17. Van Eyck, Annunciation (Washington) & Domenico Veneziano, The Annunciation

A smiling angel Gabriel announces to the surprised Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus. The Holy Ghost accompanies them in the form of a dove... You’ll encounter the scene in this gallery a number of times: by Jan van Eyck, by Italian near-contemporaries and by miniaturists. A visual banquet for whomever wants to make a comparison. On this brilliant little panel the annunciation takes place in a church, not in a domestic interior such as with the Ghent Altarpiece. Yet, there are still similarities: look at the positioning of Mary and Gabriel, their gestures, their faces. Look at the sloping floor. Look at the light with its effects, which come from various sides: from behind, left and right. And, naturally, look at the faultless realism: the garments, the floor, the glass windows, the sculptured capitals, the precious jewels, the cushions, the floor tiles with scenes from the Old Testament, Gabriel's sceptre and his cope, presumably inspired by an existing, exclusive garment... One looks on, speechless. Over to Florence then, for the annunciation by Domenico Veneziano, the work by the entrance. The difference with Van Eyck is spectacular. Just as is often the case with Italian annunciations, this is both an interior as well as an exterior scene. The perspective is perfect with Veneziano, the symmetrical architecture is austere. Only the view through to an enclosed flower garden allows for some playfulness. The figures we see are in profile. However, perhaps the greatest difference lies in the types of paint: Van Eyck works with glistening oil paint with many more tints and a more intense play with light and shadow. Veneziano paints in matte tempera.

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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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