Page images

could scarcely be said to progress. It remained, indeed, almost stationary at Bruges and in Burgundy; whilst far away, in the Pays de Liège and in the republican town of Ghent, it flourished among the Van Eycks.

The family of Van Eyck had its origin in the Duchy of Limburg, on the banks of the Meuse, where numerous cities, free and powerful like those of Flanders, prospered and increased. It arose and progressed there, deriving vigour and experience from the earlier efforts of miniature painters and illuminators. As far back as the fifteenth century, the Duchy of Limburg sent forth to foreign lands men whose names are preserved in the annals of art, and whose fame inspired the following verses to a contemporary chronicler :

“Es hætte kein Maler zu Koeln oder Mastricht,

(So gibt die Aventure bericht,)
Eine Kriegergestalt gemalt so schoen,
Als der Knap zu Ross war anzusehn.” 1

One of these men was Pol van Limburg, who, in company of his two brothers, entered the service of John, Duke of Berry,—a prince whose fame reposes upon his patronage of art and literature, and who, favoured by the countenance of Charles the VIth of France, his brother, rebuilt the palace of Bicêtre, which had previously been the residence of the English bishop of Winchester. The manuscript of Josephus at the “Bibliothèque Nationale,” in Paris, is filled with miniatures executed by these brethren, and is the sole remaining monument of their

Parcival, Ritter Gedicht. By W. von Eschenbach, fol. Augsburg 1477, not paged.Brit. Mus.

skill.' Hasselt in Limburg was, we believe, the birthplace of Jean de Hasselt, painter and “varlet” of the Count of Flanders; and Liège was that of Hennequin de Liège, who built the tomb of Charles W. at Rouen.” The family of Van Eyck cannot be traced with certainty higher than Hubert, who first brought it to renown. He was born at Maaseyck in 1366.” Probably the oldest members of his line are Joes Van Eyck and Margaret Van den Huutfanghe his wife, whose names were registered in the Guild of Painters at Ghent in 1391.* Hubert became a member of the fraternity in 1412, and Margaret his sister in 1418." Many suppose that Joes and

1 Pol Van Limburg was in the service of Jean de Berry from 1400 to 1416. The inventory of property left at his death by that prince in the latter year is preserved in the Bib. Ste Geneviève in Paris, and contains the following entry: “ Folio 267 verso. Item : un livre contrefait d'une pièce de bois peint en semblance d'un livre ou il n'y a nul feuilletz, couverts de veluzan et blanc à deux fermoers d'argent esmaillé aux armes de Monseigneur, lequel livre Pol de Limbourg et ses frères donnèrent à mondit seigneur aux estraines mil CCCC. et dix. Pris. XL. l. parisis.” “Item, une layette, plusieurs cayers d'une trés riche heures que faisait Pol et ses frères trés richement historiées et enluminées.” Pris. Ve. Liv. De Labord. La Renaiss. des Arts. 8vo. Paris 1850, p. 165. * De Laborde, les Ducs de Bourg. Mandt. du roi, vol. i. p. xxii. * V. Mander. ut sup. p. 199. Van Vaernewyk, Historie van Belgis, fol. Ghendt, 1574, c. 47, p. 119. * Mr. Goetghebuer, of Ghent, notes the entry as follows: “ Wide Carton, Annales de la société d'émulation de Bruges pour l'étude de l'histoire et des antiquités de la Flandre. Tom. v. 2e Serie, Nos. 3, 4, 8vo. Bruges, 1847, p. 325.” “Sont inscrits comme confrères: Un Meester Joes Van Hyke, y est admis en 1391, avec sa femme Mergriete van den Huutfanghe.” * Ibid. p. 268, “ Sente Bamesse anno xiiije. en xij. was Hubrecht Van Eycke, Guldebroeder van Het Onser Vrouwe gulden up de rade van den chore van Sint Jans te Ghend.” Ibid. p. 325, “ Meester Hubrech Van Hyke y est inscrit sous la date de 1412, et en 1418, sa soeur Mergrieta Van Hyke.”

Margaret were the parents of Hubert and his brethren, and insist that the family was originally settled in Ghent; but this last supposition rests only upon the desire of the Gantois to claim for their city the fame of having been John Van Eyck's birth-place. It is far more probable that Ghent became the ordinary residence of Hubert Van Eyck's parents on or before the year 1391, when the Pays de Liège became extremely disturbed, If it be admitted that Joes Van Eyck was the father of Hubert, which is by no means unlikely, we trace the art of painting one generation further back in the Netherlands, and may suppose, without being accused of exaggeration, that painting being the profession of the parents, was transmitted to the children, who brought it gradually to perfection. The most conscientious search does not enable us to ascertain what were the occupations of Hubert Wan Eyck during the long series of years which preceded his admission to the Guild of Painters at Ghent. We only know from Wan Mander that he perfected the art-education of his brother John Wan Eyck, and that he painted more than one picture in the old method of tempera." He cannot but have taken a part in the education of his sister Margaret, and his youngest brother Lambert; and possibly he had a share in the original efforts made to bring oil medium into practical use in the Netherlands. This subject we treat more at length in the life of John Wan Eyck; and it is only necessary here to note, that the discoveries attributed to the latter took place, according to Wasari and Wan Mander, in 1410, at a time when Hubert was in the vigour of manhood, and John was comparatively young." Hubert at Ghent had apparently no princely patron to protect him. Of his early pictures, whether produced during his stay in Maaseyck and the Pays de Liège, or during his residence in Flanders, we have no trace. The rebellions and consequent destruction of the towns of Limburg doubtless had the most fatal effect on works of art. Hubert's native city, Maaseyck, was in the rudest and most warlike portion of the Duchy, which produced so many rude and warlike men. The old historians call it the “ruudt Kempen land,”or “Kempenia tetrarchia Brabantiae et Limburgae.” The character of Hubert was probably influenced by association in the feuds of the warlike communes, fostered by men whose hands were always ready to grasp the sword in search of vengeance or redress. Considerable difference exists in the incidents of the lives of the two brothers. Whilst John Wan Eyck led the life of courts and followed princes, Hubert's name is not remembered or recorded in the lists of “varlets” or of courtiers. His style of painting bears the stamp of a free and independent mind. It may not be ideal, but it has the nobleness and the vigour of a proud unbending nature. Hubert was the painter of the “commune,” John the painter of the court. Hubert shows in his works far more virile talents than his brother, and was a master in the use of the medium,

* Van Mander, ut sup, pp. 199, 200,

* Van Mander, ut sup., p. 202.

* Waernewyk, ut sup., c. 47, p. 119.

* F. Laet. Belgica Descriptio. in 24°. Amsterdam, 1630, p. 337, “La Campine du Pays de Liège.” Les Delices des Pays Bas, 8vo. Brussels, 1711, tit. “Hollandia.”—Brit, Mus,

which his brother is said to have discovered. Nor can it be concealed that amongst the numerous artists whose pictures show the study of the school, many preferred the rich and powerful talent of Hubert to the softer models of his brother. Petrus Cristus was one of the first to carry to Cologne the fruits of Hubert's teaching. Hugo Van der Goes followed the same school, whilst Justus of Ghent took to Italy the fruits of his early labours under the same master. The brothers Van der Meire exhibit some signs of the same inspiration, mingled with others derived apparently from the old school of Melchior Broederlain. The only man whose name is connected with Hubert's stay at Ghent, is Jodocus Wyts, “seigneur de Pamele,” a person related by marriage to the celebrated family of the Burluuts, whose name is familiar in the history of civic struggles. The Burluuts owed their fame to the courage of an ancestor at the battle of the Spurs; John Burluut having issued from the town of Ghent, on the eve of the combat, and contributed, by diverting for a moment the tide of battle, to the victory of his friends on the morrow." His relations prospered in their native city; and Jerome Burluut, for many successive years, filled the office of “ magnus praetor.”* This wealthy family founded, in 1299, the convent of Augustine friars in the town of Ghent, and there the doughty John was buried, with this inscription—

Johannes jacet hic, miles fortissimus olim.
De Borluut dictus, nullo certamine victus. *

1 Voisin. Guide de Gand. 12mo. 1831. P. 17. * Sanderus. Flandria Illustrata. Fol. Hag. 1735, vol. ii. p. 319. * Voisin, pp. 211,212. Sanderus, ut sup,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »