Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Jan van Eyck and Flemish painting

Jan van Eyck

Portrait of Jan van Eyck
Birth Name: Johannes de Eyck.
Nationality: Flemish.
Birth: 1390, Maaseik, Flanders.
Death: 1441, Bruges, Flanders.
Style: Flemish, Renaissance.

The artist's image shown here is possibly a self-portrait, as there is currently no 100% confirmed image of the painter.

A pioneer of Flemish painting, considered a northern pioneer of the first Renaissance.

Jan van Eyck, along with Master of Flemalle (Robert Campin) and Rogier van Weyden, were the most famous artists of this school, and the most skilled in the use of oil.

Born around 1390, he worked in 1425 for Philip the Good as a court painter and trusted man. This status granted him the benefit of his respectable reputation giving him great artistic freedom. In 1432, van Eyck settled in Bruges, where he died years later.

His work is especially noted for its meticulousness, a characteristic that suggests his observant and detailed nature. He is also admired for the psychological depth of his works, full of vitality.

His works mainly consist of portraits and sacred scenes, generally Marian. Formerly credited with the introduction of oil, it is unclear, as other contemporaries also used it, but it is Jan van Eyck who took the technique to its highest levels.

His first known panel is signed with his brother Hubert van Eyck, who started it and Jan completed it after his death. This work, called Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, consists of 12 panels, 8 of which are also painted on the back to be seen when the polyptych is closed. This work is considered the first to fully mature in Flemish style.

  • "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb", (Van Eyck Brothers).

In the central panel, the theme of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb is presented. This scene represents Christ as a triumphant and sacrificed lamb, adored by his followers. Van Eyck highlights the sun, the lamb, and the fountain of life. The central image is flanked on the left and right by four others representing the knights, judges, hermits, and pilgrims of Christ. At the top, God is depicted, along with Saint John the Baptist and the Virgin. Adam and Eve are at the extremes, and in the middle are choirs of singing angels celebrating the triumph of Christ.

One of Jan van Eyck's most famous portraits is The Man with a Red Turban, from 1433. Although it is unclear who the man is, it has been thought that he might be his father-in-law or a self-portrait. The tight expression of the lips and the pale complexion are formidable examples of the mastery of Flemish style. The red turban is especially important as it contrasts with the white skin and the dark background. This painting bears the typical Flemish motto “As I can,” which is interpreted as a modest phrase (I do the best I can).

  • "The Man with a Red Turban", (1433).

Undoubtedly the most famous portrait is The Arnolfini Marriage, 1434.

In this portrait, we find the wealthy Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini, with his wife inside the bedroom. It is believed that this represents the merchant's wedding, as in the 15th century, marriage could be contracted without a priest, in the privacy of a home.

  • "The Arnolfini Marriage", (1434).

The elements in the painting are symbolic, as in all Flemish paintings, where nothing is without definitive meaning.

Arnolfini holds his wife with his left hand and raises his right as a sign of promise, while the woman places her left hand on her belly, a sign of submission; her green dress symbolizes hope. Behind them is a lit candle alluding to the sacrament, and there is a carved statue of Saint Margaret, the patron saint of childbirth. The clogs refer to the sacred and the fruit by the window signifies fertility. The dog symbolizes the fidelity of the spouses.

We also see a mirror behind the couple revealing the painter and two other witnesses. Van Eyck signs with the inscription “Van Eyck was here.”

Lastly, among the religious-themed works, the following stands out.

  • "The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin".

This painting is very interesting as it reflects the strong desacralization that Flemish painting proposed, as it shows a coexistence between the saints and the living. As we see, Rolin and the Virgin Mary have no size distinction, as was done until that date by order of importance, and nothing separates them. We can observe Jan van Eyck's mastery in painting the textures of the clothing and the distances (in the window behind) in a formidable manner.

Do you want an oil painting inspired by Jan van Eyck in your home?
Order it in the section of custom oil paintings

Related famous painters:

↑Back to top