Jan van Eyck (c. 1395 - 1441) was a Flemish painter considered to be one of the best Northern European painters of the 15th century. Because of his effective use of glazes, wet-on-wet, and other techniques, he was known as the father of oil painting. For much of his life he served as a painter and valet de chambre to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. Jan van Eyck produced paintings for both private clients as well as for the court. Among his most famous works is the Ghent Altarpiece, a polyptych containing many works included in our pattern set. Other paintings included are Arnolfini Portrait, Annunciation, the Stygmata of St. Francis, Portrait of a Goldsmith, Portrait of a Young Man, Portrait of a Man in a Turban, Portrait of a Man with Carnation, Portrait of Margareta van Eyck, and Portrait of Jan de Leeuw.

Patterns Included In This Set:


Portrait of a Man in a Turban

The Arnolfini Portrait



The Madonna with Canon van der Paele (detail)


Last Judgement


Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini

Stigmatization of St. Francis

Portrait of a Goldsmith


Portrait of Cardinal Niccolo Albergati

Portrait of a Man with Carnation

Portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy


Portrait of Jan de Leeuw

Portrait of Margareta van Eyck

Portrait of Christ


The Ghent Altarpiece: Adam

The Ghent Altarpiece: Virgin Mary

The Ghent Altarpiece: God Almight


The Ghent Altarpiece: St. John the Baptist

The Ghent Altarpiece: Eve

The Ghent Altarpiece: Singing Angels


The Ghent Altarpiece: Mary of the Annunciation

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Just Judges

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Soldiers of Christ


The Ghent Altarpiece: The Holy Hermits

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Holy Pilgrims

The Ghent Altarpiece: Prophet Zechariah and Angel


The Ghent Altarpiece: The Donor

The Ghent Altarpiece: The Donor's Wife

The Ghent Altarpiece: Angels Playing Music


Suckling Madonna Enthrounded

The Birth of John the Baptist

Portrait of a Young man

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Jan van Eyck (c.1395-1441) was a Flemish painter who is now considered one of the leading Northern European artists of the 15th century.

Van Eyck's precise date of birth is unknown, and little is known too about his childhood. The earliest surviving record dates to 1422 and describes him as a court painter to John of Bavaria where he held the rank of valet de chambre. It is believed however that he was born in Maaseik in Belgium and learned to paint in the studio of his older brother, Hubert.

Van Eyck probably joined John of Bavaria's court in 1421. He left in 1424 for the court of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy where he seemed to have found favor. While other painters of his time relied on commissions for their income, Philip paid van Eyck a generous salary which he doubled twice in the first few years and to which he added large bonuses.

Van Eyck's work at the court involved more than painting, and he was sent on a number of secret missions on the Duke's behalf. These included being part of a delegation sent in 1428 to arrange the Duke's marriage to Isabella of Portugal. It's possible that van Eyck's portrait of Isabella helped to win the Duke's agreement to the match.

In 1432, after his return from Lisbon, van Eyck settled in Bruges. He married and had a daughter who would later enter the convent at Maeseyck under the Duke's sponsorship.

In addition to the work he produced at the court, van Eyck also took private commissions. One of the most famous was the Ghent Altarpiece, a series of panels painted with Hubert van Eyck between 1426 and 1432 for Jodocus Vijdts and his wife, Elisabeth Borluut. While Early Renaissance paintings of the time attempted re-create an ideal form of classical art, van Eyck's paintings emphasized detail and realism. The van Eyck brothers' unique use of glazes, "wet-on-wet" and other techniques led later critics to dub Jan van Eyck the "father of oil painting."

Another famous painting, the Arnolfini Portrait is believed to show Italian merchant Giovanni Arnolfini and his apparently pregnant wife at their home in Bruges. Unusually for his time, van Eyck signed and dated his paintings, and this painting, now in London's National Gallery, was dated 1434.

The painting is one of the most studied works in Western art. Commentators have drawn attention to the level of detail in the reflection in the mirror on the far wall, the realism of the room, as well as the pose of the woman. While she appears to be heavily pregnant, some critics have noted that virgin saints have been depicted in similar stances, including in two of Jan van Eyck's own works, the Dresden Triptych and the Frick Madonna. Most intriguing is a recent discovery that Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cenami weren't married until 1447, thirteen years after the painting was dated and six years after van Eyck's death. One theory now identifies the couple as Giovanni's cousin Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfinia and his late first wife Costanza Trenta.

Jan van Eyck died in Bruges in 1441. As early as 1454 Genoese humanist Bartolomeo Facio named him "the leading painter" of his day.

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