25. Van Eyck, Portrait of Jan de Leeuw & Portrait of a man (Léal souvenir)

Jan van Eyck paints for the elite: Philip the Good himself, high-standing courtiers and members of the nobility, important clergymen, noble Italian bankers and financiers...With personalised assignments to a top artist, such as a portrait, they are literally investing in their image building. This is Jan de Leeuw, 35 and a highly-reputed Bruges goldsmith: hence the golden ring. His gaze is intense and he speaks to us: "Jan painted my portrait" it says. De Leeuw does not belong to the upper echelon of society. He is a guildsman, but he is part of the highest class. As is Van Eyck himself. That he paints the portrait of a colleague, maybe even a friend, is telling: it bears witness to a new feeling of self-worth amongst first-rate craftsmen. To have one's portrait painted is no longer the privilege of princes and nobles. The second portrait is perhaps comparable. Leal Souvenir is written below in French, 'Reminder of Faith'. This distinguished young man is holding a scroll, with an illegible text on the outer side. On the stone block, in Greek letters, it also reads, 'Tymotheos', and below is a phrase with a date: 10 October 1432. The same year in which the Ghent Altarpiece was also finished. Who this man is, we do not know. Some experts think that it might be a court composer or writer, so a colleague of Van Eyck: Tymotheos was, for that matter, the court composer of Alexander the Great in antiquity. And, Philip the Good, Jan's patron, is keen to compare himself to Alexander...

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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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