Loading

In 1435 Jan van Eyck travelled from Bruges to Arras at the request of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, whose privileged court painter he had been for the past ten years. During a peace congress that was seeking to bring an end to decades of enmity between France and Burgundy, van Eyck painted portraits of some of those in attendance, among them, most likely, Cardinal Niccolò Albergati, who in his position as nuncio was one the most important participants in the negotiations. In Arras, van Eyck created a silverpoint drawing (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstichkabinett), which most probably depicts the cardinal. Here the Flemish painter not only captured the physiognomy of the aged cleric but in his notes also specified the coloration. The painting was conceived several years after the encounter in Arras. Some experts have expressed conflicting opinions regarding the identity of the subject. Beginning in the 7th century a specific hairstyle was obligatory for all Christian clergyman: the so-called tonsure, in which a small round area at the crown of the head was shaved or shorn. The subject of the portrait, however, does not have this feature. His attire is equally unusual: fur trim is not traditionally part of a cardinal’s vestment. With consistent realism and accuracy down to the smallest detail, van Eyck depicts the distinctive and somewhat coarse features of the cleric. The monochrome, dark background focuses the viewer’s concentration on the subject’s face. Contrary to a myth in art history, van Eyck did not invent oil painting, i.e., the use of oil-soluble resins as binders. However, with the new technique he did introduce fine painting, which had already reached its full flowering in book illumination, to the larger format of the panel painting. The thinly varnished application of pigments created a previously unknown lustre and allowed van Eyck to achieve a high level of definition on extremely varied surfaces and to render exceptionally fine details. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

Details

  • Title: Kardinal Niccolò Albergati (?)
  • Creator: Jan van Eyck
  • Date Created: 1433/1437
  • Style: Early Netherlendish
  • Provenance: 1648 bought by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm
  • Physical Dimensions: w295 x h340 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 975
  • Artist Biography: Jan van Eyck is generally regarded as the greatest northern European artist of the 15th century. He and his brother Hubert were some of the earliest Netherlandish painters to use oil paint in detailed panel paintings. He is recorded in 1422 as a master painter working for John of Bavaria, count of Holland, and later was employed by Philip III the Good, duke of Burgundy. Securely attributed paintings survive only from the last decade of his career; 10 are signed and dated, an unusually large number for the period. He produced portraits and religious subjects that are unmatched for their technical brilliance, their intellectual complexity, and the richness of their symbolism; he perfected the newly developed technique of oil painting. His masterpiece is the Adoration of the Lamb (1432), known as the Ghent Altarpiece, which he painted with his brother Hubert (1370–1426). © 1994-2011 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Oak

Additional Items

Kardinal Niccolò Albergati (?) (Supplemental)

Kardinal Niccolò Albergati (?) (Supplemental)

Kardinal Niccolò Albergati (?) (Supplemental)

Kardinal Niccolò Albergati (?) (Supplemental)

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Recommended

Google apps