Alexi Worth considers Jan van Eyck’s Crucifixion and Last Judgment (ca. 1435 – 40) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Worth begins: "For the past few years this has been the painting I visit most often. I love how concentrated it is—as if the biggest painting in the Met had been compressed into a shoebox. The panel itself is so modest, so slender, barely big enough for two viewers to look at shoulder to shoulder, but it contains more drama and more subtlety than any mural. It has everything: blood and horses, mockery and torture, weeping women who crumple into origami shapes, and in the distance, the most beautiful cumulus clouds in the history of art. And that’s not even mentioning the subject, which, for van Eyck, would have been history’s pivotal event. And then of course it is painted with such uncanny finesse, as if we were looking into the miniature brightness of a camera lucida."
John Haber muses on the Friedsam Annunciation in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Officially attributed to Petrus Christus, the painting has, in the past, been considered the work of the Hubert van Eyck, the mysterious brother of Jan van Eyck.
Haber writes that "among the twenty panels of the Ghent Altarpiece, Hubert usually gets credit for the ones with flatter figures and exaggerated perspective. Erwin Panofsky, a titan among art historians, attributed the Friedsam Annunciation to Hubert, and textbooks generally complied. Only one small problem: nothing can be assigned to him with certainty, not even a hand in the Ghent Altarpiece. Not a single other painting comes with his signature or clear documentary evidence in his favor, and consensus has slowly fallen away... I cannot say for sure who painted this, but its old-fashioned perspective captures precisely Mary's two-point choices, with the implication that she need not choose. So does the strange composition of walls within walls and gardens without gardens. Once one admits passage through one, anything can follow. Panofsky stresses the signs of 'unregenerate nature,' of 'the blind forces of growth and decay' from which the new order promises salvation. One should remember, though, whose advent in this tale has broken through the walls—or who in the cosmos might share the painting's strange point of view from above. Hubert himself might not have broken through to the Renaissance, but someone's gaze, at once a god's and a very human viewer's, is looking both ways at growth and decay."
Julie Beckers reviews the exhibition The Road to Van Eyckat Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, on view through February 10, 2013.
Beckers writes: "The showstopper however has to be The Annunciation (c1430-35), once perhaps the left wing of a triptych. It is here Van Eyck is at his best. The detail on the cloak of Gabriel, who, with a soft smile, conveys the glorious message to the Virgin, at which he points with a delicately lifted finger, displays the quality of the painter’s abilities. The wings of the angel remind us of Fra Angelico’s work at San Marco in Florence and a more complex theological scheme enfolds in the Romanesque architecture which alludes to the era of the Old Testament; the glass windows which depict God flanked by Moses, scenes of the Old Testament which can be made out between the Signs of the Zodiac on the tiled floors, the three glass windows which refer to the Trinity and the lilies to the virginal purity of the Madonna."
Tyler Green interviews Craig Harbison, author of the recently revised monograph Jan Van Eyck: The Play of Realism. Green notes that the book is "a too-rare example of a top art historian willing to allow his sense of wonder at his subject’s work to infuse every page."
Green also interviews Ron Spronk, coordinator for the Closer to van Eyck on-line project which provides macro-photographic images of the Ghent Alterpiece. Green writes that this new "documentation should help historians solve one of art history's greatest mysteries: Which parts of the altarpiece were painted by Hubert van Eyck before he died, and which parts were painted by his brother Jan?."
Mario Naves ponders the mutable nature of perception. "I wonder how many citizens of the 21st-century would be fooled by Zeuxis and Peale. (I can’t speak for the avian world.) Technology alters our capacity to perceive."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.