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Jan van Eyck Most Famous Paintings
Dawit Abeza
Jan van Eyck Most Famous Paintings

Jan van Eyck Most Famous Paintings

Who is Jan van Eyck?

Jan van Eyck was one of the first masters of the early Northern Renaissance style of painting and was an innovator of what is now known as the Early Netherlandish style. Born in the County of Loon (now Belgium) somewhere between 1380 and 1390, not much is known of van Eyck's early life. He became a master painter with a workshop of assistants while working in Bruges. Around 1422 van Eyck relocated to the Hague, then Lille, finally returning to Bruges around 1429 until his death in 1441.

While in Lille, he was the court painter for Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a position that brought him fame. Possibly, more importantly, it brought him a court salary which allowed him to move away from commissioned work and pursue more of his own artistic interests. Today art historians conclude that there are around 20 surviving Van Eyck paintings.

Van Eyck's works include both secular and religious subjects, sometimes within the same painting. He painted a number of commissioned portraits and was one of the first painters to use what we would now consider a typical portrait style, with the subject front and center in a three-quarter pose. Other of his commissioned portraits incorporated the subject into a scene with religious figures. He also painted quite a few purely religious pieces. His paintings were known for their realism, although he tended to slightly exaggerate certain features (for example, his subjects' heads tended to be larger than normal).

He was a master of capturing textures, whether cloth, metal, or flesh. He was one of the first painters to regularly sign his works, although often his signature was on the frame rather than on the painting itself. He also frequently included his personal motto "ALS ICH KAN", meaning "As well as I can." Unfortunately, many of those frames were lost to time, leaving most of his paintings effectively unsigned and creating an element of mystery for art historians.

However, because of his distinctive style and mastery of technique, paired with modern scientific methods that can analyze the layers of paint and brushstrokes as well as the age and provenance of the wood panels he frequently used, historians have generally come to some consensus about which works are true van Eycks.  

So without further ado, here are 12 of Jan van Eyck's most famous paintings: 

  1. Portrait of a Man with a Blue Chaperon by Jan van Eyck
  2. Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata by Jan van Eyck
  3. Crucifixion and Last Judgement by Jan van Eyck
  4. The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck 
  5. Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy by Jan van Eyck
  6. Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck
  7. Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck
  8. Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck
  9. Madonna at the Fountain by Jan van Eyck
  10. Saint Jerome in his Study by Jan van Eyck
  11. Saint Christopher by Jan van Eyck
  12. Ince Hall Madonna by Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck Artworks

Portrait of a Man with a Blue Chaperon by Jan van Eyck

Portrait of a Man with a Blue Chaperon by Jan van Eyck

This painting, done around 1430, depicts a man in a blue chaperon, or hood, holding a ring. Done in what we would recognize as a typical portrait style (though a very innovative style at the time), the subject's gaze is focused on the side of the viewer.

Sometimes referred to as Portrait of a Jeweller, or Man with a Ring, the work is very small and the subject is not identified. The ring in the man's hand was originally believed to signify his profession, but later scholars have come to believe it may, in fact, be an engagement ring.

There was also controversy over the years as to whether the work was actually done by van Eyck or not, but modern imaging techniques have shown that the work is van Eyck's signature style.

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Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata by Jan van Eyck

Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata by Jan van Eyck

This work is another unsigned piece, this time with a religious theme. It depicts Saint Francis of Assisi receiving Christ's stigmata (the wounds of the Crucifixion) on his own hands and feet. This painting highlights van Eyck's signature realism, both in the portraits of Saint Francis and his assistant Brother Leo, and the landscape background.

There are actually two nearly identical panels with this painting, one much larger than the other. Although the evidence is circumstantial, the general consensus is that both panels were done by van Eyck sometime between 1430 and 1432.

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Crucifixion and Last Judgement by Jan van Eyck

Crucifixion and Last Judgement by Jan van Eyck

This work is a diptych, with the left panel depicting the crucifixion and the right portraying the Last Judgement. The work is credited mainly to van Eyck in the early 1430s, although it is believed that members of his workshop finished some areas after his death. 

Quite small in size (56.5x19.7 cm), it is believed to have been commissioned to be an object for private devotion. Some historians believe that the work may have originally been a triptych, with a third panel possibly portraying the Nativity.

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The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck

The Annunciation by Jan van Eyck

This painting, originally on a panel but later transferred to canvas, portrays the Virgin Mary receiving the message from the Archangel Gabriel that she will bear the Son of God. It is believed to have been one panel in a triptych, but the other two panels have been lost since at least 1817. 

Scholars believe it was painted sometime between 1434-1436. Although the majority opinion is that it shows the hallmarks of Jan van Eyck, there are some prominent art historians who believe it may actually have been painted by his brother, Hubert van Eyck.

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Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy by Jan van Eyck

Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy by Jan van Eyck

This portrait, completed around 1435, is definitively considered a van Eyck work. The subject, Baldwin de Lannoy, was an ambassador of Philip the Good to the court of Henry V of England.

In typical van Eyck style, he is portrayed fairly realistically, without idealized appearance or features. The textures in the painting are highly realistic and rendered in detail, especially the subject's robe.

 

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Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck

Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck

This work was commissioned by Nicolas Rolin, who was the chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy. Completed around 1435, it shows the Virgin Mary, seated on the right, presenting Baby Jesus to Chancellor Rolin, who sits on the left. Above the Virgin Mary, an angel hovers, ready to place an exquisite crown on her head.

As with other van Eyck works, the interior setting and exterior landscape are highly detailed and colorful. The painting is filled with religious symbolism that was typical of the era, such as in the pose of the Madonna holding Christ on her knee as though on an altar. It also appears to include symbols of the Seven Deadly Sins scattered throughout.

 

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Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck

Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele by Jan van Eyck

This painting, completed between 1434-1436, is another instance of a commissioned work that combined a portrait of the commissioner with religious figures and symbolism.

Joris van der Paele, a scribe in the papal chancery, is shown in the company of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, as well as Saint George and Saint Donatian.

Van der Paele commissioned this work to be an altarpiece that he intended to be his memorial, as he was elderly and very ill at the time. As with van Eyck's other living subjects, van der Paele is portrayed realistically, wearing the white surplice that was the typical finery of his office.

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Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck

Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck

This painting, completed around 1437, is another that is believed to be a panel of a triptych, with the other two panels long lost. It is quite small, leading scholars to believe it was intended as a private devotional artwork rather than one intended for public display.

In the painting, the Virgin Mary is nursing the Baby Jesus. It is believed that van Eyck based the Virgin's portrait on his wife, Margaretha, whom he also portrayed in a typical secular portrait.

 

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Madonna at the Fountain by Jan van Eyck

Madonna at the Fountain by Jan van Eyck

This painting is relatively unique in that it is signed by van Eyck as well as dated 1439, removing the uncertainty that has surrounded some of his other works.

The work is very small, only measuring 19x12 cm. It is somewhat unique for van Eyck in that the Virgin Mary is dressed in blue, while in his other paintings she is dressed in red. Red was the typical choice of the Northern Renaissance painters at the time, while blue was often used in Italian depictions of the Madonna, so this choice reflects a growing Italian Renaissance influence in van Eyck's work.

 

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Saint Jerome in his Study by Jan van Eyck

Saint Jerome in his Study by Jan van Eyck

This work is attributed to van Eyck's workshop but is dated 1442, one year after the master's death. It is believed that van Eyck may have personally begun the painting, but it was finished posthumously by his workshop assistants.

The depiction of Saint Jerome in his study is fairly typical for this saint, and he is portrayed with all the items and tools of an educated Renaissance man. 

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Saint Christopher by Jan van Eyck

Saint Christopher by Jan van Eyck

This van Eyck work has long been lost but is known through his paintings and drawings which are believed to be copies of the original.

Various writings also reference the original painting, indicating that it was very influential and well known in its time. In the reproductions, and presumably the original, Saint Christopher is shown wading in a stream, carrying Baby Jesus on his shoulders. 

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Ince Hall Madonna by Jan van Eyck

Ince Hall Madonna by Jan van Eyck

This work, although it does bear an inscription with van Eyck's name as well as his motto, is generally regarded to be an imitation of van Eyck's work rather than an actual painting by the master himself. 

The techniques used in the painting are seen as inferior to a true van Eyck's work, especially in terms of perspective and depth. Modern laboratory and imaging techniques also point to the work being an imitation rather than the real deal.

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