This is an oil painting purportedly, a self-portrait drawn by Jan van Eyck in 1433. It is evident through the inscriptions which have been translated to English and mean “Jan van Eyck Made Me on October 21, 1433″. Jan van Eyck was one of the pioneers of the early Renaissance in the Netherlands. His works of art and this one, in particular, are among the best-known paintings of the time (Rosenwein 2009).
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The painting shows van Eyck in a red turban with its ends tied at the top and black top clothe. It is disputed that the red headcloth is not a turban but a chaperon. The painting is represented as the person examines himself in a mirror. One has got such impression because of the reflecting light. The aspects of his face are clearly shown and his eyes and wrinkles are appearing clearly (Rosenwein, 2009).
His face and the red turban are amazingly realistic, as the artist used his techniques to show two and three dimensions of the picture. He used light and dark contrasts to show the shape of his face. The right eye appears smaller and further away than the left eye, the wrinkles on the left side of his face appear more clearly than on the right side. Jan van Eyck understood that the above aspects would make his picture more realistic than the painting of earlier years (Kleiner, 2006).
The outfit that he is wearing represents his class. It is documented that he served as a duke, and worked as a court painter. He was paid well for his works and his paintings were highly valued at that time. This was evident when the duke told his treasurers that, if he would not be paid well and leave his painter’s position it would be very hard to find another painter of his qualities (Rosenwein, 2009).
In the painting, it was not common for people of his land to wear turbans. He took it out from the Eastern. It was a sign of strength and was mainly worn by people from the Eastern world. Jan van Eyck lived at the time when western society was ruled by Romans and dominated by the Christian religion, he was not expected to wear a turban (Rosenwein 2009). The red turban represents the acceptance of other cultures by the author of the painting and defiance of his masters who were Christians. The color of the turban, which is red, symbolizes nobility, confidence, and savagery, which were for the ruling elite, and it symbolized rebellion.
The inscriptions in the frame which van Eyck put in his artwork “As I can” is part of the Flemish saying “As I can, not as I would”. It reveals that he had a personal motto that guided him in his drawings. He believed in himself and it was like a trademark to him. He accepted his ability to draw and was willing to let everybody know he personally accepted himself and his work. It distinguished his works from other drawings. The inscriptions also would possibly state that he would like to rebel against his way of life but could not do so despite his desires (Rosenwein, 2009).
Since it is a self-portrait, van Eyck painted it so well with the best precision he could. His face looks healthy and the outfit he is wearing is good which clearly shows how he viewed himself.
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Kleiner H.G. (2006). Gardner’s Art through the ages (12th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
Rosenwein H.B. (2009). A Short History of the Middle Ages (3rd ed.).Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press.