How do you paint Christ's portrait? How do you make Jesus a man? Van Eyck takes on that challenge. Christ looks us on frontally. His portrait is reduced to the bare essence: a face against a dark background. He is wearing a red garment, trimmed with pearls and precious stones. The owner of this work will keep it in a private room and prays before it every day. Literally being face to face with Jesus. The original panel by Jan van Eyck has not survived. This is a copy, because with this presentation the master again sets the tone. The copy dates to the beginning of the 17th century, but the quote mentions Van Eyck as the conceiver of this portrait type. You recognise also his motto, As I can, and the work is dated: 30 January 1440, the year before Van Eyck's death. This Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, such as is to be read above in Latin: via, veritas, vita. Christ as the saviour. At the same time, Van Eyck makes him into a timeless man. This could be a contemporary of him. The face, moreover, is based on the so-called description of Jesus's appearance, from Jesus's own time. By now know that that this idea is false, but in Van Eyck's time it inspires many portraits of Christ. The short beard with the forking in front is a fixed trait of this, as is the long hair. In this gallery you will discover presentations of the suffering Christ. They incite the praying viewer to compassion and empathy. As such, their faith is increased. The wall text gives more background on Van Eyck's portraits of Christ.
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!