Jan van Eyck remains a renowned and highly-praised artist after his death, both at home and abroad, until well into the 1500s. The books in this gallery prove that. Very old praise for Jan van Eyck comes from Italy. Fifteen years after Jan’s death, the Italian Humanist Bartolomeo Fazio already writes the following: “Van Eyck is viewed as the most prominent painter of his time.” Fazio praises Van Eyck for his knowledge of optics and he also describes a few paintings that have gone lost since then. The biographer of painters, Giorgio Vasari, also an Italian, calls Van Eyck the inventor of oil paint in 1550. According to Vasari that explains his staggering realism. And Karel van Mander, the biographer of painters from the Netherlands, begins his Schilder-boeck in 1604 with – I quote—“the two famous brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck from Maaseik, accomplished and brilliant painters”. That the Van Eycks came from Maaseik is presumably correct. That Jan van Eyck invented oil paint, such as Vasari and Van Mander claim, is a bit of an exaggeration. The idea belongs to the mythology surrounding his person. But Van Eyck made indeed resplendent oil painting possible. That is also part of his revolution. Still more songs of praise come in the 16th century from people of Ghent, such as the painter-writer Lucas d’Heere and the historian Marcus Van Vaernewijck. They call Van Eyck ‘the Apelles of our time’. Apelles was the Greek court painter of none less than Alexander the Great, with whom Philip the Good would happily be identified. A comparison with Apelles is likewise a major compliment!
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