A closer look at “The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin”

Abaixo, o magnífico memorial que Thierry Soulard fez para o Louvre, de dezembro de 2006.

Van Eyck mostra que o menor dos meios é meio para a maior das mostras: sua mão multiplica a matéria, sua mente a manifesta. Muitos são os mistificadores – Van Eyck é místico: Van Eyck, mestre da memória.

Rafael Plácido

Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges, 1441)

The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin 1430-1434

Oil on panel H. : 66 cm ; W. : 62 cm

Paris, musée du Louvre, INV. 1271 © Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier






The Painter Jan Van Eyck

Together with the Master of Flémalle (now generally identified as the French painter Robert Campin) and Rogier van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck’s work had a tremendous influence on Flemish painting in the first half of the 15th century. The biographical details of Van Eyck’s life leave a question-mark over the attribution of some of his paintings, however.


Van Eyck spent the whole of his career working at aristocratic courts. He was active in Bruges in 1425, in the service of the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good.


His older brother, Hubert van Eyck, began work on an altarpiece, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb for Ghent cathedral, but died in 1426 before it was completed. Jan finished the painting in 1432, and recorded the date in an inscription.



Rogier Van der Weyden (Tournai, 1399/1400 – Brussels, 1464)

Portrait of Philip the Good circa 1450-1454 Oil on oak panel

H.: 30 cm; W.: 21 cm Stedelijke Musea, Groeningemuseum, Bruges



Hubert (Maaseick, circa 1366 – Ghent 1426) and Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges, 1441) Polyptych of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. Completed in 1432. Oil on panel. H. 3.50 m; W. 2.23 m (closed); H. 3.50 m; W. 4.61 m (open). Ghent, Cathedral of St Bavo. © Erich Lessing


Van Eyck enjoyed considerable freedom in the service of the duke. He received a guaranteed income, and was allowed to accept commissions from other patrons. This gave him the freedom to innovate in his work. In the 16th century, the Italian art historian Giorgio Vasari credited Van Eyck with the invention of oil painting – incorrectly, since the technique was already long-established in Van Eyck’s lifetime.


The use of oil paint allowed Van Eyck to render minute details and use cumulative layers of fluid, transparent colored glazes. His experimentation lead to considerable advances in the technique of oil painting.


The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin marks an important stage in Van Eyck’s artistic development, and Flemish painting as a whole.


Van Eyck’s works often feature prominent portraits of his patrons, as here and in the Virgin with Canon Van der Paele painted between 1434 and 1436. Their importance is sometimes diminished, however, by the presence of figures of patron saints.



Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges 1441)

The Virgin with Canon van der Paele 1434-1436. Oil on panel. H. : 1,22 m; W. : 1,57 m

Bruges, Groeninge Museum, 0.GRO01611 © Reproductiefonds, Gand


The device of a landscape seen through an archway appears again in the Virgin of the Charterhouse, painted between 1441 and 1443 (Van Eyck may have planned the painting’s composition before he died in 1441).



Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges 1441) Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor

1441-1443 Oil on panel H. : 47,31 cm; W. : 61,28 cm New York, The Frick Collection, 1954.1.161

© The Frick Collection, New York


The countless landscape details in the Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin pave the way for future depictions of the natural scene as a genre in its own right.


A number of works by Van Eyck reproduce the same compositional scheme as the Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin, notably St Luke Painting the Virgin, a copy of a work by Rogier van der Weyden, which is sometimes thought to be an original. The painting features a loggia with St Luke sitting on one side, and the Virgin on the other. Behind them, a portico opens onto an enclosed garden fortified by crenelated battlements, with two figures gazing out at a distant landscape with a river. However, Van Eyck’s graceful curves are replaced in the second painting by a more angular treatment, and there is a considerable loss of detail. The prevailing atmosphere is profoundly different.


Van Eyck’s contemporaries were struck by his acute sense of observation, and the quasi-scientific precision of his paintings. Van Eyck’s realism is characterized by his taste for fine materials, brocade, velvet, jewels, pearls, marble. He adores the effects of light reflecting off metal or glass.


Van Eyck is not painting a straightforward representation of the visible world, but a “re-composed” synthesis of visual images. His work expresses the theory of universal symbolism put forward by the 12th-century theologian Hugo of Saint-Victor, and taken up by the cardinal-philosopher Nicholas of Cusa in the 15th century: the palpable world is an open book written by the hand of God, in which everything is invested with symbolic significance. The physical world is an expression of divine perfection, reflected here in the perfection of the painting.



Rogier Van der Weyden (Tournai, 1399/1400 – Brussels, 1464)

Saint Luke Painting the Virgin Second half of the 15th century

Oil on panel H : 1,38 m W : 1,10 m Munich, Alte Pinakothek, WAF 1188


The Commission for the Painting

Before entering the Louvre in 1800, the painting was kept until the French Revolution at the now-destroyed church of Notre-Dame-du-Châtel in the French town of Autun. An 18th-century description of the work mentions the original frame, now lost, bearing an inscription imitating a carved relief, Van Eyck’s habitual way of signing and dating his paintings.


Scientific analysis of the under-drawing, using infra-red reflectography has revealed a number of traits in common with the drawing for Van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece, such as the use of hatching to render relief. The attribution to Van Eyck is also clearly supported by the painting’s style.


Certain facts provide clues as to the painting’s date and its original setting. The painting is executed in oils on a wooden panel. Dendrochronological analysis of the support allows us to date the wood used, by examining the growth rings. As a result, we know that the tree from which the panel was cut, was probably felled in 1432. The painting was therefore completed after this date.


The picture would seem to coincide with Chancellor Rolin’s creation of a family oratory dedicated to St Sebastian, on the southern side of the church of Notre-Dame-du-Châtel. The oratory was later converted into a sacristy for the church. Two deeds dating from 1428 and 1430 allow us to situate the building of the chapel of St Sebastian with some precision.


In 1432, Nicolas Rolin bought a townhouse, the Hôtel Rolin, next to the church in Autun. The building is now the Musée Rolin. Chancellor Rolin attended Matins at the church during his stays in Autun, and obtained permission from the pope to celebrate mass there at sunrise, at the beginning of his busy daily round of political duties.


The picture seems to have been painted, then, between 1432 and 1435, and most probably between 1434 and 1435, after the Chancellor had been granted permission to celebrate morning mass, from the pope. His face-to-face encounter with the Virgin – apparently as equals – in a palace resembling the heavenly city of Jerusalem is not, as has often been supposed, an expression of his personal arrogance or vanity, but a sign of the intensity of his devout hope for salvation and eternal life.


Spiritual Life in Flanders



Robert Campin the “Master of Flemalle” (Tournai, circa 1375 – Tournai, April 26th 1444)

Merode Altarpiece (Triptych of the Annunciation) 1425-1428 Oil on panel. Central Panel

H.: 64,1 cm; W.: 63,2 cm Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Cloister Collection)


15th-century Flemish painting is steeped in the teachings and practice of the mystical Christian movement known devotio moderna or “modern devotion”. The movement’s spiritual message was centered on the figures of Christ and the Virgin, on meditation, and on the loving bond between man and Christ, whom devotees strove to emulate.


Christians were encouraged to relive Christ’s suffering through intense meditation, supported by texts such as The Imitation of Christ, written at the beginning of the 15th century by Thomas a Kempis, or the liturgy of the Stations of the cross, enacted annually on Good Friday. The recital of the prayers of the rosary – which was central to the cult of Mary – developed at around this time, along with the use of the chaplet.


Flemish painting broke away from the traditional depictions of narrative scenes and themes from the lives of the Christian saints, and focused instead on the personal contemplation of Christ and the Virgin, as objects of meditation. The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin, is a remarkable example of this.



Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges 1441)

The Arnolfini Portrait 1434 Oil on panel H : 81,9 cm ; W. : 59,9 cm

The National Gallery, London, NG 186 © The National Gallery


Flemish painters’ fascination with the depiction of everyday life is also a reflection of the teachings of devotio moderna. A painting of the Annunciation by the Master of Flémalle – known as the Mérode Triptych dating from around 1425 – depicts a contemporary bourgeois interior, indicating that the reception and heartfelt understanding of the Christian message of divine love should be a part of everyday life.


Simple, everyday objects become worthy subjects for art, and may also express the mystery of divine revelation. A jug or a mirror may be depicted for its own sake, as an interesting painterly exercise, but it may also express a quite different, theological habit of thought: the jug is a vessel or receptacle, symbolizing Christ’s incarnation, and the mirror is a reflection of divine light.


This double meaning reflects the reality of Flemish society in the 15th century, when material wealth and a marked taste for opulence and luxury were allied with no apparent sense of contradiction to an intense, highly spiritual devotional life. Nicolas Rolin provides us with one of the finest examples of this paradox, admirably expressed in Van Eyck’s sumptuous painting.





The Virgin and Child

The architectural setting and figures are arranged in a rigorously symmetrical composition that opposes the divine world of the Virgin and Child with the earthly world of the Chancellor Nicolas Rolin.


On the right-hand side of the picture, the graceful, gentle young Virgin is shown in

three-quarters profile, sitting on a brocade cushion decorated with floral motifs. The cushion is placed on a marble seat inlaid with geometrical designs.


The solemnity of the scene is heightened by the Virgin’s ample red cloak, trimmed with a rich border of braid, pearls and precious stones.




The cloak also bears an embroidered inscription, in gold, taken from the Christian liturgy of Matins. The prayers focus on the magnificence of Creation, a theme reflected in the painted background and the globe held by the Infant Jesus, represented here as Christ the Creator.






The Virgin is glorified by the Latin words elevata and exaltata. Their meaning is symbolized by her position in the painting, raised above the surrounding landscape, in the loggia of a fortified palace. The Virgin’s hieratic pose, and the way in which she presents the Infant Jesus, reflect traditional representations of the Virgin of Wisdom – a familiar iconographical scheme in Romanesque art. She seems to be looking at the cross on top of the globe, prefiguring her son’s suffering and crucifixion.


An angel in flight holds an ornate crown above the Virgin’s head, a reference to her coronation in the heavenly city of Jerusalem. The angel’s rainbow-colored wings symbolize a link between Earth and Heaven, the pact established between man and God.


The chubby, naked figure of the Infant Jesus sits on a small piece of white linen – a reference to his funeral shroud – holding a crystal globe surmounted by an elaborately – wrought gold cross. The globe symbolizes Christ’s earthly power, and the cross, his spiritual dominion. The crystal symbolizes Mary’s virginity.


The Infant Jesus extends his right hand toward chancellor Rolin in a gesture of blessing, but does not seem to be looking at him directly. Van Eyck has altered this part of the picture, probably at the request of his patron : the under-drawing, revealed using infra-red reflectography, shows that Jesus’s arm was originally pointed downward toward the floor.






Nicolas Rolin

Rolin is seen on the left-hand side of the loggia kneeling at a prie-dieu covered with a velvet drape. In a break with the conventions of his time, the Chancellor is not accompanied by the figure of his patron saint. He is also shown level with the Virgin, rather than below her.


Chancellor Rolin is wearing a sumptuous brocade cloak edged with fur, and a black silk belt decorated with gold studs.


Infra-red reflectography, revealed an alteration, indicating that Van Eyck originally planned to include a large purse. The Chancellor doubtless asked for it to be removed, probably to avoid any reference to his considerable personal wealth, amassed during his time in office.


During his long career in the service of the dukes of Burgundy, Nicolas Rolin rose to become the chief administrator and second most important figure in the duchy as a whole. Centered on Burgundy and Flanders, the duchy played a decisive, strategic role in European politics at the time. Nicolas Rolin received income from rents and stipends, and dispensed favors for money, amassing a sizeable fortune, which attracted occasional criticism.



Rogier Van der Weyden (Tournai, 1399/1400 – Brussels, 1464)

Altarpiece of the Last Judgement (detail) circa 1445-1448

Oil on panel and gold leaf H. 2.15 m; W. 2.60 m (closed)

H. 2.15 m; W. 5.60 m (open) Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, 87 GHD 299 © Erich Lessing


He was a noted patron of the arts, and built fine country castles and townhouses. In 1443, he founded the celebrated Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Beaune, his mother’s home town.


Rogier van der Weyden’s masterful altarpiece of the Last Judgement was commissioned by Rolin for the hospital’s main ward.


On the cushion of the prayer-stool, we see a Book of Hours placed on top of its fabric slip-cover. The book seems to be lying open at the beginning of the liturgy for the service of Matins, as suggested by the prominent initial letter “D” : the Latin liturgy begins with the words « Domine, labia mea aperies » translated in the traditional English version as “O Lord, open thou my lips”. With his hands joined in prayer, Nicolas Rolin prepares to recite the office of Matins, from his book.


Van Eyck has painted an uncompromisingly realistic likeness of the Chancellor.


His gaze is strong and piercing, with deep furrows between his eyebrows. He has a sharply-defined nose, a wide tight-lipped mouth, a prominent chin and cheekbones, large ears set well back from his face, and hair cut into a neat cap. His expression is concentrated, and severe.


This highly realistic portrait confirms the figure’s identity – it is strikingly similar to Rogier van der Weyden’s celebrated portrait of the Chancellor, on the altarpiece of the Last Judgement at Beaune.


The Chancellor’s distant expression is not directed at the Virgin and Child, just as they do not seem to be looking directly at him. Mary and Jesus emerge, then, as a kind of apparition or inner vision. The painting was originally hung in a chapel, and the Chancellor’s gaze may well have been directed toward its altar.


The Loggia

The loggia in which the three figures are depicted is difficult to characterize: is it an aristocratic residence, the Chancellor’s palace, or a religious building? The architectural vocabulary is imprecise, although inspired by Romanesque and Antique styles. Flemish painters typically use this style (rather than Gothic architecture) to indicate buildings connected with the Old Testament. We should probably interpret the setting as an evocation of the heavenly city of the Apocalypse, surrounded by a crenelated wall, visible in the background.


The loggia opens onto the outside world through a triple archway, an explicit reference to the Trinity. It is enclosed on either side by two colonnades leading to side areas glimpsed to the left and right of the scene.


Most of the pillar capitals are carved with decorative motifs: scrolling tracery, masks and small animals. To the left of the three central arches, however, we see carvings illustrating the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament: the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, the sacrificial offerings made by their sons Cain and Abel, Abel’s murder at the hands of his brother, Noah aboard the Ark, and Noah’s drunkenness after the Flood. The scenes recall mankind’s act of Original Sin, and its consequences. They look forward to redemption through the incarnation of Christ, by making clear the links between the Old and New Testaments.





Several other paintings by Van Eyck, such as the Virgin with Canon Van der Paele, use painted pillar capitals in this way, to refer to Biblical episodes.


The painting encapsulates the history of mankind’s fall from grace, in the reliefs above Nicolas Rolin’s head, and looks forward to redemption through the divine figures of Mary and Jesus. The reliefs are placed directly above the Chancellor, like a stone crown, counterbalancing Mary’s celestial crown of sparkling precious stones.


The significance of the little stone rabbits supporting the base of one of the pillars is unclear. Are they simply decorative figures, or do they represent the triumph of divine love over carnal desire – the characteristic with which rabbits are often associated?


The tiled floor features a design of eight-pointed stars, reinforcing the retreating lines of perspective, which are also visible in the colonnades to either side of the scene. The lines do not reach back to a single vanishing point, however, but to a general “vanishing zone”.



Masaccio (San Giovanni Valdarno, 1401 – Rome, 1428) The Trinity 1427 Fresco H. : 6,67 m;

W. : 3,17 m Florence, Église Santa Maria Novella © Erich Lessing


Van Eyck’s use of geometric perspective is more precise than other Flemish painters of his day, but it remains intuitive rather than based on the principles of the Florentine masters, Masaccio, Brunelleschi and Alberti.


Light sources within the painting also add depth, and define space: the two side windows with their colorless circular panes,

the stained-glass windows glimpsed at the top of the picture, and the sky visible through the three arches at the back.


The figures themselves are lit by an invisible source of light, falling from the right-hand side of the picture. This corresponds cleverly to the natural light from a window in the chapel where the painting was originally hung.


The Garden

The enclosed garden or hortus conclusus visible beyond the arches at the back, enhances the sense of pictorial depth by creating a middle ground between the figures at the front of the picture, and the landscape in the distance. Beyond its role as a compositional device, or a straightforward illustration of a typical late medieval garden, the image is also a traditional reference to the Virgin Mary.





Either side of a central path, the beds are planted with flowers traditionally associated with the Virgin: white lilies symbolizing purity; the peony – a flower from the East – representing Paradise; a wild rose, symbolizing suffering. Irises, with their sharp, blade-like leaves, symbolize Mary’s pain; daisies her innocence.


The two magpies on the central path may be an allusion to death.





The three peacocks behind the Chancellor refer to the concept of eternal life: peacocks were associated in Antiquity with the legend of Juno, whose flesh was said to resist decay – a characteristic interpreted by Saint Augustine as a reference to immortality. An alternative interpretation might identify the birds as a subtle reference to the proud character of Nicolas Rolin.


The crenelated battlements, and the walkway encircling the parapet, refer to the walls of the heavenly city of Jerusalem as described in the Apocalypse of St John. On the central axis of the composition, two small figures stand looking out at the landscape. Their identity has been the subject of much debate – a self-portrait of the painter, perhaps, with one of his assistants?


The left-hand figure, standing with his back to us, wears a hooded cloak and a pleated robe with wide sleeves. He is leaning on the parapet, emphasizing the castle’s elevated position. His companion, standing upright, is seen in profile, holding a stick in one hand. The viewer is encouraged to follow his gaze into the distance.



Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges, 1441)

Man in a Red Turban 1433 Oil on panel H.: 26 cm; W.: 19,1 cm National Gallery, London


His red turban has led some commentators to identify him as Van Eyck himself. Van Eyck’s painting of a Man in a Red Turban, dated 1433, in the National Gallery in London, is widely thought to be a self-portrait.


In The Arnolfini Marriage of 1434, the small figures reflected in the mirror may well be portraits of Van Eyck and his assistant. The inscription surmounting the mirror reads « Johannes de Eyck fuit hic » (« Jan Van Eyck was here »).


We cannot, however, identify the right-hand figure as Van Eyck with any certainty, although his place in the composition may symbolize that of the painter, charged with revealing the world around us, and connecting the tangible with the spiritual through the use of imagery.



The Landscape

A vast landscape extends into the distance beyond the parapet. The narrative detail and precision of this scene are quite remarkable. The Master of Flémalle was the first Flemish painter to develop a landscape in such detail, and with such realism, in a nativity scene painted between 1420 and 1425.





Van Eyck’s painting, however, is the first example of the device of a landscape seen through a series of arches – a kind of picture within a picture, used again and again in Flemish painting. The landscape is interesting both stylistically and symbolically.



Robert Campin the “Master of Flémalle” (Tournai, circa 1375 – Tournai, April 26th 1444)

The Nativity circa 1420-1425 Oil on panel H.: 87 cm; W.: 70 cm Musée des Beaux-Arts at Dijon


Firstly, it creates a contrast between the soft light of the interior and the stronger sunlight outside.


It gives the picture a very real sense of depth, heightened by the brilliant light on the horizon, along the line of blue-colored mountains. This so-called atmospheric perspective is highly characteristic of Flemish painting.


A wealth of detail draws our attention to the background of the picture, where the sense of depth is further enhanced by the river winding its way into the distance. The picture’s successive planes are interconnected by Van Eyck with consummate skill, creating a remarkably coherent composition.


The landscape comprises a number of significant, symbolic elements. The rising sun bathes the entire panorama in the soft, pink light of dawn. The moon is still faintly visible, to the left of the picture. These cosmic elements – together with the river, the mountains and the city – are also referred to in the liturgy of Matins, recited by the Chancellor.


The landscape, divided by the meandering flow of the river, echoes the opposition established by the figures of Nicolas Rolin and the Virgin and Child, in the foreground of the composition.





On the right, we see the celestial world, and on the left, behind the Chancellor, a profane city with buildings – mostly houses – surrounding a convent and a cloister. Beyond the city, vineyards cover the hillsides, possibly in reference to Nicolas Rolin’s extensive estates.


Juxtaposing this, on the right bank of the river, we see churches and spires and, rising up among them, the apse of a great Gothic cathedral, with chapels radiating out from it on all sides. This celestial city is surrounded by a wall and beyond it, the open countryside extends into the distance.



Jean Fouquet (Tours, circa 1415/1420 – Tours, 1478/1481)

Charles VII (1403-1461), king of France circa 1445 or 1450 H. 85 cm; W. 70 cm

Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 9106 © RMN/Hervé Lewandowski


The river divides the two worlds, but it also links them together. Boats full of passengers are seen crossing the water. An island in the middle features a fortified tower, and tall buildings surrounded by trees. Most significantly, a steep bridge links the two banks, with seven arches reached via a square fortified tower and a wooden drawbridge. Crowds of people cross back and forth on foot and on horseback. A cross stands on the parapet of the central arch, representing the sacrifice of Christ, forming a bridge between the terrestrial world of sin and the celestial world of Paradise.



Assassination of Jean Sans Peur on the Bridge

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS 5084 © Paris, BnF


The cross may also refer to the Treaty of Arras, signed on September 21, 1435, which was drawn up by Nicolas Rolin and ratified by the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, to celebrate his reconciliation with the French king Charles VII. To mark the occasion, a cross was set up on a bridge over the Seine at Montereau, the scene of the assassination of Philip’s father, Jean Sans Peur (“John the Fearless”), in 1419. For this reason, it seems likely that the painting, which was probably commissioned early in 1434, was not completed until at least September 1435.


Despite many attempts, it has proved impossible to identify the two towns with any real settlements in Flanders. They are images of earthly life, and of the heavenly city of Jerusalem, positioned as tradition dictated to the left and right of the picture, separated by a symbolic “river of life”.


There is no inscription explaining the symbolism of the cities – their meaning must have been apparent to contemporary viewers of the painting, steeped in the philosophy and writings of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas who saw the entire world as a tangible expression of spiritual values and concepts: « Spiritualia sub metaphoris corporalium. »




Augustine, saint (Tagaste, now Souk Ahras 354 AD – Hippo Regius, now Annaba, 430 AD): Former Bishop of Hippo, theologian, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church. Augustine reconciled Christian doctrine to the philosophy of Plato by assimilating the divine characteristics of God with Plato’s theory of the absolute, transcendant nature of Ideal Forms.


Book of hours: A private devotional book, for use by non-ordained Christians – the equivalent of the ecclesiastical breviary – usually containing prayers to be said at the canonical hours in honor of the Virgin Mary, together with the liturgy for the dead, and a selection of psalms and other prayers.


Chancellor: Performed the functions of Chief Minister and Keeper of the Seals.


Duchy of Burgundy: One of Europe’s most powerful states at the time of Philip the Good, centered on two main regions – Burgundy and Flanders. The duchy’s lands were originally granted to Philippe le Hardi (“Philip the Bold”), brother of the French king Charles V, in 1363, by Philippe’s father Jean II of France (“John the Good”). The dukes’ policy of strategic arranged marriages considerably extended their dominion thereafter.


Hugo of Saint-Victor (Saxony, late 11th or early 12th century – Paris, 1141): Entered the order of the regular canons of Saint-Victor in Paris shortly after 1115. Hugo quickly rose to become an influential figure, hailed by his contemporaries as the “new Augustine.” He had a defining influence on the theology of his day, and on Christian thinking throughout the Middle Ages.


Infrared reflectography: Technique using infrared rays to reveal the under-drawing of a painting. First used in this way by Van Asperen de Boer in the later 1960s. Many museums and institutions, such as the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, now have their own infrared reflectography equipment.


Loggia: A kind of covered balcony – often seen on the top floor of Italian medieval and Renaissance palaces – overlooking a street, courtyard or garden through unglazed arches.


Nicholas of Cusa (1401 – 1464): Takes his name from the German village of Kues, near Trier. Scholar, philosopher, humanist, mystic. He was a cardinal and a noted theologian, who advocated personal contemplation in preference to abstract reasoning.


Oil paint: Paint medium composed of colored pigments and an oil-based binding agent. Oil paint gives a glossy finish, unlike tempera, which uses egg white to bind the pigments.


The heavenly city of Jerusalem: An image of Paradise, the “ideal city” described in St John’s Apocalypse (the Biblical book of Revelation), which will descend from heaven on the Day of Judgement.


The enclosed garden: – hortus conclusus – A concept taken from the Song of Solomon (chapter 4, verse 12): A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse… The “spouse” in the Old Testament text was widely interpreted as a reference to the future role of Mary, and the enclosed garden as an allusion to her virginity. Other medieval texts refer to the Virgin as a “Garden of Delights” (hortus deliciarum), a personification of Paradise, as described in the book of the same name by the Alsatian abbess and scholar Herrad of Landsberg (1125 – 1195), written in 1181.


Thomas à Kempis (Kempen, 1380 – near Zwolle, 1471): German cleric, author of De Imitatione Christi (Imitation of Christ), one of Christianity’s best-known devotional works. His writings express his boundless adoration of Christ, and his sense of a mystical bond with his saviour.


Thomas Aquinas, saint (Roccasecca 1224/5 – Fossanova 1274): Italian Dominican monk, one of the greatest theologians of the Middle Ages. His treatise Summa Theologiae attempts to reconcile faith and logic, Aristotle and the concept of divine revelation, through a symbolic interpretation of the tangible world.


Vasari, Giorgio (Arezzo 1511 – Florence 1574): Italian painter and scholar, author of a valuable collection of biographies – the Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.





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CHÂTELET, Albert. Jean Van Eyck enlumineur. Les Heures de Turin et de Milan-Turin. Strasbourg, 1993.


DHANENS, Élisabeth. Hubert et Jan Van Eyck. Paris: Albin Michel, 1980.


HECK, Christian, dir. L’Art flamand et hollandais: le siècle des primitifs, 1380-1520. Paris: Citadelles-Mazenod, 2003.


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LORENTZ, Philippe. “Les Rolin et les primitifs flamands.” La Bonne Étoile des Rolin, mécénat et efflorescence artistique dans la Bourgogne du XVe siècle, published in conjunction with the exhibition shown at the Musée Rolin in Autun and at the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune, Sep-Nov 2004.


LORENTZ, Philippe. « La Vierge du Chancelier Rolinpar Jan Van Eyck ». Le Faste des Rolin au temps des ducs de Bourgogne, Dossier de l’art, 49, July 1998, pp. 30-33.


LOUVET, Corinne. Une méditation près d’un jardin: La Vierge au Chancelier Rolin de Jan Van Eyck. Collection Les jardins du regard. Paris and Montreal: Médiaspaul, 2000.


MAURICE-CHABARD, Brigitte, comp. La Splendeur des Rolin: un mécénat privé à la cour de Bourgogne. Paris: Société Éduenne; Picard, 1999.


PANOFSKY, Erwin. Peinture et dévotion en Europe du Nord à la fin du Moyen Âge. Paris: Flammarion, 1997.


PANOFSKY, Erwin. Les Primitifs flamands. Paris: Hazan, 1992, reprint 2003.


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Exhibition catalogs

Les Primitifs flamands et leur temps. Louvain: La Renaissance du Livre, 1994, reprint 2000.


Le Siècle de Van Eyck, 1430-1530: le monde méditerranéen et les primitifs flamands. Exhibition shown at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, 15 Mar – 15 Jun, 2002. Gand: Ludion, 2002.



JAUBERT, Alain. Miracle dans la loggia. série Palettes. Musée du Louvre, La Sept, FR3, Delta Image, Videocassette. 27 minutes. Paris: Montparnasse, 1989.


On the web

Les Hospices de Beaune

Le musée Rolin à Autun




This multimedia feature was produced with the financial support of the Crédit Lyonnais, the in-kind sponsorship of Accenture and the technical assistance of Blue Martini Software, who are supporting the Musée du Louvre in its Internet development.


Project coordination: Internet Department, Direction du développement culturel, Musée du Louvre


Texts: Thierry Soulard, Senior lecturer, Sorbonne University (Paris I)


Scientific consultant: Cécile Scailliérez, Curator, Department of Paintings


Conception and coordination: Natacha Villeroy


Production: Pense-Tête


Picture research: Chrystel Martin


Translation: Louise Lalaurie


Copy-editing (French version): Thomas Fontaine


Translation coordination and copy-editing (English version): Anne-Myrtille Renoux


Voice-over (French version): Isabelle Guiard and Pierre-Alain de Garrigues


Voice-over (English version): Jodi Forrest and Leslie Clack


Voice-over recordings: Ecoutons Pour Voir


The Internet Department of the Musée du Louvre would like to thank the following for their invaluable help: Philippe Couton, Angèle Dequier, and Pascal Dupretz.


Musée du Louvre, december 2006


Additionnal photo credits



Jan Van Eyck (Maaseick, circa 1390/1395 – Bruges, 1441)

The Virgin and Child with Chancellor Rolin


Oil on panel

H. 66 cm; W. 62 cm

Paris, musée du Louvre, INV. 1271

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier


Sequence 2:

Alteration showing Nicolas Rolin’s purse, reflectogram

© IRPA-KIK, Bruxelles


Sequence 5:

Jean Fouquet (Tours, circa 1415/1420 – Tours, 1478/1481)

Charles VII (1403-1461), king of France

circa 1445 or 1450

H. 85 cm; W. 70 cm

Paris, Musée du Louvre, INV 9106

© RMN/Hervé Lewandowski


After Rogier Van der Weyden (Tournai, 1399/1400 – Brussels, 1464)

Philip the Good (1396 – 1467), duke of Burgundy

16th-century copy after an “official” portrait (painted or drawn), now lost.

H. 34 cm; W. 25 cm

Paris, Musée du Louvre, M.I. 818

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier-M. Bard