St. Luke and the Virgin For My Museum Essay, I have chosen Rogier van der Weyden’s “St. Luke drawing the Virgin” (c. 1435-40). First of all, this painting is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of art, with both meticulous details and true to life emotional state of the figures portrayed. And it intrigued me even more when I found out that there is a very compositionally similar painting by Jan Van Eyck (“Madonna with Chancellor Rolin”). 1. “St. Luke drawing the Virgin” (c. 1435-40) by Rogier van der Weyden.
First thing that I noticed about this gorgeous oil and tempera on panel painting was the precise emotional aspect: romantic and simple, yet so exceptionally lifelike. This work surely shows a development from the powerfully naturalistic and expressive style of his master towards greater refinement and spirituality. This work definitely has a Gothic feel, but the sensitivity of the figures makes it quite disguised. This painting shows that Rogier’s teacher Robert Campin taught him well: implements, preparing panel with gesso (plaster mixed with binding material), mixing colors, oils, and varnishes.
Besides all the technical values that Rogier van der Weyden had, there is definitely something that is beyond it: a n actual feeling. A feeling of presence, being there at the moment(/place) when(/where) the painting was taking place. It is quite hard to explain… but I’m glad that I could see this painting ‘in person’. There is a great deal of Robert Campin’s “The Merode Altarpiece” (c. 1425-1428, oil on oak) in this painting. Of course, mainly because Rogier van der Weyden was a student of Robert Campin.
But in my opinion, there is this very similar spirituality that is laid down on both paintings, and it was something that Robert could teach Rogier, it was something they both had (and possibly what established their connection. ) In “The Merode Altarpiece” “the smallest details are meticulously worked to reflect reality on a two-dimensional plane. Illusionistic effects are enhanced by the technical innovation of overlaying translucent oil pigments on aqueous opaque pigments”. Both of the paintings are containing rich gradations of light (we don’t see the light source, and it looks like as if the sun entered through miraculously transparent wall so that we can observe the scene better. ) We can clearly see town happenings scenes in both works, which displays a better perspective of the environment. Comparing this piece to Jan van Eyck’s “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride” we clearly notice what Rogier van der Weyden excelled him at. Extraordinary details, external exactness and idealistic structure… still figures in Jan van Eyck’s work absolutely lack emotional development. Pursuing perfection in details (in pretty much everything, including human faces, fabrics, etc. he makes the figures “locked into one place”, not giving any room for change. There is also a lot of evident symbolism in Jan van Eyck’s work, which is not so easy to spot in Rogier van der Weyden’s painting. Both of the works were painted using the “glazed oil” (layering and building on top of glazes) technique, which was Jan van Eyck’s primary medium. And there is no doubt that Rogier derived Jan’s ideas about the atmospheric use of light and shade; but still “Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife” differs from Rogier’s work in having that effect of chiaroscuro (a quality rather typical of the art of Jan van Eyck).
Now let’s look at a great representation of International Gothic painting, “Adoration of the Magi” (c. 1423) (Stozzi Altarpiece) by Gentile da Fabriano. This work was created a few years before “St. Luke drawing the Virgin”, but the difference between two is tremendous. First, it is tempera on panel, which possibly could explain many imperfections. But what really catches your attention in Gentile’s painting is an absolute lack of air, along with irrational usage of space. It seems like the artist was stacking human figures in the painting, so that everybody’s face would be shown.
There we can see a greater deal of International Gothic style (straight lines, look-alike faces, awkward/illogical body positions, etc. ) Still the most significant difference between Rogier’s work and Gentile’s work is the usage of space, presence of atmosphere. While going up the hill, in “Adoration of the Magi”, all the details stay the same as if there was no air. It’s impossible to ignore artist’s very primitive light/shadow usage: not only it’s extremely difficult imagine where the light source is, but you can’t even find a single rational shadow.
Rogier van Weyden’s “St. Luke drawing the Virgin” surely excelled the painting of Gentile da Fabriano in many aspects. An excellent example of using a unified light source (which creates real shadows and gives the otherwise flat figures three dimensions) and one point perspective is the painting “The Tribute Money” (c. 1427) by the great Masaccio (Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone. ) The work was done in fresco (a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid lime plaster), which is quite typical for Italian Renaissance artists.
There are a couple of similarities is this painting and the one of Rogier van der Weyden: linear and aerial perspective. In Masaccio’s painting, Linear perspective is achieved through the lines in the building. Several lines point to Jesus’ head, the vanishing point. By using lighter colors Peter and the mountains are put in the virtual background – the atmospheric perspective. Masaccio uses an old narrative format by showing three consecutive events in the one painting (which Rogier van der Weyden would probably never use. Masaccio probably picked this technique, abandoned for hundreds of years during the Dark Ages, when he went to Rome to study classicism.