Mary is standing in the nave of a Gothic cathedral, larger than life, and with the child. The detailed depiction of the architecture and the subtle grading of the light give the church interior a spatial aura that is all its own. The bright daylight coming in through the leadframed clerestory windows and the side portal is a reminder of the passage of time. The recorded inscription on the frame, which has not survived, praised the miracle of Christ's birth and Mary's virginity. The sunlight, which penetrates the windows without destroying them, also relates allegorically to Mary, who was a mother and yet remained a virgin. The light, penetrating the church from the north, also refers to the supernatural significance of all things. The ambiguity of the picture is appropriate to Christian thinking in the late Middle Ages. Thus architecture, light and the altar indicate Mary's priestly role and her quality as the house of God and temple of Christ.


  • Title: The Madonna in the Church
  • Creator: Jan van Eyck
  • Date Created: around 1438
  • Physical Dimensions: w14.0 x h31.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Oil on oak wood
  • Style: Netherlandish
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Rainald Grosshans Audio: © Tonwelt / Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: The Flemish painter Jan van Eyck was active in Bruges and one the greatest Northern European painters of the 15th century. He is celebrated as the most famous figure in early Netherlandish painting. Not much is known about his formal training, but it is likely that he started his career as an illuminator of manuscripts. His magnificent reputation resulted in him first serving the Duke of Bavaria and then Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, where he received an extraordinary salary and was also bestowed with clothing and jewellery usually reserved for nobles. His experiences at court made him a gifted diplomat. The Ghent Altarpiece (1532), a monumental winged altar in what is now the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent, is his most popular work, but paintings like 'Madonna in the Church' (1426) or 'The Arnolfini Portrait' (1434) captivate the imagination to this day.
  • Artist Place of Death: Bruges, Belgium
  • Artist Place of Birth: Maaseik, Belgium
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1390/1441

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