Yesterday I had exactly 8 minutes left for the Brussels Fin-de-siècle museum (impressionism and art nouveau art mainly) before I had to run off to catch my train. So I decided I just wanted to have a look at Khnopff’s sphinx, there wasn’t time for anything else.
But when I was on my way through the sombre labyrinthine museum a huge painting caught my attention and stopped me in my tracks . It is called The Primitive Hunter (Le chasseur primitif) and it was painted by a certain Jacques de Lalaing. The museum bought it directly from the artist in 1886 according to the info sign next to it. It depicts a nude man stringing a bow in the midst of a group of animals (at least, I think he is stringing a bow, the painting is murky). The longer I look at it, the more disturbing it becomes. There are dogs and maybe other animals lurking in the shadows, ready to attack, the face of the hunter is hardly visible. What is he looking at? Is he targeting us? Are we, the viewers, the prey?
From the man with the arrow of a few minutes before to the man with the bow, it was an interesting transition.
It was very hard to take a good picture of the painting due to its size and the reflections of the lights. But here are a couple shots to give you an impression:
That is, however, not the end of the story. When I got home I searched for information about the painter on the internet. I did a simple search for his name but the first search result that came up was someone completely different with the same name: a Jacques de Lalaing who lived from 1421–1453. He was a famous knight and one of the best tournament fighters of that time. He was working for … yeah, sigh, indeed, it seems there is no escape from the Burgundians yet.
Jacques died in the revolt of Ghent in 1453 where he was allegedly killed by a cannon ball, according to Wiki. Judging from the painter’s bio, I presume he is a descendant from the knight.
Last but not least though this is just my personal opinion but when I was looking at some paintings a few minutes ago, I realised how much the hunter reminds me of Adam in Cabanel’s painting Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise.
I just read that they’re usings scanners to locate the stolen and lost JustJudges by van Eyck. Great, I hope they find it. it may be a part of the quest.
This morning I took the train to Brussels so I could go and have a look at Antoine’s garb in the Old Masters Museum before I do the underdrawing of C. There is a fairly good picture on Wikipedia but it’s always better to see it in real. Also, in most pictures the top of the hat is edited out and I couldn’t figure out how the coat and shoulders look like either (tbh, I still can’t).
I got there a bit too early and there was already a rather large queue of tourists waiting in line until the museum opened its doors, mainly because it was a Sunday and raining and there was nothing else to do, I guess. Luckily the groups of Chinese tourists trouped together before Rubens and Breugel. Antoine was mostly ignored except for the ones doing the audio tour.
The portrait was painted around 1463 by Rogier van der Weyden (or his studio?) according Wikipedia so Antoine must have been in his forties at the time of painting. He was an illegitimate son of Philip the good of Burgundy, hence his epithet The Big Bastard of Burgundy (his mum must have been so proud). He was born around 1421 and died in 1504.
The painting was a lot smaller than I remembered so I accidentally walked past it the first time. Here is a picture of the portrait on the wall, so you have an idea. It is on the left:
I spent quite some time studying the picture and taking photographs with my phone. It was not so easy to take good pictures because a) the painting is very dark b) a lot of the lighting in the museum comes from natural sources through the windows in the ceiling and it was raining heavily and very dark outside c) there is a glass plate in front of the painting which causes reflections.
Here are some of the pictures I took. The white spots are reflections of some lamps. I didn’t edit them out. Maybe I will upload some more under WIP > Burgundia later on.
I am not sure how true to life this portrait is. Van der Weyden’s portraits tend to be a bit formulaic. In any case, it was one of my first favourite paintings. There is also a portrait by Memling in which he looks a bit older and more according to the Memling portrait formula (wide face and frizzy hair) and with a particularly ugly hat but it’s not in this museum.
I also made some pictures of interesting details of other medieval paintings such as Philip the Fair and Joanna the Mad, but I’ll write a separate post about those.
Well, I can honestly say that after this visit, it still remains one of my favourite portrait paintings. There is a similar one, also really good, without an arrow and in which he wears a red collar, but it’s in private hands, I believe. (Lucky bastards, lol).
This was still in my drafts folder. It’s a post about when we visited the Musée Marcel-Lenoir in Montricoux (F) last July. I don’t think I posted another version of this. In case I did, sorry for that.
The painter with his wife. Picture borrowed from Wikipedia
Montricoux was the little village we stayed in for a week and this was one of the sights. According to our travel guide Marcel-Lenoir was one of the greatest painters of France but had been completely forgotten. He was a symbolist/art nouveau painter and poster designer. This is one of my favourite art periods so obviously this was something we just had to do.
His museum was located in the local castle which is mostly a 1700ish affair but incorporated an old medieval donjon.
The castle. Image borrowed from Wikipedia
When we got there it was a bit chaotic as there were preparations going on for a reggae festival in the park of the castle and the guy selling the tickets was busy supervising that as well. Unfortunately photography was not allowed so I had to steal most pictures from the net.
When you go through the main door you end up in a circular room with four creepy terracotta gods. There’s a little desk where you can buy the tickets. The man selling them to us said they were meant to be used as a bookmarks afterwards. Interesting idea.
Image from a tourist site on the net
As you can see the tickets have been carefully hand-cut by a very drunk person. After acquiring the tickets the man rushed us through some ground floor rooms towards the donjon which is the start of the visit.
The donjon from the outside. Image from the internet
The donjon was a high cold and very dusty room. High up there was an old wooden balcony on the verge of collapsing on top of our heads. The room was filled with medieval style furniture covered in dust and flaky plaster bits: a long cloister table with matching chairs and some wooden velvet covered benches. Plenty of medievalish trinkets were on display: crockery, pots, candle sticks, embroidered cushions and other useless stuff. that is very good at collecting dust and cobwebs. I felt immediately at home in the castle, it was like travelling back in time to my childhood of rickety furniture, damp, vaulted cellars and the odd ghost.
There was some Marcel-Lenoir (ML hereafter) art on the walls: a framed drawing of angels dancing in a circle and some other stuff. Against the high chimney there was a 1920 style desposition of the cross by ML. Jesus was …. hm very interesting, a rather gender-fluid Gustave Moreauish decadent martyr with long curly hair and no beard. It was painted in bluegreen tones on a large canvas that had been nailed to the damp chimney where it seems to be slowly rotting away.
After this we looked at some rather bad paintings in a dark hallway and then we entered the main more classicist style dining room. The room had stucco mouldings on walls and ceiling. The stucco was white, the flaking walls were painted in some orangey salmon pink wich reminded me of a particularly vile salmon sauce I once got served at a party. I immediately felt nauseous. Luckily my attention was drawn away towards the tattered curtains which were sprinkled with generous amounts of dead flies. There was also a very fresh steaming turd on the floor, with the colour of burnt umber and slightly runny. While I was still Rolling On the Floor with Laughter, the ticket man came rushing in with a dustpan and brush, apologising profusely. It was never clear to us who was responsible for the excrement. Let’s hope it was just a dog.
There was more art in these rooms such as some rather nice art nouveau posters.
Image from Wikipedia
There were also a couple symbolist paintings. One of them was a Jesus head that looked like a Franz von Stuck rehashed for a black metal band from the seventies. It still gives me nightmares when I picture it in my head and I have seen some dark shit in my life.
There were two more rooms to visit, also stuccoed and salmoned. Holes had been drilled in the ceiling and walls in a rather haphazard way to allow for cables and cords to be pulled through. Framed pictures had been piled rather carelessly on tables and were dangling precariously from the edges. More dead flies added a certain fin-de-siècle decadence to the decor. I don’t think it was intentional.
In the large sitting room there were two sofas, both covered in white sheets. When I say white, I mean they were once white but now they were crumpled and covered in black mud. Not sure what happened there. Maybe some satanic orgy involving goats.
This was a most interesting visit.
I managed to photograph one painting by ML. It’s a fresco of the Annunciation. It’s not in the museum but in the church next door. I would rather call it: ‘Gabriel is upset because he missed the last bus and Mary won’t let him stay the night.”
Working on my second painting in art school, part one of a small modern ironic triptych/house altar on a wooden panel. Very frustrating as usual.
In class I paint mostly women, at home it’s the other way round. Paintig gear was still in the atelier until yesterday so didn’t paint. Made some sketches after Dürer for fun plus some anatomy studies. Evenings were spent researching BSCC (bat shit crazy Charles) and paintings of him. I didn’t find too many modern or contemporary versions but a certain Jean-Xavier Renaud, who has a pretty wild style, did some watercolours of Burgundians which were interesting. The one of C is not so great, though. There is also a pretty bizarre 1900ish painting of C by Henry de Groux. Looks more like the Phantom of the Opera, but never mind.
I have some prepared wood panels lying around and one is more or less the right size and ratio. On the site of the English National Gallery I found a document with a lot of information about the work method and materials of van der Weyden and his studio, including the colours that were used. A lot of these are quite hazardous (lead white etc) but there are good alternatives. The panel I have is poplar wood which is more Italian than the traditional oak, but it will have to do. I should definitely go and have a look at the original Anthony again in the coming days, he wears a similar coat plus same ridiculously dramatic necklace. All that remains now is to copy the image of the original portrait. Not sure yet how. I could do it freehand or try to create a camera obscura. Or maybe just the plain old holes and charcoal method. Or shall I cheat and just simply project the image?
While collecting old pictures I came across this detail of a rather worn old miniature on Wikipedia. It was supposedly painted by Rogier van der Weyden or his studio. The miniature depicts – I think – the presentation of the manuscript of the Hainaut Chronicles (they made a whole fuss of handing over a book in those days. Quite a difference with how they are thrown at you from the back of a van nowadays) . In the little scene below are some unknown men attending the ceremony. Even with the terrible haircuts, it’s absolutely amazing. Look at the man in grey. That face…
I’ll leave you with some music. Yesterday while I was reading about the battle of Nancy, one of the songs suggested by Spotify was this one.