "Hernoulle Fin", or "Arnoult Fin", probably French corruptions of the Italian name Arnolfim. Since this early explanation of his identity has never been called into question, it is probably permissable to assume that the man wearing the scapular-like, mink-trimmed coat and tall, broad-brimmed hat is indeed the Italian merchant Arnolfini, who managed the Lucchese company of Marco Guidecon at Bruges, where Jan van Eyck lived and worked. Records show his wife was Jeanne (Giovanna) Cenami, born in Pans and also of Italian extraction. She is consequently the woman in the picture, wearing a heavy, green dress and extending her hand to Arnolfini. Arnolfini has his hand raised in what appears to be a gesture of blessing. He may be about to lay his hand upon the open, outstretched palm of his young wife. Arnolfini faces the spectator, although his gaze itself is averted; Giovanna Cenami's eyes are meekly lowered. She is carrying the fur-lined train of her dress bunched up in front of her. This has caused some critics to see the swelling contours of her belly as a sign that the lady is pregnant. However, this was no more than a ritual gesture, consistent with contemporary conventional attitudes towards the family and marriage and intended to symbolise fertility, for the double portrait was painted on the occasion of the couple's marriage. The painting is a visual record of the event; indeed it even acts as a wedding certificate, since it documents the artist's attendance and consequent witness of the ceremony in the inscription on the far wall ("Johannes de Eyck fuit hic"). Along with a second witness, van Eyck is reflected in a convex mirror on the same wall. The mirror enlarges the room and is framed by ten painted scenes from the Passion. It was still customary in the fifteenth century for bride and bridegroom to promise marriage without the presence of a priest. The "dextrarum junctio" -joining of right hands - and the bridegroom's pledge were considered legally binding.
 


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London

   
 

The use of the inscription illustrates a growing tendency to document legal transactions in writing, a development which accompanied the adoption of Roman Law. The inscription should therefore not be understood as functioning here simply as a signature. It had a real testimonial force, as in the signing of a official register.
Van Eyck depicts this early bourgeois interior with its wooden floor as a thalamus, or inner, nuptial chamber, adding, by his faithful rendering of objects in the room, a number of hidden meanings, a theological and moral commentary on the event taking place. Thus the everyday convex mirror is a "speculum sine macula" (an immaculate mirror), signifying the purity of the Virgin and the virgin purity of the bride, who, according to contemporary tracts on marriage, would be expected to remain "chaste" as a married woman. In the foreground, the dogalways a symbol of devotion - stands for conjugal fidelity. The red alcove to the right, an allusion to the Song of Solomon, symbolises the bridal chamber. The cork clogs on the left, evidently removed by the bridegroom and casually left lying on the floor, are a reference to the Book of Exodus ("Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground", Exodus 3, 5). The burning candle in the chandelier, a wedding candle, cites traditional Annunciation iconography. It underlines the Mariological character of the painting. Addressed specifically to women, Mariolatry was a constitutive factor in fifteenth-century conjugal mores. The apples lying on the window-sill are an allusion to the Fall and a warning against sinful behaviour. The switch hung from the wooden paneling is an etymological pun on the Latin words "virga/virgo", and serves to emphasise the motif of virgin purity. Its counterpart in folklore was the "rod of life", a symbol of fertility, strength and health, with which the bridegroom was ritually beaten in order to ensure the couple was blessed with a large number of children.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London

Together with a second witness, van Eyck is reflected in a convex mirror on the wall. The reflection creates the illusion that the room extends to a point behind the spectator.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London

It was customary in the fifteenth century for bride and bridegroom to promise marriage without the presence of a priest. The joining of hands and the bridegroom's oath were legally binding.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London

The burning candle in the chandelier is a traditional motif in Annunciation iconography.
 

Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London


Jan van Eyck
Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (detail)
1434
National Gallery, London


The dog, a symbol of devotion since time immemorial, stands for conjugal fidelity,
while the apples on the window-sill are an allusion to the Fall and a warning against sin.
 



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see also:


Jan van Eyck


Jan van Eyck:


The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin


 

 


Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin

1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris
 

 

The painting shows Chancellor Nicolas Rolin (1376?—1462), born at Autun into bourgeois circumstances, who, entrusted with setting up an early absolutist system of state administration under Philip the Good, had attained the high rank of a Notable. Van Eyck - who had entered the Duke's service as "varlet de chambre" (valet) in 1425, which in fact meant he was court painter — has portrayed him attired in an opulent, brownish, mink-trimmed brocade coat with a raised pomegranate pattern in gold thread. Rolin is viewed from the side, though not in full profile, kneeling at a cushioned table spread with a turquoise cover. His eyes are directed towards the Virgin sitting opposite him with the naked Child on her lap, while the Child is in the act of blessing Rolin. This arrangement is unusual.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris

On becoming Chancellor, Nicolas Rolin (1376?—1462), a lawyer from Autun, had risen to the highest public office at the Burgundian court. Rolin was elevated to the nobility by the Duke. The "noblesse de robe" to which Rolin belonged distinguished itself from military knighthood in that its members were lawyers, scholars and civil servants.
 

 

In his Virgin with Canon van der Paele, van Eyck painted a majestic Virgin, enthroned in full-face view, presenting her as the virtual object of his adoration. Here, however, the side view objectifies the Virgin so that the spectator acts as the witness of her meeting with the Chancellor. Van Eyck has minutely recorded the signs of aging in Rolin's face. The folds and wrinkles are no less precisely rendered than the arteries at Rolin's shaved temples, however. Van Eyck, although he was not — despite Vasari's later claim - the actual inventor of oil-painting, brought a previously unparallelled mastery to this new art, revealing, by means of repeated glazing, the throbbing life beneath Rolin's skin. Van Eyck does not present the face as a vehicle for the expression of feelings, but records the quiddity of each object: a visual nominalism, with precise syllabic counterparts for every "thing" that met his gaze. However, his radical empiricism did not preclude use of the kind of allegory found in late scholastic biblical exegesis.

 


Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris
 

Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris

 

 

 

On the contrary, almost every detail of the painting contains a spiritual allusion. This is borne out by the triple-arched loggia through which the interior gives onto a crenellated courtyard-garden. Reliefs decorating architectural features on the right of the loggia show scenes from the Old Testament: the expulsion from Paradise, Cain and Abel and Noah's drunkenness. The scene on the capital at the right depicts the justice of Trajan. These motifs, in other words, refer to the Fall, and to a paragon of virtue. The enclosed garden with its blossoms - roses, irises and lilies traditionally symbolised the Virgin - alludes to the "garden enclosed" (hortus conclusus) in Song of Solomon (4, 12), equated metaphorically in medieval exegesis with the Virgin Mary. The peacocks suggest Paradise. Two men, one of whom seems to be gazing into the receding landscape, are shown looking over the parapet. The one on the right is wearing a red, scarfed headdress, presumably similar to that worn by van Eyck himself - a hypothesis prompted by van Eyck's Man in a Red Turban (London), thought to be a self-portrait, and by the metallic reflection on St. George's armour in his Paele-panel. Although the landscape is realistic in the Chancellor Rolin painting, it is not, in fact, an authentic scene. Instead, van Eyck has used various sketches to construct an ideal "panoramic landscape" with an alpine massif disappearing into the distant, atmospheric blue.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
Man in a  Red Turban

1433
National Gallery, London
 

 


Emil Kieser has shown convincingly that the bridge over the river, on which a tiny cross may be made out, should be seen in connection with the murder of Philip the Good's father, John the Fearless, on the bridge at Montereau on 10 Sept. 1419. The Treaty of Arras, concluded by Rolin on 21 Sept. 1435, contained a decree to the effect that a cross in memory of the assassination be erected on the bridge. The years between the murder and the recently concluded Treaty can be read in the number of floor-tiles between the arcade and the picture-plane.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris

A bridge can be seen in the middle distance of a landscape extending to an Alpine skyline. Van Eyck probably wished to refer to some historical event. John the Fearless was murdered on the bridge at Montereau in 1419.
 

 


Jan van Eyck
The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
(detail)
1435
Musee du Louvre, Paris

The terraced garden with its roses, irises and lilies, symbols of the Virgin,
is an allusion to a passage in Song of Solomon:
"A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed"
(4, 12).
 

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