Madonna in a Church is a small oil panel on oak by Flemish painter Jan van Eyck. Madonna in a church was made between c. 1438-1440. Van Eyck has been traditionally credited with the invention of painting in oils, and, although this is incorrect, there is no doubt that he was the real master of the technique. The use of oil paints is very signiﬁcant in this artworkʼs luminescent quality and presentation of space. The artist creates a new relationship between the viewer and the picture. There is an illusion of a modern, threedimensional scene and through this new more naturalistic, lifelike approach, the viewer becomes connected to the painting, not just in physical terms, but socially, spiritually and emotionally as well. " The minute we look at it the shimmering quality of the art stands out. Being only
12.25” × 5.5” itʼs clear why its elaboration is so astonishing. The painting is very long compared to its width, emphasizing the size of the Madonna and the tall structure of the church that it portrays. The artwork has brilliant intense warm colors, dominating brown and red and the light illustrated with light yellow.
On Madonna in a Church, the artist represents a variety of subjects with striking realism in microscopic detail. The pigment was suspended in a layer of oil that also trapped light, this way Van Eyck created a jewel-like medium. On the Madonnaʼs crown and jewelry we see shiny precious metals and gems and also, with the help of this technique he could give a life like impression to light. The colors are so luminous that the passage of ﬁve hundred years has barely diminished them. There are so many details and elements to discover on the painting that the eye has a constant exercise inside the picture. From the ﬁrst view we can tell that the artwork is narrative and descriptive. Van Eyck had a sharp edged look of the world but he put this look into a ﬁctional environment.
The painting was stolen in 1877 and the frame was not found. Despite this absence
we still have an impression of a frame because the cathedral interior is viewed at an angle. From this perspective the doorway has a frame effect to the painting. The shape of the doorway is round, following the ceiling and with this circle effect leading our eyes to the main ﬁgure, Mary."
Van Eyck has followed traditional theology; his realist art displayed in iconic and
allusive forms the Churchʼs teachings and popular piety. Yet at the same time, he played with symbolism, which is evidently present in the artwork. The Madonnaʼs size is surreal, very big in proportion to the interior of the exceptionally beautiful church. This is a symbolic niche, giving her all the importance. Byzantine painters used this method for the same purpose. In the background, angels appear to be singing from hymn books or saying Mass before her altar. " The image of light has a heavy vision, the rays of the sun come supernaturally from
the north to strike through the glass and hit the ﬂoor with breathtaking realism. Two pools of sunlight on the ﬂoor in front of Mary come from a direction that deﬁes natural law. Therefore the light is mystical, a symbol of God. We can see it penetrating the church just as the Holy Ghost entered and impregnated the body of the Virgin, in direct opposition to the laws of ﬂesh.
The perspective and lighting seem to be so natural, until we think about it we donʼt
see that itʼs unnatural, and that it is actually a sacred light. Maybe this is a way to express that what is religious was incorporated into everyday life, that even a Heavenly light had to become like daylight under Jan Van Eyckʼs paintbrush.
The virgin takes her place in the center, gently swaying, she seem to follow her own
gaze. Her hair is red; throughout the ages red-haired women have had signiﬁcance in the arts. They are viewed as unique and mystical, just like Mary. She has a beautiful tracery behind her: wooden carving, the...
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