Art History 102
Renaissance Through Modern Art History
March 20th 2013
Jan Van Eyck’s Man in a Red Turban (Self Portrait) was painted in The Netherlands in 1433. Jan Van Eyck was the so-called "leading painter" of his day. Van Eyck was a respected working artist because of his knowledge and manipulation of oil paint. In this paper I will discuss Van Eyck’s self-portrait, his ability and influence of the oil paint and realistic view of the human expression, and also give a substantial amount of background on the painter. The realism of Van Eyck’s self-portrait art give the artist the distinctly modern look compared with other renaissance painters.
According to artchive.com, Jan Van Eyck was born, somewhere around 1390 in the village of Maaseyck near Maastricht Van Maastricht. Jan Van Eyck had an older brother named Hubert, of whom little is known other than Jan held him in the highest regard as a painter, and also as a sibling. Jan Van Eyck’s ability began to be recognized at a fairly young age, and members of the clergy ministry and nobility who granted him opportunities for employment noticed him: * "Between 1422 and 1424, he was employed as a painter by John of Bavaria, Bishop of Liège…the next year, 1425, his famous relationship with Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, began. As court artist and equerry, he moved to Philip's court at Lille. Few such cases of mutual fortune beautify the history of Renaissance: instead of treating his artist as something between a jongleur and an artisan, as the Medici in their off moments were apt to do, Philip was moved to declare that he 'would never find a man so much to his taste, or such a paragon of science and art" (Artchive.com).
Jan Van Eyck was considered by Phillip the Good to be of inestimable worth, and Van Eyck salary was often paid at the expense of other aspects of the economy. Van Eyck prospered under the sponsorship of Phillip the Good and he was also offered the luxury of travel. By traveling Van Eyck got knowledge of classism and the differences of power. Jan Van Eyck used the materials to reference what he learned: Gold is the indication of power.
This oil painting is in a gold frame. The gold was only related to the church and the wealthy, by doing this Van Eyck revolutionized the conceptual idea of self-promotion.
The gold frame is like a contemporary billboard; he signed his name on the frame to draw attention to himself and what he’s capable of. The red turban is another suggestion. The subject matter of the painting is the exuberant red turban. The vivid color or saturated red reflects his abilities to transform a two-dimensional painting into a three-dimensional painting. The dark hued background helped to create the perception of depth. This characteristic or focal point is Jan Van Eyck’s saturated red turban. The turban is not just a hairpiece; it’s a symbol of greatness, a crown of how Van Eyck mastered the technique of oil paint and the realistic abilities of portrait paintings. The color red had long been associated with the Cardinals of the Church of Rome. There is a pleasing combination of colors. The black oil paint creates a balanced composition with the gold frame and Van Eyck’s self-portrait. The black hue helps the basic color composition creating a three-dimensional effect. The dark background is a conservative approach to the exuberant subliminal self-portrait narrative.
The subliminal subject matter of his self-portrait is a manifesto. Jan Van Eyck Facial expression is a soft, calm, and intriguing smile. "Van Eyck's lips are thin and tightened in a sort of dull appearance, but his eyes exude great wisdom and lend an impression of serenity to the posture" (Oneata.edu). Van Eyck is looking directly at you with an intense stare. It’s almost an arrogant act of Van Eyck; I believe Van Eyck promotes his abilities in your face, like a modern billboard. The subliminal subject matter of his