Сост. Е. В. Гладышева, Л. В. Нерсесян
Portrait of a Man with a Roman Coin
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp
Van Eyck’s realism soon enjoyed international renown. In Italy, Bartolomco Fazio extolled the Flemish artist in 1455/56 as the «prince of our century’s painters». In France, too, where Burgundian art was already well known, the new style quickly won favour, becoming known as «la nou-velle pratique». Traces of its influence can be felt in the work of Enguerrand Charonton, and in the celebrated Pieta of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, painted c. 1470 by an anonymous master of southern France. The donor, whose face is realistically represented, is shown kneeling in an attitude of prayer at the bottom left of the Pieta. His white robe, as well as the attribute of oriental architecture (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) against a gold background, suggest he has travelled as a pilgrim to Jerusalem. The artist has given powerful dramatic expression to the grief of the mourners, and the intention to introduce the donor into their company seems obvious enough. Nevertheless, the gaze and gestures of the donor have not (yet) made any impression on the holy figures themselves, so that he remains outside their gestural narrative. Although part of the painting, the donor thus seems somewhat isolated within it. His gaze is intended to be directed towards the events taking place, but in order meet his patron’s demands, the artist has painted him looking less into the centre of the painting than diagonally out of it.
With the work of Rogier van der Weyden, early Netherlandish portraiture entered a new stage in its development. It is thought that Rogier became apprenticed at the workshop of Robert Campin at Tournai, graduating in 1432 as Maistre of the Painters’ Guild. He was appointed official painter to the city of Brussels in 1436. His work for the city included paintings on the theme of justice for the court room of the town hall. Besides his official work, he was commissioned to do a large number of portraits, usually by distinguished patrons at the Burgundian court (Duke Philip the Good, his son Duke Charles the Bold, Philippe de Croy, «Le Grand Batard de Bourgogne», Francesco d’Este, Nicolas Rolin etc.).
While Jan van Eyck reproduces the texture of his sitters’ skin in microscopic detail, seeking in a manner analogous to that of the nominalistic philosophy of his time to embrace the unique, contingent physicality of each individual portrayed, however crude or ugly this might make them seem, Rogier emphasises the social status of his sitters, especially through his portrayal of hands and face. Rank is primarily displayed — as it is with van Eyck — by means of opulent robes and heraldic or emblematic attributes. But Rogier’s stylised portraits — his attention, for example, to the sharply contrasting outlines of lips and nose, or his emphasis on the slenderness of limbs — idealise his sitters, lending them a greater sophistication. While van Eyck shows nature «in the raw», as it were, Rogier improves on physical reality, civilising and refining Nature and the human form with the help of his brush.
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.