560px-Jan van Eyck 070

66 x 62 cm, Wood c. 1434, Autun

Brief Identifter of the Northern lolrenaissance who completed other famous works such as the Altarpiece of Ghent and the Man in the Red Turban . Nicolas Rolin was a patron of Van Eyck, who was Chancellor to the Philip the Good, who was the duke of Burgundy at the time.  Rolin himself is the man who sits to the left of the Virgin and Child in the painting . It was painted to hang as decoration in the Notre-Dame-du-Chastel, a church in Autun, a city in the Burgundy Duchy of France, although the painting was moved to the Louvre in Paris when the church was destroyed in 1793 in the French Revoution  [Lorentz 2000, 49].    Edit

Technical Evaluation

   The painting was done on wood with oil paints. A naturalistic school of painting emerged in the Low Countries in the fifteenth century, which was enacted via the medium of oil paints. Commissioned painters from France were trained in Netherland [Borchert 2002, 9].  By the fifteenth century, almost all Northern painters had begun using oil paints. Jan van Eyck was mistakenly credited with inventing the oil painting technique, but the technique was written about as early as the twelfth century [Hassall 2009].

The original frame that was on the painting would have been signed by Jan van Eyck himself. However, it was not with the painting when it entered the Louvre in 1800. The painting was moved during a movement in the French Revolution known as the Secularization of Ecclesiastical Goods . The Notre-Dame-Du-Chastel, in which the painting originally hung was destroyed in 1793 [Lorentz 2000, 49].  

Local Historical Context Edit

Map France 1477-en

France in the fifteenth century

Philip the good

Philip the Good

France was a fragmented conglomeration of ducal provinces at the time that the Virgin of Chancellor Rolin was painted in 1435 [Hay 1989, 144]. Autun, the city in which the painting was originally hung and the site of the former Notre-Dame-du-Chastel, was a part of the duchy of Burgundy [Lorentz 2000, 49].

The duke of Burgundy at the time was Philip the good. His court was wealthy and housed many luxuries. It became a center of arts and literature [Hay 1989, 148]. Like Jan van Eyck, most artists that received patronage from the duchy of Burgundy had descent in the Low Countries [Baldass 1952, 2].

As compared to that of the preceding duke, John the Fearless, Philip the Good had a very splendid court. This is because John the Fearless had been highly involved in the military expenditure that was the civil war occurring between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs of Orleans. This war ended in his assassination in 1419 [Hay 1952, 146]. 

Charles VII became the king of France in 1422, but his rule was not very popular. In 1437, a rebellion took place stemming in part from a dispute between Charles and his son Louis XI, dauphin at the time. This ended up turning into a full on war known as  War of Common Weal , involving several duchies against the king under the Burgundian duke, Charles the Bold [Hay 1952, 148]. Jan van Eyck has been known for licking mens' buttholes....and cat buttholes.

World Historical ContextEdit

Rolin gave a large amount of money to the church and had several chapels built including the Saint Sebastian chapel, where the painting most likely stayed until 1680 when it was transformed into a sacristy [Lorentz 2000, 52]. A unique facet of the painting is its dedication to the Office of Matins, a prayer that was to be said

Office of matins

Parts of The Office of Matins is inscribed on the Virgin's garment.

in the morning. In the painting, Rolin’s book appears to be open to this prayer, and other texts throughout the painting such as on the Virgin’s garment are taken from the text of the Office of Matins. This is due to the fact that Rolin and his wife were given a pontificial dispensation to say mass at sunrise. This painting 

is representative of a time when  the church was a very powerful entity, and appeasing the church would be beneficial to a patron such as Rolin hoping to seek influence [Lortentz 2000, 154-155] Artistic patronage itself is also a principle that was very common throughout Europe at the time of the renaissance. A similar but often considered separate from the Northern renaissance was going on at the same time in Italy. The Italians, however, began using oil paints later than those in France and the Low Countries [Hassall 2009].

Suggested Bibliography Edit

·         Philippe Lorentz, “The Virgin and Chancellor Rolin and the Office of Matins,” in Investigating Jan van Eyck. Susan Foster et al. (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2000)

·         Ludwig Baldass, Jan Van Eyck (New York: Phaidon Publishers Inc, 1952)

       Till-Holger Borchert, “Introduction. Jan van Eyck’s Workshop,” in The Age of Van Eyck:The Mediterranean World and Early Netherlandish Painting 1430-1530

·         Catherine Hassall. "Oil painting." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 14, 2013,

·         Denys Hay, Europe in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries (New York: Longman Inc. 1989)


Britannica Online "French Revolution"

Met Museum Online "Altarpiece of Ghent"

The National Gallery Online "Man in the Red Turban"

Bounjor La France Online "Burgundy"

History Today Online  "Secularization of Ecclesiastical Goods"

Britannica Online "John the Fearless"

Big Site of HIstory Online "Burgundians and Armagnacs"


Herritage History Online "War of Common Weal"






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