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VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH CANON JORIS VAN DER PAELE


The art of Jan van Eyck was the start of the growth and flourishing of panel painting in the Netherlands. After the Ghent altarpiece of ‘The Adoration of the Lamb’ in the cathedral of St Bavo in Ghent, ‘The Madonna with Canon van der Paele’ is the second-largest panel by van Eyck that has come down to us. In the century that followed, many of the elements and figures in this painting – the Virgin, the canon, and the saints Donatian and George – frequently turned up in the work of other artists. Van Eyck perfected a new technique of painting in oils that enabled him to achieve an unprecedented realism in rendering materials in glowing colour. ‘The Madonna with Canon van der Paele’ is an outstanding example of Jan van Eyck’s art. The figures – with a realistic and individualised portrait; the typical play of reflections on the helmet; the brilliant differentiation between qualities of texture, for instance in the brocades; and the wealth of minute details – are brought together in a convincing suggestion of spatial perspective. With his new formal idiom and especially his highly innovative oil-painting technique, van Eyck had a profound influence on European painting.