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in doubt itself

December 11, 2008
click on image to view slideshow

click on image to view slideshow

(from NYTimes) Jan van Eyck and then Rogier van der Weyden, following his lead, would shortly usher in pictures conjuring up more believable spaces, where natural light suddenly bathed bejeweled scenes of everyday life, miraculously. Rogier’s portrait of a young woman in a starched white linen bonnet and fur-lined dress, a painting from Berlin, was hanging in the next gallery. Her face, lighted from the side, leaped as if into the room, across the centuries, doe-eyed and expectant. Hands resting modestly, one on top of the other, peering slightly off into the distance (the gaze is tricky to fix), she looks calm, solid and unassailable.

But nothing is really certain here.

Mr. Sander smiled. In 1849 the museum acquired three paintings, large panels from a collector in Aachen, Germany. They were hanging near the “Crucified Thief.” In one, the young Mary nursed Jesus. In another, the aged Veronica held up her veil. In the third, an illusion of a sculpture in a niche, God the Father supported the dead Jesus on whose shoulder perched a dove representing the Holy Ghost.

The paintings bear no signature. The rest of the great altarpiece to which they probably all must have belonged is now missing, unknown. The man who sold the pictures said they came from the Abbey of Flémalle, near Liège.

And so the anonymous artist was named the Master of Flémalle.

But it soon emerged that there never was an abbey in Flémalle.

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