Painter/Artist: Hubert van Eyck

Early Netherlandish School. He and his younger brother Jan are ranked with the world’s greatest artists. His most important work was the Ghent altar-piece noticed below, the painting of which was completed by Jan. Only portions of this and the Copenhagen panel can be attributed to him with certainty.


ROBERT POORTIER AND ST. ANTHONY The right wing of triptych painted for Robert Poortier, a merchant, for the altar of St. Anthony in the Church of Saint Sauveur at Ghent. The donor is kneeling in prayer before a plinth on the extreme right of the canvas, his patron saint standing beside him, both turned half to the right. The former, bearded, in a voluminous monk’s habit, the cowl over his head, occupies the greater part of the middle of the panel. He lays a very small right hand on the right shoulder of the latter, a cleanshaven man of middle age, who is dressed in a long plain red gown edged with fur. Rocky background, with a castle in the upper right-hand corner, and clumps of dwarf palm (Chamrerops huanilis), which are peculiar to Hubert’s pictures.


THE VIRGIN WITH THE DONOR In a square portico paved with tiles, with an open arcade at the back supported on two slender pillars, through which is seen a flat landscape, with a river winding towards the distant horizon, are the Virgin seated at the right, and the donor, Chancellor Rollin, kneeling at a faldstool on the left, almost facing each other. The Virgin, bareheaded and with long flowing hair, is wrapped in a very long, full, red mantle, and a little angel holds a richly jewelled crown over her head. She holds the Child, who sits on her knee. In His left hand is a crystal globe, and with His right He blesses the Chancellor. The latter, who is slightly nearer to us, is in a robe of brown and gold brocade.

Painted, as is supposed, for Chancellor Rollin, a native of Autun, from the church of which town it was taken to the Louvre by Napoleon I.

“It is the most splendid specimen of Jan van Eyck’s first manner.” (C. and C.)

But Weale claims it as the work of Hubert.


A TRIPTYCH The Virgin is seated with the Child on her knees, both turned slightly to the left, at the east end of the nave of a church, the marble pillars, with carved bases and capitals, supporting round arches being seen on each side in perspective. Behind her is a flat canopy, from which hangs a patterned cloth of honour. The folds of her red mantle fall over an Oriental rug, under which is a carpet covering the whole of the pavement. Between the pillars the east windows of side aisles can be seen. The Child holds out a scroll (inscribed with Matt. xi. 29) in His right hand towards the donor. The wings appear to represent our end of the two aisles. In the left is the donor in a dark green gown kneeling, and behind him stands St. Michael with his left hand on his shoulder. In the right stands St. Catherine in a blue dress trimmed with ermine reading a book, her wheel at her feet.

It is uncertain whether this is the work of Hubert or Jan.

SIX PANELS OF THE GHENT ALTARPIECE This famous altar-piece, painted for Iodocus Vydts and his wife for their chapel in the Cathedral of St. Bavon at Ghent, originally consisted of two separate panels, one above the other, each with its two wings or shutters. The upper panel was divided into three compartments with rounded tops, each containing a single seated figure-in the centre the Almighty, on His right the Virgin, on His left St. John. These were flanked (by the insides of the shutters when opened) on the left by a group of eight singing angels, and on the right by an angel seated at an organ with others standing behind; while at either extremity of the shutters were figures of Adam and Eve.

On the lower panel is the picture of the Lamb of the Revelation surrounded by adoring angels, and approached from the corners of the picture by four large groups of worshippers. In the foreground is the fountain of life, in the distance the towers of the heavenly Jerusalem. On the wing pictures-each with two compartments-other groups are approaching; on the left, the soldiers of Christ, headed by St. Michael and St. George, mounted and armed, and behind them the Judges and Princes. On the right are a number of hermits, headed by St. Paul and St. Anthony, and behind them the pilgrims, conspicuous amongst whom is St.Christopher nearly double the size of the rest.

When the shutters were closed, the upper panels displayed the Annunciation-St. Gabriel on the left and the Virgin on the right-while on the lower were statues of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist between the kneeling figures of Vydt and his wife, each figure in a separate compartment.

The lower central panel measures 1.47 x 1.04, the shutter panels being the same height and one-quarter the width. The upper panels are 1.60 in height, and of varying width, roughly about 0.70.

Only the central panels, ” The Adoration,” and the three single figures above it, remain at Ghent. The Adam and Eve are at Brussels (No. 170). An old copy of the whole altar-piece is in the Antwerp Gallery (Nos. 413-424).


THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHURCH OVER THE SYNAGOGUE. A Gothic setting in the nature of a screen, against which the figures are disposed in three storeys. On the topmost, seated on a throne under a rich canopy in the centre, is the Almighty, the mystic Lamb at His feet; on His right and left are seated the Virgin reading and St. John writing. From below the throne a cascade of water glittering with sacrificial wafers flows down through the next or middle stage (which is a flowery garden with angels playing and singing on either side) into a large Gothic fountain in the centre of the lowest stage. On the left of this fountain are the ranks of the Blessed, headed by the Pope, standing, next to whom kneels the Emperor, with nine figures kneeling or standing behind. On the right is the High Priest, his eyes bound, a broken standard in his right hand, his left resting on those of a kneeling Jew, behind whom are eight others in attitudes of despair.

This picture is said to be a sixteenth-century copy of a lost original by Hubert van Eyck.

THE CRUCIFIXION On the left side of the cross the Virgin stands weeping, and on the right St. John. Mountainous background. This is catalogued under Jan van Eyck, but Weale, after considering it belonged to Hubert in 1902, places it in 1912 among examples of doubtful authenticity.