Van Eyck Gets a Blockbuster Show at the Louvre

It's the biggest show of the Flemish master ever to be staged in France.

Jan Van Eyck Lucca Madonna, ca. 1437. Courtesy Städel Museum.

Upcoming at the Louvre in Paris, a major exhibition is set to showcase the works of Jan van Eyck (1390-1441), the Flemish master of the Northern Renaissance, from March 20 to June 17, 2024. Titled “Meeting with a Masterpiece: The Virgin by Chancellor Rolin” the exhibition promises to present the largest collection of Van Eyck’s works ever seen in France.

The artist’s influence on European art cannot be overstated. His mastery of oil painting techniques changed the course of western art history, bringing a newfound realism and luminosity to his works. Through his method of glazing, which involved applying multiple translucent layers of oil paint, Van Eyck achieved depth, richness of colour, and intricate light and shadow effects. His meticulous attention to detail breathed life into his compositions, from the textures of fabrics to the landscapes in the background.

Van Eyck received commissions to paint significant portraits, including Isabella of Portugal. One of his most famed works, The Arnolfini Portrait, painted in 1434, depicts Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife in their home. The work has various interpretations and mysteries, including a cryptic figure within the convex mirror’s reflection.

Jan Van Eyck, The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin (ca. 1435) before restoration. Musée du Louvre, dist RMT – Grand Palais, Angèle Dequier.

At the heart of the exhibition in Paris lies the restored version of The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin, completed around 1435. After undergoing historic restoration, the painting had centuries-old oxidised varnish removed to reveal the painted layers that lie beneath. Alongside this piece, the exhibition will feature six other masterpieces by Van Eyck, including The Lucca Madonna (ca. 1437) from the Städel Museum. This rare exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to explore Van Eyck’s evolution as an artist and his interactions with contemporaries like Rogier van der Weyden and Robert Campin.

A program of events will accompany the exhibition, with a series of lectures on the restoration process, musical performances inspired by Van Eyck’s works, and opportunities to engage with art experts. If Alastair Sooke’s review of the “Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution” exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent in 2020 is anything to go by, we are eagerly anticipating the upcoming show in Paris.

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