Man in a red turban | Jan van Eyck | 1433
First of all, let’s take a look at the date. 1433. Until now, the only artists of the 15th century we worked on were Italian. And, although the renaissance had its origin in that country, the movement expanded across all Europe; getting to Belgium, where van Eyck developed his work.
Only 25 paintings from the artist survive. Only these can be undoubtedly attributed to him. In those we find religious paintings and portraits from the wealthier people of that time in Belgium.
Despite that oil was already used for painting, the level of craftsmanship that van Eyck reached with it was completely unusual. In the records, van Eyck is stated as the best Flemish painter of that time and he is often situated next to the great Italian masters. Even today, the artist is recognized as the “father of oil painting”.
Man in a red turban is, probably, van Eyck’s self portrait, although there is no proof of this. However, the name of the work is mistaken, because the character is not wearing a turban, but a chaperon, an accessory which was very hip at that time.
The portrait has a great deal of details which can be seen, specially, in the skin of the chin, where the facial hairs slightly are shown; and in the wrinkles around the left eye. The chaperon, of and intense color red, fills the painting with vitality before the austere expression of the man portrayed, which is just a characteristic of van Eyck’s work: the lack of expression of his characters.