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in the centre of a tryptic, on the wings of which were painted other subjects, pointing each their moral of truth and justice. There was Trajan halting at the head of his army to hear the complaint of a widow for the loss of her son, and her cry for vengeance on his murderer. Then the execution of the criminal. Again, Pope Gregory imploring pardon for so truthful and so just a Pagan emperor; the same pontiff in prayer before the tomb of Trajan, and contemplating what remained amongst his ashes—namely, his tongue, that never told a lie. The reputation of these pictures was so immense that countless travellers came to see them. Albert Duerer, amongst others, stopped to visit and give them his meed of praise ; whilst the great Lampsonius never tired of admiring and lauding them. Like John v. Ruysbroeck, who laboured for the church of St. Gudule, and for Philip the Good, and who served at once the commune, the clergy, and the duke, Van der Weyden also painted for the churches and the court. He finished, in 1430, a well-known altar-piece, which Martin the Fifth—a Colonna and Pope—in that year became possessed of." Then a long time elapses, during which we know nothing of his life. One of his pictures was given, in 1446, to the Carmelites of Brussels—the donor and his family being painted kneeling before the Virgin and the Infant Saviour.” But the noblest patron of the Brussels painter was the Chancellor Rollin, who founded the hos
* Martin V. was made Pope in 1418, and died in 1431.
pital of Beaune, in remembrance of the desolating plague that ravaged that city. Pope Eugenius the Fourth had granted his request to found the building under the invocation of St. Anthony, and he laid its first stöne in 1443." Van der Weyden painted for him, and for the adornment of that edifice, the largest altar-piece now extant, perhaps, with the exception of the Agnus Dei of St. Bavon; Rollin and his wife, Guigonne de Salins, figuring there as donors. That Philip the Good was also painted in this altar-piece, might lead us to infer that John Van Eyck being dead, Van der Weyden had succeeded to his honours; but we cannot trace his title to the place of varlet in any of the records of the time. The gallery of Margaret of Austria contained a likeness by him of Charles the Rash; * a proof that he was employed by the princes of Burgundy. In 1449, Wan der Weyden went to Italy, being one of . the first Flemish painters who is recorded to have done so. We are at a loss to know the road he took thither. Ferrara was the first place he visited; and Lionel d'Este, one of those who bought his pictures. Ciriaco Anconitano, who saw his “Expulsion from Paradise” in the palace at Ferrara, writes that Roger Van der Weyden came there in 1449, in the third year of Nicolas the Fifth's pontificate, and taught the secret of oil-painting to Angelo Parrasio of Sienna, and Galasso Galassi—two painters who had been struck with the “ingenuity of finish and the artifice of colour” exhibited in the work of
* Gandelot, Hist. de Beaune, 4to. Dijon, 1772, p. 111.
the Fleming." That they failed or neglected to practise that mode of colour, we believe; for we find no pictures by Angelo or Galasso other than fresco; and this is considered by Italians as a proof that Van der Weyden did not communicate his art to them.” From Ferrara to Florence was, doubtless, Van der Weyden's next step; but we want direct testimony to that effect. It is highly improbable, however, that he should pass by Florence on his way to Rome without stopping to examine the masterpieces of Italian art in that city. It is true that Van Eyck's improvements in oil-painting were unlikely to excite there the attention which they received elsewhere, for the city was full of the finest achievements of art from the period of Giotto to that of Beato Angelico; but however little the painters of Florence may have valued mechanical improvements in the vehicle of painting, Wan der Weyden must have felt it incumbent on him to see at least the chapel of the Brancacci where Masolino di Panicale had worked and Masaccio laboured, a spot since honoured by the studies of Raffael, Michael Angelo, and Leonardo, who strengthened their own noble inspirations by continued contemplation of the masterpieces finished by Filippino Lippi. That Van der Weyden did visit Florence is rendered almost certain by his picture of the Gallery of Francfort. It represents the Virgin, and the patron saints of Florence,
1 Facio (B.), De Wiris Illust. ut sup., p. 167. Scalamonti, Vita di Ciriaco Anconitano, ap. Colucci, Antichite Picene, vol. xv. p. 143.
* Wasari, ut sup, Vita di Nicolò di Piero d'Arezzo, vol. iii. p. 4, and Vita di Galasso Galassi, vol. iv. note to p. 214.
and the Medici. The heads of St. Cosmo and St. Damian are even said to have been likenesses of Piero and Giovanni de Medici, and the arms of the family are on a scutcheon in the picture. It is not improbable from this evidence that Roger painted for the ducal family of Florence, that he tarried in that city, and thus became acquainted with Lippi and Ghiberti.
In the year of Jubilee, 1450, Roger went to Rome, and visited the churches and curiosities abounding there. His favourite amongst the painters of the capital was Gentile da Fabriano, of whom he is recorded to have said, when he visited his chapel in St. John of the Lateran, that he was the greatest painter of Italy. We can only explain this exclusive admiration of Van der Weyden for Gentile, by supposing that that master's style struck some sensitive chord in the artistic organization of the Fleming, and that his exclamation of pleasure was caused by the discovery in the work of Gentile of that soft and blended manner whích we have already referred to, and which led Michael Angelo to say of him, that his painting was like his name (gentile).' *
From Rome Van der Weyden returned to Flanders ; his pictures having found their way to Naples and Genoa, where he does not seem to have wandered.?
His patrons, on his return to Belgium, were Pierre Bladelin and Jean, abbot of Cambrai.
Pierre Bladelin was treasurer of the order of the Golden Fleece, having risen to that eminence by industry and
1 “Nel dipignere aveva avuto la mano simile al nome." - Vasari, Vit. di Gentile da Fabriano, ut sup., vol. iv. p. 154,
2 Facio, De Viris Illust. pp. 48-9.
perseverance. Although at first but a burgess of Bruges, his family was ancient and respected in the neighbourhood of Furnes; and he married Margaret Van de Wageviere, a rich heiress of Bruges,' and of a noble race whose members held high rank at court.” He rose from a subordinate place in the household, to be Philip's governor of finance and keeper of the purse, much indeed to the disgust of numbers who grumbled at his nearness and integrity. The collectors of the revenue specially detested him, as he knew and checked their dishonesty. His revenues were six thousand golden pieces, and Philip gave him as much more.” His influence was just as great on Charles the Rash as it had been on Philip, and he made a rapid fortune without incurring charges of rapacity. Pierre Bladelin laid out his money in purchases of land belonging to a monastery near Ardemburg; and on that land he built a town, a church, and a castellated mansion. The church he dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, and adorned with a tryptic by Van der Weyden. The mansion he inhabited himself, and the town he gave to the Dimantois, whose dwellings had all been razed by the Duke of Burgundy, and who at once gave trade to Middelburg by their copper manufacture. The town, the church, and the castle, were commenced in 1444, and completed in 1450, and the place is thriving yet.
* “Sub eo (Lodovicus Malanus) commemoratur virum nobilem. Nicolaum Bladelinum, ob Gravelingam contra Anglos fortiter sed infauste defensam."—Marchantius, ut sup., p. 260. * Comp. Chron. Episc. Brug. p. 170—183. Messager des Sciences et des Arts de Belgique, 1835, pp. 333–348.
* Chronique de Chastelain, ch. 164, p. 47, in Buchon, Collection de Documents, vol. xlvii.