Jan van Eyck By: Hailey Jennato


Birth and death

Jan van Eyck was born in Maaseik, a city in the Limburg province of the southern Netherlands. He was born most likely around 1380. He died in 1441 and was buried in the city of Bruges, a city in Belgium.

Where He Lived

Van Eyck spent most of his life living in the Burgundian Netherlands, which was comprised of modern day Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and parts of northern France. He mainly lived in Bruges, Belgium, as he had a career there for 16 years.


The origin and evolution of van Eyck's style is still widely argued about by scholars today. Van Eyck's two brothers were also painters. He worked at a palace in The Hague in 1422, but had other unknown apprenticeships before that. His first artistic credit was in the famous inscription on the frame of the Ghent Altarpiece, a painting van Eyck finished for his brother Hubert. Van Eyck was once credited with the invention of oil painting, although he actually just perfected and popularized the technique.


Little is known about van Eyck's life, although he is still the most documented Flemish artist of the 15th century. He was married to Margaretha van Eyck, who bore him at least two children. He decorated John of Bavaria's castle. Around 1430, he had his own workshop in Bruges. He also was the court painter for Duke Philip the Good. Van Eyck went on many secret voyages with the Burgundian embassies, including one to Spain and one to Portugal. Van Eyck's brilliance stretched beyond art, as he was able to obtain the hand of a Portuguese duchess named Isabella for Philip. Van Eyck signed most of his paintings with his own motto,

This is the best I can do.


Van Eyck's art was mainly paintings, along with some drawings and sketches.

Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata

Virgin of the Fountain

Madonna in the Church


Van Eyck had two main patrons. His first job was at The Hague and his patron was John of Bavaria, unconsecrated Bishop of Liege. Van Eyck was hired to decorate the bishop’s castle in 1422. After John of Bavaria’s death in 1425, Van Eyck became a valet de chambre (a court appointment) to the very wealthy and powerful Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. He was the court painter for the Duke. The Duke believed that van Eyck was incredibly talented and often gave him extra gifts, payments, or privileges. It is thought that van Eyck and the Duke were close friends, as van Eyck chose the Duke to be his daughter’s godfather at her baptism in 1435. The Duke also continued to support his daughter and Margaretha after he died.

Van Eyck's Renaissance -isms

  • Classicism - Van Eyck often used classical arches and columns in his work. He also had a very elegant and sophisticated style.
  • Humanism - He wanted the focus of most of his paintings to be on human subjects and their emotions.
  • Perspectivism - He used incredible detail to give depth to his paintings so they looked realistic. Most of his artwork is three-dimensional.
  • Naturalism - Van Eyck’s work depicts every detail of the physical world in the exact way it truly is. He loved to put great detail and attention to the background landscapes and paintings of his work. He is also famous for the complex way he played with light to create textures and tones.


Madonna with chancellor nicolas rolin

  • Also known as: The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin
  • Date of creation: 1435
  • Today's location: The Louvre Museum, Paris France


This piece has extreme clarity and lots of details. It shows the powerful Chancellor of Burgundy bowing down to Mary the Virgin and baby Jesus. Everything is depicted in exact detail. Van Eyck used lots of primary hues and clear glazes, which causes the painting to glow and shine. He is known for his unique and revolutionary complex use and manipulation of light, which can be seen in Madonna with Chancellor Nicolas Rolin.


Madonna with Chancellor Nicolas Rolin depicts The Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus on her lap. Across from her, the Chancellor of Burgundy is bowing with his Bible resting on a table in front of him. There is a beautiful angel flying in from the side of the painting holding an elaborate crown of jewels. The scene seems to be taking place in the upper level of an extremely elegant church with mosaic floors, carvings on the walls and columns, and huge open arches. A city along two sides of a river can be seen in the background between the open arches. The city is crowded with many buildings and ships and many people are walking across the bridge that connects the two sides of the river. Beyond the city are large fields of empty, fertile land.

Renaissance -ism

Classicism most closely relates to Madonna in the Church. The painting is very detailed and also has an elegant style. Everything is proportioned correctly. The work is incredibly sophisticated and realistic. Mostly, the painting has a lot of architecture from the Classical Age. There are many intricate columns and arches in the church. The same architectural style is also carried to the city in the background. Most of the buildings also have numerous arches and columns. Even the bridge is made up of arches.

Why I find this painting interesting

I love this piece because of its extreme detail and depth. Everything in the painting looks very realistic. At a quick glance, many of the tiny details can be overlooked. One thing I found most interesting was the city in the background of the painting. The city itself is almost more detailed than the church where Mary and the Chancellor are sitting. Each building is unique and elegantly designed. There are even a bunch of different people crossing the stone bridge. There are detailed ships lined up near the river banks. There are even a few crowded gondolas on the river. The details inside the church are also outstanding, like the beautiful carvings in the columns and walls, the tiled floors, and the stained glass windows. Another thing I found interesting was the amount of detail in the clothes of the people. The folds of Mary’s red robe are very realistic and eye-catching, and the Chancellor’s robe has intricate patterns on it. Overall, I am simply astounded by the amount of time, work, and detail van Eyck put into Madonna with Chancellor Nicolas Rolin.

Fun facts

  • Only ten paintings signed by van Eyck still exist today. There are about the same number of unsigned paintings greatly believed to also be his because of the style and techniques used.
  • Italian humanist Bartolommeo Fazio wrote a book of biographies called De viris illustribus in 1456, in which he called van Eyck
The foremost painter of our age.
  • There are some first hand accounts of pieces of van Eyck's that have never been found.
  • Giovanni Sanzio, the father of the painter Raphael, said that van Eyck
Challenged nature herself.


Created with images by reginaspics - "cathedral of our lady antwerp belgium"

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