Thursday, July 26, 2012


(Portrait of a Lady, Rogier Van Der Weyden, 1462, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Little did I know at the middle of March that I would be taking a four month sabbatical from writing.

A trip to Paris and Italy with our dear friends S & R kept me away from my desk for three weeks.  As soon as we arrived home, we got busy painting walls and assorted other surfaces at both of our daughters' homes.  Immediately after that siege of work, this thought popped into my head:  "Hey, as long as we've got our brushes and drop cloths out, why don't we paint a bunch of walls at our place?"

So we did.

Somewhere along the line, Bob and I managed to squeeze an art crawl into the mix which took us to Omaha, Kansas City and St. Louis.

Before we knew it, our two perfect grandchildren dropped in for their annual summer visits - one at a time, you understand.  These visits consist of  seven days of complete grandparental spoilage.  And, frankly, Bob and I are experts when it comes to this kind of work.  The kiddos, oddly enough, seem to be 100% behind us as well.

So here we are at the tail end of July.

And here I am with my first blog in just over four months:


Why beat around the proverbial bush?

I'm just going to come right out and say it:

This scrumptious painting by Northern Renaissance artist, Rogier van der Weyden, knocks my socks off every time I see it.

Though it may be possible to list 60 bajllion reasons why this work of art deserves its high and holy status, I'll mention just a few.

First of all,  it was painted by "Rogier" himself.

Rogier van der Weyden is a total VIP in the world of art.

That's why he's known by his first name.

Think "Madonna," Cher,"  "Michelangelo," and "Leonardo."

All known by their first names because they reached the stratosphere of public recognition in their respective fields of work.

Art historian, Lorne Campbell,  makes the following statement about Rogier's "The Magdalen Reading," which just happens to illuminate the banner of this blog:

"The Magdalen Reading" is one of the great masterpieces of fifteenth-century art."

No kidding.

The facts of Rogier's life are sketchy due to the loss of archival material back in 1695 and again in 1940.

But I can tell you that he was born in Tournai in modern-day Belgium in 1399.

Or maybe it was 1400.

We know the names of his parents and the woman he married in 1426.

And the fact that Rogier was made town painter of Brussels in 1436 is carved in stone.

He left no self-portraits so we don't know what he thought of himself in a painterly sense.

We know that several of his most important works were destroyed during the late 1600s.


What have I missed of this brilliant person's art?

We also know that nineteenth century art historians often attributed his work to others.

That's injustice of the first degree!

We know that he studied with Renaissance Master, Robert Campin, during the latter part of his life.

And it wasn't long before Rogier mastered his master.

Eventually, he actually influenced the artistic work of Campin as well.

To top things off, Rogier left no signed or dated paintings.

So, dear readers, I stand corrected.

The facts about Rogier's life are more than just "sketchy."

They are ridiculously sketchy!

But, then again, does it really matter?

Not when we've got this gorgeous portrait to gaze at.

I wish I could show this portrait to you in real life.

I can't.

But my dear friends, K & M will soon have the chance to get up close and personal with this mysterious beauty.

And I'm totally envious of them!

I hope they end up loving her as much as the rest of the world does.

No one really knows who this woman is.

There are no clues except for one in particular.

Because of her ladylike, poised bearing and serene facial expression, we assume that she is a member of the nobility.

In my opinion, this portrait speaks perfection.

I've looked - trust me I have! - but I simply can't find anything wrong with  this work of art.

Rogier was the consummate technician.

That's the understatement of like......forever.

He knew how to use line and color to evoke emotions within his sitters and within his viewers as well.

And that takes talent, my friends.

Lots and lots of talent.

Look at the sharp diagonal lines of our lady's veil.

Those lines draw us immediately into the painting.

The misty white, ethereal fabric of her veil is mesmerizing, isn't it?

Especially when that veil is displayed against a stark black background.

The delicate transparency of the veil is something to behold.

Every time I see this work of art, I am touched by the beauty, the grace, and the subtlety of Rogier's unforgettable veil which barely grazes this gentlewoman's  forehead.

The veil falls just over the sitter's eyebrows.

This allows the fabric to frame and accentuate the features of our lady's face.

This is a woman with model-like cheekbones!

Gentle curves and sublime colors define the beauty of her face.

Her complexion appears to be flawless, doesn't it?

And what about those intoxicating lips?

They are stained with just the right touch of sienna-tinged coral.

Those lips are echoed in the color of the belt that elegantly cinches her tiny waist.

Our lady is not laden with a mass of baubles and flashy doo-dads.

The simple elegance of this beauty speaks volumes.

I think there might be a lesson in that for all of us.

Rogier's emotionally expressive, superlative paintings have influenced a literal world of followers.

How do you explain the kind of talent that Rogier possessed?

It is God blessed and God given.

There can be no other explanation.