Lucca Madonna

ca. 1437/38

Mixed technique on oakwood
Inv. No. 944

65.7 × 49.6 cm

zur  Biographie

No other painting by Jan van Eyck conveys as immediate a sense of intimacy between the viewer and the figures depicted as this image of the Madonna. This circumstance is partly the result of his sensitive depiction of mother and child and his masterful handling of light and shadow. Above all, however, it is a product of his apparently casual treatment of space, which is actually highly sophisticated. The floor seems to continue into the space of the observer, as do the walls and the ribvaulted ceiling. The viewer does not have the impression that he is looking through the open front of a dollhouse, as with Petrus Christus’s Frankfurt panel of the Madonna, but feels as if he had physically entered the room where the Queen of Heaven is nursing her divine child. The fictional continuation of the space of the painting into that of the observer is also shown in the little glass decanter on the shelves to the right. A two-part window is reflected in it, only half of which is shown in the painting itself. Thus, Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece would have served the client not only as a basis for his personal devotional exercises but also as evidence of his cultured connoisseurship.

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