“Madonna in the Church,” Jan van Eik – a description of the picture

“Madonna in the Church,” Jan van Eik – a description of the picture
“Madonna in the Church,” Jan van Eik - a description of the picture - 1

  • Posted by Jan van Eik
  • Museum: Berlin Art Gallery
  • Year: Around 1438-1440

Description of the picture :

The Madonna in the Church is Jan van Eik. Around 1438-1440. Wood, butter. 31 x 14 cm

   Virgin Mary with a baby in her arms, slightly tilting her head, is surrounded by strict geometric arches of the Gothic cathedral. Warm light pours from the windows. Madonna’s face is calm and humble. Before us is one of the most famous and mysterious works of Jan van Eik “Madonna in the Church.”.

   Indeed, the picture gave rise to many mysteries. It is believed that it was created somewhere between 1438-1440. Presumably ordered a painting from author Philip III. Good. Until the middle of the 19th century, it is unknown how and where the work was stored. Some art historians completely suspect that van Eik is not the author of the work, attributing it to her brother and teacher of the painter, Hubert van Eik. With exact dating, there are also large discrepancies: then it is attributed to the early work of van Eik, then to the period of creation of the “Portrait of the Marks of Arnolfini”.

   The work is written on a small board. This is almost a miniature. This size is due to the typical parameters of the prayer diptych, which were common in the 15th century. It is assumed that the left sash of the diptych reached us – clasps for dressing in the loops of the second lost half were preserved on the frame. And the image itself looks illogical, assuming that before us the finished work – Maria is shifted from the center, and her gaze seems to be directed at someone.

   Van Eik’s innovation is in the image of the background. What a detailed drawing of the interior of the Gothic temple! There were even assumptions that this was some real-life building. Although, most likely, this is a figment of the artist’s imagination, a certain idealized image. Moreover, there were no rounded typhoria and glazed windows (not stained glass) in those days in temples. Shadows discarded by architectural elements are so realistic that it is assumed that the artist wrote all this from nature. A revolutionary act for that time, because to the impressionists who will bring this into everyday life for 400 years!!!

   Curious and light spots on the floor, because the light source is by no means windows – they are located on the opposite side. So there is some other source of light, and van Eik hints at the presence of God in the walls of the cathedral.

   In 1851, a picture was discovered in a village near Nantes. Then, rare work was in the hands of collector Barthold Zurmondt, and in 1874 the entire collection of 219 paintings, including the “Madonna in the Church”, was bought by the Berlin Gallery. The work is still there.