22. Van Eyck, Annunciation (Madrid) & Master of Rimini, Three Apostles

You are looking at another annunciation, this time from Madrid. The scene we have seen before. The maker we know as well: Jan van Eyck painted it. Painted? It is more subtle: actually, Van Eyck painted two works of sculpture, in alabaster, a soft, white stone. The painter thus sculpts...an image. Perhaps he wants to demonstrate something? To give his answer to an age-old question: which art form reproduces reality the best, painting or sculpture? This rivalry between the two is the so-called paragon. It is as if Jan van Eyck says: "The art of painting wins, naturally. Look at how I have rendered the third dimension on my flat surface. And, how realistically. And, without placing the sculptures in a niche, but purely by illusion, and by playing with light. If only you knew the most modern theories about that." Take a look for a moment at the three alabaster sculptures, alongside the annunciation from Madrid. They are three apostles: Judas, Matthew and John. The cutting of alabaster sculptures is very prominent in the time of Jan van Eyck in the Low Countries. Compare these figures with his annunciation, and with the two John figures from the Ghent Altarpiece, also in this gallery. The veins of the alabaster are the same as on the annunciation! The maker of the sculptures is presumably a native of Bruges: we call him the Master of the Rimini Altarpiece. It is probably Gilles de Backere who hides behind the curtain. He and his studio have contacts with the Burgundian court, as did Jan van Eyck. They undoubtedly know each other. And, inspire each other. You can read more about Van Eyck as a painter of dichromatic grisailles in the wall text.

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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!


  • Fernand Scribedreef 1
  • Gent Belgium
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  • www.mskgent.be