Jan Van Eyck's The Man In A Red Turban

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Flemish painter Jan van Eyck (c 1395-1441) was one of the most significant Northern Renaissance painters. He was employed under the auspices of John of Bavaria, ruler of Holland and subsequently Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Van Eyck was one of the earliest artists to employ the technique of oil painting. He is known for the meticulous detail in his religious works and portraits. Ranking with his most famous paintings is The Man in a Red Turban 1433, (London, The National Gallery) . Considered a self-portrait of Jan Van Eyck, The Man in a Red Turban could be one of the earliest self-portraits ever made. It is the first painting since antiquity where the sitter looks directly at the viewer. Later audiences would be curious to see…show more content…
The letters seem incised in the wood itself. The inscription is inspired by the expression “As I can, but not as I would.” Perhaps the words are not a show of Van Eyck’s modesty but an indication that he used a projecting machine. “As I can, but not as I would” perhaps means “I can do it with a machine, but I’d rather do it myself.” Maybe Van Eyck felt he could become closer to the truth by using an optical device comparable to how modern people trust a microscope more than their own eyes. The bottom inscription reads in Latin, “Jan van Eyck made me on 21st October 1433”. He placed a similar autograph on two of his religious works, Madonna at the Fountain (Koninkljike Museum, Antwerp 1439) and The Dresden Triptych 1437 (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden, 1437), but only on one other portrait, that of his wife Margareta in 1439. The use of the second-person form “Jan Van Eyck made me,” found in the bottom inscription is puzzling because it sounds as if the subject, the “me”, is someone other than Van Eyck. On the bottom of Margaret’s frame is the text. “My husband Johannes completed me…,.” If Van Eyck painted his own portrait he surely would have admitted it by inscribing the frame with something akin to, “I, Van Eyck, painted myself.” The inscription “Jan Van Eyck made me,” serves to raise more questions as to the identity of the sitter and by no means confirms The Man in the Red Turban as being a

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