Jan van Eyck: The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele (1434–1436)


(Groeningemuseum, Bruges, Belgium)

A painting by the Flemish artist Jan van Eyck (before 1390-1441). This piece is an example of a 'Sacra Conversazione' (=Holy conversation, the virgin Mary amidst a group of saints). This altarpiece was commissioned by Joris van der Paele (1370–1443) who is also depicted on this magnificent painting. Joris van der Paele was career ecclesiastic who had several clerical jobs and by 1410 was a canon at the Saint Donatian's collegiate church in Bruges. Joris commissioned as a memorial when his health started to decline. Visible in the center is the virgin mary with child. Mary is shown on a throne inside a church, the virgin is seated where the altarpiece would usually be positioned. The child Christ is holding a bouquet of red, white and blue flowers (purity, love and humility) and a parrot (an emblem for the Virgin). Behind Mary is a decorated brocade baldachin with white roses, symbols of the purity of Mary. On her right is saint Donatian, the patron saint Bruges. The saint is wearing a blue and gold brocade cope, a gilded mitre, a jeweled processional cross and a wheel with 5 candles - his attribute. Depicted on the left side of mary is saint George in lavishly decorated armor. Saint George is raising his helmet and left hand to introduce Joris van der Paele to Mary. Saint George is included here because it was the patron saint of the donor (saint George in Dutch is sint Joris) and Cathedral housed a relic of the saint. The donor Joris van der Paele can be seen in his white clothing and kneeling. Joris is holding a prayer book and his spectacles, a sign that he is a educated man. Notice also the beautiful tapestry and marble floor. painting from 1434-1436.

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