No survey of Renaissance paintings would be complete without inclusion of Flemish master Rogier van der Weyden (about 1400 - 1464). One of his most famous paintings, St. Luke Drawing the Virgin, is analyzed by David Nolta, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Dr. Nolta comments:Among the most important Northern Renaissance paintings in North America, van der Weyden’s St. Luke Drawing the Virgin marks a high point in the Flemish artist’s early career. It demonstrates Rogier van der Weyden’s understanding and mastery of the new technique of oil painting, as that technique was explored by his putative teacher, Robert Campin, and perfected by the great contemporary of van der Weyden, Jan van Eyck.
Rogier van der Weyden. St. Luke Drawing the Virgin, ca. 1435-1440. Oil and tempera on panel, 54 1/8" by 43 5/8". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Rogier’s work, which is compositionally similar to (and most likely dependent upon) Van Eyck’s earlier Madonna and Child with Chancellor Rolin, nevertheless offers numerous proofs of a unique and original artistic personality. Northern Renaissance artists were already famous for the striking naturalism of their rendering of surface textures and details, but the sensitivity - the quiet blend of diligence and devotion — which imbues the facial expression of the Evangelist Luke (traditionally accepted as van der Weyden’s self-portrait), is entirely the artist’s own.
And van der Weyden replaces the usual solemnity of the religious scene with a suggestion of great celebratory joy, concentrated in the exquisite detail of the extended fingers of the obviously delighted infant Christ.