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What riddles did the Flemish master encrypt in his paintings?

The paintings written by the so-called Flemish author are distinguished by the fact that in trying to unravel whose brush each of his creations belongs to, one has to be distracted by numerous details that are very realistic, but sometimes mysterious. It becomes obvious: no matter who the author who created these works, he is certainly a genius.

Who was the Flemish master?

J. da Milano “Worship.” Such was the pictorial style in Europe a hundred years before the Flemish master

In the collections of paintings of the XV century, art historians distinguish a special group – it includes works that became the basis for the development of Dutch painting and clearly belong to the brush of one artist or representatives of a single school. These masterpieces have long been considered to be written by an unknown author, who was called the Flemish master. The term appeared due to the name of the area – Flemal – from where the origin of the work was traced. Some sources indicated “Flemish Abbey”, which did not actually exist – obviously, in such a simple way, the seller tried to increase the value of the picture.

The main distinguishing feature of the works of the Flemish master was a more bold and progressive approach to the depiction of stories on biblical themes than prevailed in medieval Europe. The established period for the creation of these works – from 1410 to 1440, together with a large number of later copies, gave reason to believe that it was Flemalsky who became an innovator, the founder of traditions that were picked up by other artists and developed into the whole direction of Dutch painting.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Belgian art historian Georges Julien de Loo expressed the version that the works of the Flemish master were created by Robert Kampen, a successful and popular Flemish artist, the owner of a large art workshop in the city of Tournai.

Robert Kampen was born in 1378 and became one of the most prominent representatives of the Early Renaissance. His work was greatly influenced by Jan van Eyck, with whom Kampen, apparently, was personally acquainted. Since the majority of the discovered works of Flemalsky master were made with paints of a new and improved composition for that time, it can be assumed that this improvement was the result of acquaintance with van Eyck, who went down in history thanks in part to his experiments in chemistry and the derivation of the formula for obtaining oil paints .

Robert Kampen was considered one of the first portrait painters in Europe, and his desire for democracy, attention to detail and careful, detailed study of them quickly brought him fame, and customers, and students. Among the followers of Kampen’s style were Rogier van der Weyden and Jacques Dare, each of whom is attributed a number of researchers to the authorship of fragments of the Flemalsky master’s works or even the works as a whole. Most art historians recognize Kampen as the author of the works of Flemal master.

One of the masterpieces of painting of the 15th century is the altar of Merode, so named after the family in whose ownership the work was before the Second World War.

The altar is a triptych, on the left wing depicts kneeling donors, on the right – St. Joseph in the workshop of a carpenter. The central part is dedicated to the plot of the Annunciation. Contrary to the well-established centuries-old canons of the image of the Virgin Mary, the action takes place in a home environment, among objects characteristic of the interior of a petty-bourgeois house, and the Virgin Mary is shown reading a book (Kampen and his students portrayed characters on other canvases as well).

Every detail of the work attracts attention and makes you consider, compare, guess – for example, in patterns on a jug, you can assume an encrypted text, possibly the signature of the author. A big step in the development of painting is to achieve the effect of comfort, harmony, naturalness in the house, which is shown on canvas. An important step was the careful study of the background, a detailed image of landscapes in the background – even the clouds floating in the sky create a sense of volume, stretching the space.

The items that the artist placed in the interior of Joseph’s workshop attract attention with their realism, which is not usual for biblical subjects, the right-hand side of the altar of the Merode even received the unofficial name “The Master with a Mousetrap”.
Critics of the version that the altar of Merode was created by Kampen point to some imperfections and errors in creating the perspective, and drawing an analogy with Van der Weyden’s Reading Magdalene, we can assume his involvement in the creation of the altar.

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