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latter, in the copy of nature and its minutiae, produced perspective views of which the colour is the chief illusion. His perspective, true in landscape backgrounds, was defective in the figures of the foreground; thus rendering the latter subservient to the former. There is not an instance of Van Eyck producing foreshortened figures, true to the rules of perspective ; but his great sagacity and talent enabled him to gain a knowledge of aerial perspective, as much, perhaps, from a faithful and minute observation of nature as from science. It is, indeed, extremely doubtful whether he ever reduced perspective to geometrical rules. His works were, in all likelihood, not the result of his possessing linear perspective reduced to a demonstrative art; and this view is confirmed by the productions of his pupils, who, after his death, ceased to progress in that very branch of the art—one of the facts to which we attribute the immediate decline of the Flemish school. To the progress of perspective as a demonstrative art, on the contrary, is, in a great measure, owing the rise of the Italian schools. The first attempt in that direction was made by Stefano Fiorentino, a pupil of Giotto. Next came Paolo Uccello, the contemporary of Van Eyck;" and Mantegna, a few years later, carried
* In Paolo Uccello we find examples the very reverse of those afforded by John Van Eyck. Uccello's works are mostly executed in one single colour, a sort of chiaro'scuro, made of terra verde. When he attempted to colour them he failed, or succeeded but imperfectly. Paolo, in fact, lacked the sense and perception of colour, and obtained effect in his paintings by reducing his lines to the test of perspective rules, and by the gradations of light and shade; that is, chiaro-'scuro. To this Vasari himself bears testimony, whilst those parts of Uccello's works which remain in the
out a system, imperfect in many respects, but sufficiently complete to enable Pietro della Francesca to take it up, and Fra Luca Pacioli to reduce it to a compendious form. Leonardo da Vinci, at a later period, brought the precepts of the art to a still greater degree of perfection. By following these, the Italians progressed and became great, whilst the Flemings, being inattentive or careless of them, retrograded. The Mystic Lamb was completed in 1432; and the consecration of the chapel for which it was executed was splendidly solemnized. The ceremony took place in May, before admiring crowds; the story and the date of the
convent of St. Maria Novella are a proof of it. Wasari lauds the perspective science of the painter, affirming that previous to his time perspective “was made by chance;” but he criticises Paolo's colour, saying “that he made his fields blue, his cities red, and the buildings various, as best suited his fancy; wherein he committed an error; for,” adds Vasari, “whatever we intend to be stone cannot and should not be tinted of other colours.” Wasari goes further, however. He expresses his meaning still more distinctly when he writes that, “by due arrangement and proportion of lines, the level space, which really is small, and closely bounded, may be made to appear extensive, and acquire the semblance of distance; and he who, after securing this, shall be capable of judiciously distributing his lights and shadows in their proper places with colours, will, doubtless, produce the effect of a more complete illusion to the eyes, cause his pictures to have greater relievo, and give them a more exact resemblance to life and reality.” Wetherefore find in Paolo Uccello and John Wan Eyck, severally, the qualities which, united, give pictures the complete appearance of life and rotundity: in Paolo, relief without colour; and in Wan Eyck, colour with insufficient relief. We agree with Vasari, in thinking the latter the master and founder of the modern mode of colouring, and superior therein to all his contemporaries; but we join, at the same time, in the praises he awards to the former as the great promoter of perspective reduced to a scientific and demonstrative art,
completion being publicly made known by the following inscription upon the frame:– “Pictor Hubertus ab Eyck, major quo nemo repertus, Incepit; pondus, quod Johes, arte secundus, Frater, perfectus, Judoci Vyd prece fretus, VersW seXta Mal Wos CoI, LoCat aCta tWerI.” The last verse of this inscription is a chronostic which indicates that the altar-piece was completed on the 6th of May, 1432. Van Mander, who did not see this writing on the panels of the Agnus Dei, assumed erroneously that Philip, Duke of Burgundy, had given the commission for it; but the portraits on the outer portion of the altar-piece, not being those of Philip or any of his wives, might have led him to pause. The fact was known to Wrientius when he strung these rhymes:— “Quos Deus ob vitium paradiso exegit, Apelles Eyckius hos vitii reddidit aere patres. Arte, modoque pari—pariter concurrere visi AEmulus huic pictor, fictor inde Deus.”” A manuscript of this period contains a narrative of the consecration of the altar-piece, and describes the crowds which flocked to see the ceremony—crowds which are
* Dr. Waagen. Ueber Hub. & Joh. v. Eyck, p. 27. Mr. de Bast, Dr. Waagen's annotator and translator, discovered the inscription in a book written by an old author, a lawyer named Van Huerne. It had been daubed over, and is now recovered by Dr. Waagen.
* Wrientius in Sanderus (Ant.) De Brug. Erud. clar. lib. i. p. 39. Sanderus also says (Flandria Illustrata): “Picturae etiam variae... Triumphus agnus coelestis est qui Joh. et Hubertus picturae coryphaei, Justo Vitio domino de Pamele patricio Gandavense pretium solvente . . .”
compared, for density and numbers, to swarms of bees.» The people were seldom gratified by a sight so wonderful, except on solemn festivals ; and “ lords alone could bribe the keeper with a sum sufficient to induce him to expose it."
Van Eyck had other patrons besides the Duke and Josse Vydt. The greatest in importance and in wealth was Rollin, chancellor of Philip, obscure in birth, but cunning in finance ; who amassed a fortune in a manner which excited jealousy at the ducal court, but who never lost his master's favour. John Van Eyck painted his portrait, kneeling to the Virgin and Saviour. Rollin gave the picture to the church of Autun.
Nor did John contemn the orders of less noble or less courtly people. Amongst the men who figure in the records of the ducal treasurers is Jehan Arnoulphin, partner and factor of Marc Guidecon, merchant and draper of Lucca. Arnoulphin lived at Bruges, and John Van Eyck painted both his and his wife's likenesses. The catalogue of Margaret of Austria’s gallery contains a notice of this picture,—“ An exquisite piece, closing with two shutters, and in which are represented a lady and gentleman standing in a chamber, and holding each other's hand.” The name of this man in the inventory of 1416 is Hernoult le Fin, and in that of 1424, Arnoult."
1 De Bast, note to Dr. Waagen. Ueber Hub. & Joh. v. Eyck, ut sup., p. 35. V. Mander, p. 201.
2 V. Mander, p. 201.
4 Recettes Gener. de Flandres. Archives de Lille. De Laborde, Les Ducs de B. ut sup., vol. i. p. 209.
5 Inventaire de Marguerite d'Autriche. De Laborde, ut sup. p. 24. Le Glay. Invent. de M. d'Autriche.
The picture in our National Gallery coincides with this description, but the wings are wanting. If it be the same, it was produced in 1434. It has been supposed, however, and with some appearance of probability, that the figures in the National Gallery are the portraits of John Wan Eyck and his wife; and the likeness between the female face and the portrait of the painter's wife at Bruges bears out this supposition. It must also be remarked, that the marriage of Van Eyck appears to have occurred about the year just mentioned; for on the 30th of June we find the Duke of Burgundy godfather to the painter's infant daughter; the child being held in church by the Lord of Chargny. The Duke, on the occasion, presented to Wan Eyck a gift of six silver cups." Amongst the latest patrons of John Van Eyck, during his stay at Bruges, were George van der Paele, and Roger van Meyer, canon and president of the chapter of St. Donat, for whom he painted a well-known picture—the Sire van Leeuw, whose portrait may still be seen at Vienna, and others whose names are not preserved. His
1 “A Jehan Pantin, orfevre, demourant a Bruges, la somme de quatrevins sëze livres douze sols du pris de XL gros, monnoie de Flandres la livre, que deue lui éstoit pour la vendue et délivrance de six tasses d'argent pesans ensemble douze marcs, du prix de 8 francs, ung sol le marc, lesquelles M.D.S. a de lui fait prendre et acheter pour lui, de par icelui S. donner et présenter au baptisement de l'enfant Johannes van Eik, son paintre et varlet de chambre, lequelil a fait tenir surfons, en son nom, par le S. de Chargny, pour ce comme plus à plain peut apparoitre par mandement de M. D.S. sur ce fait et donné en sa ville de Brouxelles le dernier jour de juing 1434. Quittance dudit Jehan Pantin et certification dudit S. de Chargny sur les pris, achats et délivrance des dittes parties cy rendues IIII*XVI. f. XII. S.-Compte de Jean Abonnel, de Janv. 1433, à Dec. 1434.”—De Laborde, Les Ducs de B., wt sup. vol. i. p. 341-2.