14. Van Eyck, Madonna at the Fountain

This Madonna at the Fountain from 1439 is one of Van Eyck's last works. The year is noted on the frame of imitation marble, together with his motto: As I can. This means rather: "I do my work, as well as I can." It shows a self-aware pride and a modesty that typifies medieval craftsmen. They work in the service of God's creation. Look to the left front at the play of light with the bronze fountain and the rippled, splashing water. We can say it once more: it seems so real. It is an example of Van Eyck's optical revolution and his astonishing realism. But, there is more. This is a new composition. It shall inspire later artists. It has a Christian meaning, as is always the case with Van Eyck: Mary is a source of life. Like a fountain. Mary stands in the middle of an enclosed paradisiacal little garden. She is wearing an ultramarine garment and two angels are holding up a cloth of honour. Such an enclosed little court is also a symbol, namely of Mary's virginity. And all of the flowers are Marian flowers. The lilies-of-the-valley, for example, signify purity. An intimate painting such as this would have hung in a private space where the owner could pray before it. The tender scene, which we already know from Byzantine icons, evokes feelings of empathy. Such emotion enhances the faith. In this gallery you will see how painters and miniaturists copy and adapt this new composition by Jan van Eyck. His sense of realism also inspires the art of sculpture.

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Museum of Fine Arts Ghent

On February 1st 2020, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent opened the largest Jan van Eyck exhibition in history: 'Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution'. Half of his oeuvre travelled to Ghent, where it was brought together with work from Van Eyck's studio, copies of paintings that have since disappeared and more than 100 masterpieces from the late Middle Ages. Due to the precautions taken against the further spread of COVID-19, the internationally acclaimed exhibition is unfortunately currently closed. Therefore, we would like to make the audio guide belonging to the exhibition available online. In this way the listener can still get a little closer to the work of the master. Have fun listening!

 

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