Louvre unravels Van Eyck’s ‘The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin’


April 1, 2024
Today at

In the exhibition ‘Revoir Van Eyck’, the Louvre shows six paintings by Jan van Eyck. The centerpiece is the restored ‘The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin’.

You have to climb many stairs in the Louvre in Paris to see the exhibition ‘Revoir Van Eyck. La Vierge du Chancelier Rolin’ reached. In a room that is not even that large, six paintings by Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) can be admired, together with work by his contemporaries Rogier van der Weyden and Robert Campin, among others. Also not to be missed are the books decorated with miniatures.

The exhibition, with Dutch gallery texts, is built around Van Eyck’s ‘The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin’, the only painting by the Flemish Primitive in the Louvre’s possession. It has been restored over the past two years, in close collaboration with the KIK in Brussels, which is currently working on the ‘Ghent Altarpiece’.

The exhibition is divided into six themes, each of which deals with an aspect of the restored painting together with different works, from portraits (with Van Eyck’s portrait of Baudouin de Lannoy) to architecture (with Van Eyck’s ‘Annunciation’).

Typical scene

Nicolas Rolin (1376-1462) was the chancellor of the Burgundian duke Philip the Good. This made him the most powerful man in the empire after the duke. Van Eyck was the court painter of the Burgundians. It was almost natural that Rolin asked him to make a painting. It was equally obvious that Rolin himself was depicted in the painting. Those who had power allowed themselves to be painted.

It is incredible how detailed Van Eyck was able to paint objects and characters that can barely be seen with the naked eye.

The religious scene is typical of the 15th century. The chancellor probably took the panel with him on trips to use it as a painted prayer book. Art historians agree that Rolin wanted the panel to be kept near his grave in his hometown of Autun after his death. Ultimately it ended up in a church there. In 1796 the painting was nationalized and transferred to the Louvre.

It was not the first time for Van Eyck to paint Mary and Child. His ‘Lucca Madonna’ from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, which has almost never been loaned, hangs in the exhibition. It was not even on display at the big Van Eyck exhibition in Ghent.

The most striking thing about ‘The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin’ is perhaps what you do not see at first glance: the city in the background, with its people and its buildings. It is incredible how detailed Van Eyck was able to paint objects and characters that can barely be seen with the naked eye. You only realize this when you can zoom in on the painting on a large screen in the exhibition, which reveals all its secrets.

‘Revoir Van Eyck’ runs until June 17 at the Louvre.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Louvre unravels Van Eycks Virgin Chancellor Rolin


NEXT From an atmospheric bedroom to a warm space with a Middle Eastern atmosphere