Petrus Christus: Portrait of a Carthusian (1446)

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

A very famous portrait by the early Netherlandish master Petrus Christus (1410/1420 – 1475/1476). The sitter is an anonymous monk of the Carthusian Order, or the Order of Saint Bruno (an order which is best known for its commitment to solitude and silence). This very realistic portrait is a huge difference from the more idealistic portrait from Hans Memling which i posted yesterday (Hans Memling: Young Woman with a Pink & Two horses in a landscape) - notice the veins and wrinkles on his forehead. Also if you look closely you'll notice that the hair of the beard and on his head are different in structure - the hair on his head is thicker then his beard. This painting is also a good example of trompe l’oeil, an technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted object(s) exist in three dimensions. The text at the bottom reads "Petrus ΧΡΙ Me Fecit a 1446" or "Petrus Christus created me in 1446". One of the most puzzeling things of the painting is the fly at the bottom. Why this Petrus christus included this fly is a matter of debate. It could be that Petrus wanted to create the illusion that the fly was real - a testament of his knowledge of the art. Another reason could be that the fly is a reference to a memento mori ('remember that you have to die') as a fly is attracted to decaying things as opposed to the young sitter. Painting from 1446.

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