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Food For Your Soul

"Madonna With the Child Reading"

rafael
Madonna With the Child Reading

“Madonna with the Child Reading,” also known as the “Ince Hall Madonna,” is oil on wood panel painted by Jan van Eyck in 1433. The origin of the copy the Sisters of Charity possess is unknown. The original, a small painting about 10 inches by 7 inches, is at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

Jan van Eyck (before 1395 – before 1441), a Flemish painter, is generally considered one of the most significant Northern European painters of the 15th century. Very little is known of his early life, but his use of Hebrew and Greek in many of the inscriptions in his works indicate that he had been schooled in the classics. It is believed he was of the gentry class and he worked in the courts of several prominent nobles. He had two brothers who were also artists, and some of his work was done in concert with them. He was involved in decorating the Binnenhof Palace in The Hague, and after he moved to Bruges he served as both court artist and diplomat and became a senior member of the painters’ guild.

Van Eyck’s works are of an exceptionally innovative and technical quality, especially in the handling and manipulating of oil paint. He and his brothers developed a stable varnish that would dry at a consistent rate. The breakthrough came when they mixed the oil into the actual paints they were using. The result was brilliance, translucence, and intensity of color as the pigment was suspended in a layer of oil that also trapped light. The flat, dull surface of tempera was transformed into a jewel-like medium that was a vivid and convincing depiction of natural light. The invention of this technique transformed the appearance of painting.

The artist used the oil medium to represent a variety of subjects with striking realism in microscopic detail; for example, he infused painted jewels and precious metals with a glowing inner light by means of subtle glazes over the highlights. This revolutionary master selected and arranged his subject matter so that it would contribute deeper symbolic meaning to his painting. His attention to detail in his architectural interiors and landscapes is also evident in his portraits painted with unrelenting, dispassionate accuracy.

Van Eyck’s most famous work is “The Ghent Altarpiece,” believed to be a collaborative work with his brother, Hubert. This polyptych consists of 20 panels in the Church of St. Bavo, Ghent. The brightly colored interior is dominated by a panel representing the Adoration of the Holy Lamb. In the “Annunciation” the viewer becomes conscious of the gentle radiance of the light illuminating everything it embraces, from the dim upper roofing to the glancing gleam of the angel’s jewels. The aura is a soft, integrating, enveloping spiritual light, surrogate of God who loves all that He has made. This painting is housed in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

“The Madonna of Chacellor Rolin” was commissioned by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor
of the Duchy of Burgundy, whose votive portrait takes up the left side of the picture. After hanging in several churches the painting was moved to the Louvre in 1805. The scene depicts the Virgin crowned by a hovering angel while she presents the Infant Jesus to Rolin. It is set within a spacious Italian-style loggia with a rich decoration of columns and bas-reliefs. The richly detailed city in the background represents the Rolin’s city of Autun in Burgundy. The small garden visible outside the columns symbolizes Mary’s virtues.