Jan van Eyck

Jan van Eyck (c. 1390 in Maaseik, † 1441 in Bruges ) was a Flemish painter of the late Middle Ages and is considered the most famous representatives of Early Netherlandish painting. He led the new naturalistic art period a north of the Alps. Because of his perfect technique and his sense of naturalism, he was considered by many authors even as the "king of painters ."


The artist was in 1390 in Maaseik, a small town 25 km north of Maastricht, was born. His youth, despite intensive research in the dark. Although the source material from 1422 is better, but through his work, the knowledge remains incomplete. Here is aggravated that a large part of his work has not survived. With whom van Eyck went into teaching, is unknown exactly what job he held. He probably began as a book illustrator (illuminator ). His first documentary mention dates from 1422 and during this time he also joined in the service of Duke John of Bavaria. With him, he worked as a valet ( valet de chambre ) and court painter for the painting of the internal courtyard of the residence at The Hague.

After the Duke's death in 1425 van Eyck was employed by Philip the Good. His reputation as a painter had put him in the most splendid court of Europe because he was hired because of his abilities, " of which the Duke had heard by standing in his service people and he also realized in the person of Jan van Eyck ." He was summoned to the court to Lille. His contract was limited to one year. But led the renewal clause means that van Eyck remained many years at the court of Philip. His remit was not only limited to painting portraits and decorating princely residences. He was also responsible for designs of courtly clothing, jewelry for ceremonies, festivities and tournaments. Other tasks were the painting of signs, banners and statues. Besides painting, van Eyck was also a talented diplomat. Philip sent him within ten years on several secret missions. During one of these missions he participated in the October 18, 1426 in Tournai to a feast of St. Luke part. It is believed that he the artist Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden and Jacques Daret met here. Two years later he was part of a delegation to Portugal, which, persisted in Philip's name to the daughter of King John I., Isabella. Jan van Eyck painted the Infanta, so that his master could take a picture of his future bride. After this marriage, it was probably a little quieter in his life.

He created the allegedly begun by his supposed brother Hubert van Eyck Ghent Altarpiece ( completed probably in 1435 ). This polyptych is a masterpiece of fine painting and the largest known work of Early Netherlandish painting. From this time he also worked for private clients. For the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin, he painted a Madonna with the praying founders of the image, and for the city of Bruges, he created six gilded statues, which were intended for the facade of the town hall. In 1433 he married his wife Margaret and bought a house in the yard and embassy district of Bruges. Philip proved the artist his respect, when he used a sponsorship for one of the two children van Eyck. In 1436 he went on his last secret mission. After sixteen years of work in the service of the Duke van Eyck died in Bruges in 1441, where he was buried on 9 July in the church Sint- Donaas.


His most famous work is the monumental Altar of Ghent.

This is the inscription of the supposed grave and non-secured panel of the alleged brother Hubert van Eyck:

" Behold in me your mirror image, which you step on me, I was like you, now I'm down there, Buried and dead as it appears to the eye. It helped me not mind, art or medicine. Art, honor, wisdom, power, great wealth Good for nothing, when death comes Hubrecht van Eyck I was called, Now feed the worms, formerly known As a painter highly honored: Short time through was something then turned into nothing. In the year of the Lord, that's for sure, Thousand, four hundred and twenty and six, In the month of September, which lasted eighteen days, Was it that I returned my soul with pain to God. Ask God, your art admirer, That I may see his face, And flees sin, turn ye unto the Supreme Good, Because you have to follow me in the end. "

For the inscription on the Ghent Altarpiece: An inscription, which denotes Hubert as the creator and greatest painters, Jan van Eyck, however, only the second known in the art, who had only completed the work, is on the framing of the Ghent Altarpiece:

" The painter Hubert van Eyck, the greatest that ever there was, the work began; Jan, the second after it, it has accomplished on behalf Jodocus Vyds and invites you through these lines, written on May 6, for viewing one. "

Generations of art historians have interpreted the lines as contemporary, to an X-ray examination in 1950 brought to light that they have been applied retrospectively. The inscription does not yet exist, as Albrecht Dürer saw the altar nearly a hundred years after its creation. In April 1521 Dürer visited Ghent: "On Wednesday early they fords me on S. John thyme; do over I saw instead of the large wunderbarlich, where I was all right in front of large. After this I saw John Taffel; this is an over delicious, highly intelligent gemähl, and particularly the Eva, Mary and God the vatter are almost good. " In the first trusted source from the year 1496, in which of the altar the speech, the author Hieronymus Muenzer had also nothing of Hubert reported. An artist named Hubert or " Describe the Hubrecht " has indeed taken place in Ghent, but there is not a single, secure work from him before. He died penniless and was buried in the cemetery at Ghent.

Volker Herzner 1995 could prove in his study on the Ghent Altarpiece, that Jan van Eyck is the sole creator of the altar, which was also confirmed by Röntgenreflektogramme signature by van Asperen de Boer 1979. One must also assess the issue of dating again and fix the completion later.

With the works of Jan van Eyck, Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden, a new era of painting, which is characterized by loving - realistic detailed descriptions begins. Since in many cases the images are of a religious nature, in which saints are represented, bringing the realistic representation "the holy into the house " and allows the viewer a new immediacy in access.

Also painting technique began with van Eyck a new era. He used alongside the traditional temperature and aqueous Leimfarbensystemen often oil paints. Giorgio Vasari saw in van Eyck therefore erroneously the inventor of oil painting, is correct, however, that oil color systems were previously known ( Strasbourg Manuscript) already. Jan van Eyck, however, was probably the first painter who used siccativated and bleached oils.

Works (selection)

  • Ghent altar to 1425-1435, Cathedral of St. Bavo, Ghent
  • Madonna in the Church, 1426, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
  • Man with the blue liripipe, about 1429, Brukenthalsche collection of paintings, Sibiu (Hermannstadt)
  • Cardinal Niccolò Albergati, 1432, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
  • Portrait of a Young Man ( Timotheos ), 1432, National Gallery, London
  • Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami or The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434, National Gallery, London
  • Rolin Madonna or The Madonna of Chancellor Nicolas Rolin, 1437, Louvre, Paris
  • Annunciation, 1435 ( a diptych ), Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid
  • Annunciation to 1434-1436 ( a painting ), National Gallery of Art, Washington
  • Lucca Madonna, 1435, Städel, Frankfurt
  • Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy to 1436-1438, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
  • Portrait of Jan de Leeuw, 1436, Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Madonna of Canon van der Paele 1436, Musée Communal des Beaux Arts, Bruges
  • Dresdner Marie altar, in 1437, Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden
  • Margarethe van Eyck, 1439, Stedelijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Bruges
  • Christ on the Cross, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
  • Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
  • Man with pinks, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin



Margarete van Eyck, Municipal Museum of Fine Arts, Bruges

Ghent Altarpiece ( central part ), Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent

Dresdner Marie Altar


Jan van Eyck noted on some of his works the motto "When ik kan " ( German: as well as I can ).