When it comes to painting, I feel that most people are into the Italian school, and mostly during the Renaissance. I can understand because I like it as well but, to me, the Flemish school is the best. The Italian school, and sometimes the French school (depending on the century), try too hard to make you feel something when looking at their painting. For me, there are too many effects that spoil the painting itself. The Flemish school uses simple but powerful techniques. At a first glance, something is attracts me to the painting but I can’t explain it. I want to look at it and get closer. When I finally observe it up close, the painting is even more amazing. Everything is in the details for them.Take, for instance, the Arnolfini Portrait by van Eyck. Did you notice what’s around the mirror? Van Eyck painted the scenes of the Passion, if you look closely enough you can recognize them even though the scenes are not taller than 2-3 millimeters. Quite impressive isn’t it?
That’s why today I want to write about my favorite Flemish painter, Rogier van der Weyden. He especially paid attention to the lights effects in his paintings. He was also more into the “pathos” (representation of feelings) than the other painters of the north. Van der Weyden became the official painter of Brussels in 1436.
His deposition, in the Prado museum, was painted in 1435, the year he moved to Brussels. If you have the chance to see it in the museum, just try to remember it was made for a church as a polyptych with a different kind of light. The painter knew where it would be in the church and he created his painting according to the light to get a striking effect. The background of this deposition looks like a wooden box where he can place figures such as Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. As they take the Christ off the cross, Mary faints and John the Apostle tries to catch her.
Van der Weyden thought about the composition. There is a rhythm in it. Most of the elements show the verticality of the artwork (the saints women, John, Nicodemus, Joseph and the cross) but two elements break it and animate this painting. They are the two parallels created by the bodies of Jesus and Mary. Their bodies answer to each other. Both of their left arms are up while the right ones fall down. Their pain is in harmony. He paints their hands longer, like van Eyck, but he also elongates the fingers which gives more elegance to the figures. Van der Weyden follows van Eyck and the Flemish tradition with the quality of the clothing details. You can almost touch them. The painter also uses many colors with different shades, as you can see with the red worn by John and the blue worn by Mary. As I wrote earlier, van der Weyden is more into the “pathos” than van Eyck, and you can notice it in this painting. Indeed, the face of Mary is as white as the veil she is wearing. You can see the whites of her eyes and running tears. Those tears can also be seen on the saint woman. If you look at them closely, you’ll see a light reflection, the transparency and still some volume. This is all the genius of Rogier van der Weyden.