The “Flémalle Panels” are early examples of a “technical revolution”. They were executed in oil paints, which permitted not only application in the manner of the traditional tempera technique, but also the use of transparent glazes. The paint was thus not only perfectly harmonised; now, for the first time, the most varied materials could moreover be reproduced with deceptive precision.
Whoever it was who painted these works, he strove for the most perfect possible reproduction of reality. The Mercy Seat was to look like a sculpture. In the coloured depictions, the artist presumably set out to convey the impression that he had had a vision. The paintings exhibit a previously unknown degree of realism – observe, for example, the traces of age in the face of Veronica.
They originally belonged to a large winged altarpiece whose other sections have been lost. The artist’s invented name, “Master of Flémalle”, is rooted in a misconception. The works were neither painted in the small village near Liège nor were they ever in that town. They were executed around 1420 in Tournai, in the workshop of Robert Campin, where Rogier van der Weyden was also active at the time. In fact, a number of different artists may well have contributed to this extensive work.
Photo: Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK