Jan van Eyck's The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin History

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Date:  2021-03-10

Jan van Eycks birth date remains unknown. It is believed that he was born in Maaseik, around the Limburg modern province. This was around the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, between 1380 and 1390. Rolin was already considered a Master with his local workshop when he worked in the court of Hague in the year 1422. In 1425, Rolin became the court painter to a person known as Philip and the Duke of Burgundy. Furthermore, apart from painting he commissioned works, for which he was greatly appreciated and well paid, he underwent various diplomatic works and missions for the Duke that included arranging the Dukes marriages. However, what is evident is that he was one of the most influential Flemish painters of his time. Among his clients, include John of Bavaria, Count of Holland and Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Jan van Eyck has been particularly active in the period of the Northern Renaissance. Under the service of Philip, the Good, Duke of Burgundy, van Eyck worked for Chancellor Rolin, Duchy of Burgundy to produce The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin that emerged to be one of his most iconic works. Nicolas Rolin was the then Chancellor of Burgundy and commissioned The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin for his family chapel.

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Critical analysis of The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin

The painting has a descriptive scene of a virgin crowned by a hovering angel while she presents the infant to the Chancellor, Rolin. There is the presence of an official composition with a three-figured seated in the room on the first ground. Behind the foreground, three arches unfold to the garden/ backside along the middle part. When you look further beyond the backyard, there is a well-featured landscape of a town, coordinated in two by a slim river running along up the visual into the rolling hills at a far distance. A wide range of well-detailed palaces, churches, an island, a towered bridge hills, and fields is well portrayed in the painting. In all these, there is a distinctive bright light from the sky. On the other side, the chancellor is looking directly at Madonna and the child currently his hands are elevated up in the form of conducting a prayer or worshiping the child. Below the well held up hands is a book immensely illuminated and resting on a piece of scarlet material and covered by affluent, dark and blue fabric to offer more support in return. The chancellor wears a cap that halfway covered his head, and a full-length carefully trimmed cloak decorated with metallic embroidery over a mid-brown clothe.

Considering the right hand of the painting, there is Madonna, a Christ child sitting on her laps. She looks down at the ground, with her head bare without a cap revealing her hair running down her shoulders. Above Madonnas head behind her, there is an angel who holds a crown meant to be positioned on Madonnas head. She is painted just to the middle of her neck in a floor-length as her red gown decorated with metallic jewels dashes the environment. The naked boy child was sitting on the right knee of Madonna apparently holds a shinny crystal orb detailed with richly jeweled cross in his left hand. The naked boys right hand is elevated most probably in blessing.

The room, in general, has a clear furbished tiled floor and four shiny stones that are seen inside and behind the adult figures.

The city and the river that is behind is also shown in detail in the painting the other side of the bank that rises carefully beyond the infrastructure to grasslands and wooded hills. The whole art illuminates a rich texture and the effects of light on surfaces.

Elements of Art in The Madonna of Chancellor RolinMegalography, History, Genre and Religion

Nicolas Rolin worked on the painting to be a part of the chapel's decoration composition and, as the one donating the painting; he painted it in a very realistic manner. Although he is from a modern family in Autun, Rolin had first become a lawyer who was given the job of being chancellor in the year 1422 with his major improvement being the confidence given to him by two dukes who resided in the house known as the Valois. The original origin of the art travels all the way to the beginning of the chancellor in the church known as the Notre-Dame-du-Chatel, which was in Autun, where his predecessors got laid to rest and also where he received his baptism. (Harbison pp 107-102). The painting usually describes the Roman religion from the way the chancellor holds hands for prayers, the crucifix of the naked child's right hand and also the book of hours illuminating below the chancellor's hands. This painting shows how skilled the early adopters of oil paints had become, both in the subtle rendering of surface texture and properties and in showing fine detail. Oils were to sweep across Europe as the medium of choice for major paintings made over the next 550 years or so, although the wooden panel was to decline steadily in popularity, for stretched fabrics such as linen.

The most amazing feature in this absolute fine picture is with no doubt the townscape that stretches out beyond. The crenellated battlements impose that the palace is in fact a fortress that is built on the corner of an escarpment. Below, a wide wavering river with it an island in the middle it flows through the heart of the city. The not-well portrayed areas of the city fall to the left just behind Chancellor Rolin. On the right, behind the Virgin, are the affluent quarters, with a profusion of buildings, covered by a Gothic church. Countless tiny figures appearing towards this side of the city, crossing the bridge and through the roads. In the mean time, on the river, boats are there on the shore like theyve just arrive. It is as if all people have been united by faith, were migrating in colonies towards this town and its cathedral. In a distance, the horizon is covered off by snow-capped mountains. In the opinion of Charles de Tolnay, this painting points out a formal vision of the whole world

Metaphor and personification


Van Eyck portrays the chancellor on his knees in front of the Virgin Woman and Child. The dashing figure input by the one donating, attired in golden brocade and furs just like a prince, gives up his ambition to be viewed as a noble court dignitary.


The painting's composition involves around an opening has a composition of three arcades. On the opposite side is the public human figure on his knees, covered with carefully made scarlet cloth and the opposite side, the sacred adult figures? The Madonna is seated on a well-crafted throne attired in a full, elongated cloak decorated with priceless stones.


The cities painted on the extra portray events from the Bibles Old Testament and brings forward the mistakes of humanity; the removal from the Holy Garden of Eden, the scenes from the famous story of Cain and Abel, God accepting the offering from Abel, the brutal murder performed by Cain, Noah and his wondrous work the ark, and perhaps Noah who was covered by one of his sons. (Frere pp 26-55)



This painting depicts how skilled the early adopters of oil paints had become, both in the subtle rendering of surface texture and properties and also in showing all the fine details.


The history, social setting, symbolic and other aspects of this painting has also been explained in the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin. (Born I et.al 2012)


The process used to construct the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin painting leads all the way to the use of oil in paintings. Oil painting techniques by Jan Van Eyck was brought into perfection and has ever since kept his paintings very innovative and glowing with Jewel-like brilliance. The start of the painting was by use of wood panel cut radially and carefully assembled the front and the back parts. There is also the use of simple mortise and tenon joints. Panel surfaces are coated with glue and chalk ground in the preparation.

Differences and comparison: Artwork 2

The Arnolfini Wedding

Van Eycks another most known painting, commonly called as The Arnolfini Wedding marks as an exploration of optics, pointing out blurred reflections in the mirror that is near the central part of the painting. The painting was completed in the year previously, 1434. Chancellor Rolin, probably put together this unique categories of portraits and religious art, portraying him as a hardworking and devoted servant of God. (Gombrich, 1976)

It is also important keeping in mind that, when this work was painted, most of the people lived in an error which was almost lacking mirage of images, by comparison with ours. Durers woodcuts, the first mass showed graphic images which never convey until the end of that century, and photography was not even invented at that time. Despite modern arguments over the worthiness or relevance of painting and other methods of showing 3D- the world in a 2D- image, this painting is evidence that the first great realist painters employed the same techniques as a realist painter would today.

Le Dejeuner Sur Iherbe is large oil on canvas painting by Edouard Manet which was created in 1862. In both the paintings, there are naked personalities painted with great attention above them. In both the two paintings there is a person holding up one or both of their hands to either communicate or conduct blessings. The paintings are both well detailed with gardens and rivers and create a vast picture of imagination across the readers mind.

There are also distinct differences shown between the two paintings i.e. the lack of cities and mountains in the Le Dejeuner Sur painting as it present in the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin. There is also the presence of Angel in the Madonna which is not in the other painting and many other differences seen in detail


The Madonna of the chancellor was picked solely because it was an exemplary piece of art. The manner in which it was painted, the chancellor, Mary and the naked baby Jesus in front of the arches leading all the way to the garden and balcony, beyond the cities, the river that divides across the towns and the mountains creates a warm feel of the painting.

Works Cited

Harison C. Jan Van Eyck, the play of realism. 2nd ed, Reaction books. ISBN 978 186189 820

3. 2012, pp 107-122

Frere J-C. Early Flemish Painting, Editions TERRAIL, Vilo, Paris, ISBN 978 2 87939 339 1.

2007. Pp 26-55.

Born A & Martens MPJ (2012) Van Eyck in Detail, Ludion... A unique collection of detailed

images of excellent quality. ISBN 978 94 6130 059 1

Frere J-C (2007) Early Flemish Painting, Editions TERRAIL, Vilo, Paris A good account of the

Northern Masters as a whole. ISBN 978 2 87939 339 1. pp 26-55.

Gombrich EH (1976) the Heritage of Apelles. Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon

Press, Oxford. Exploration of the differences between the North and South ISBN 0 7148 1708 2. pp 19-35

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Jan van Eyck's The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin History. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/jan-van-eycks-the-madonna-of-chancellor-rolin-history

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