In this series of posts I want to investigate the claim that the portrait of the Man with the Arrow attributed to Rogier van der Weyden, is not Antoine de Bourgogne/Anthony of Burgundy but João de Coimbra. As always, the information on this website is under permanent construction. Corrections and additions will be made when necessary.

The first mystery of the day is: where is part 3? Well, I was going to add something about the Saint Vincent panels but the matter is more complicated than I thought so I needed to check things with someone who knows more about it than I do. Instead of writing a post that is only half-complete or entirely wrong, I will just get straight on with the man with the arrow and leave Vincent for later.

The first thing I did when I read about the identity of the sitter, was to try and find out where this information came from.

The source turned out to be the Portuguese Wikipedia page about João, where the following can be read:

“Um dos seus retratos foi pintado por Rogier Van Der Weyden, que está num museu real da Bélgica e está representado com o colar do Tosão de Ouro ao pescoço.”

Translation: One of his portraits was painted by Rogier van der Weyden, which is in the royal museum of Belgium, where he is represented with the collar of the Golden Fleece around this neck.

This information is not on any of the Wikipedia pages that I can more or less understand. The footnote led to scans of an article by Jose Cortez: Dom João de Coimbra – Retrato por Rogier van der Weyden. The text appears fairly vintage. There are many mistakes on Wikipedia but this was a solid article, so I wanted to try and find out more. My knowledge of Portuguese is non-existent, but the gist is, I assume, proof that the portrait represents João.

A small online search later I came across a scan of an article in Openbaar Kunstbezit of 1972, written by Dirk De Vos, adjunct conservator van de Stedelijke Musea Brugge. In this article Dirk De Vos states that the identifications of the man with the arrow as Anthony of Burgundy or the more likely João de Coimbra are not very convincing. Now I was even more surprised because in his book about Rogier van der Weyden published in 1999, the portrait of the man with the arrow is described as a portrait Anthony of Burgundy without further ado. The same goes for other more recent books about Rogier van der Weyden.

On the left: The portrait of Anthony of Burgundy by Rogier van der Weyden, as a size reference.

The portrait in the Royal Museums of Belgium, the prime piece of evidence, is labelled as a portrait of Anthony of Burgundy. The extra information on their website describes it as: oak; dimensions: 38,4 x 28 x 0,4; provenance: John Nieuwenhuys, art dealer, Brussels, 1861.

The portrait was sold as a portrait of Charles the Bold but was later renamed to Man with the arrow. In older art books it is still labelled that way.

The portrait was displayed in an exhibition about the Golden Fleece at Bruges, in 1907. In the catalogue it is described as Knight with the arrow. More interestingly, the catalogue states that the portrait bears a great resemblance to Anthony, the bastard of Burgundy. The descripton also states that it was once attributed to Hugo van der Goes.  Side note: in the same catalogue the portrait of Philippe de Croy by Rogier van der Weyden, is still attributed to Hugo van der Goes.

There is a saying that everybody has a doppelganger, so it’s no big surprise that people resemble one another. Inbreeding and family relations are not really an explanation here, because as far as I know, Anthony had no close Portuguese ancestors.

But there are other portraits of Anthony so it’s logical to make a comparison. One thing has to be kept in mind, though. Rogier and his atelier have a tendency to what I call stockfacing their portraits, especially the individual ones. The portraits are idealised, with somewhat enlarged, rounded eyes. The men all seem to have the same hairdo as well, the wretched Burgundian bowlcut which was still popular when the painter was active.

There are two versions of a portrait of Anthony attributed to, or copy of Hans Memling. .

The version that appears most often on the internet is this one, currently in the Gemäldergalerie in Dresden:

Anthony of Burgundy, attributed to Memling, Gemäldegalerie Dresden

Another version of the portrait is located in the Musee Condé at Chantilly:

Anthony of Burgundy, attributed to Memling, Musée Condé, Chantilly (I hope they don’t mind me posting this, it’s for the greater good)

There is a good resemblance with the Man with the arrow, if you think away all the ‘filtering’ Rogier has done. His eyes are smaller and his jaw less prominent. The basic features are still there though: his brown eyes, his cleft chin, and his nose.

Anthony is older in this portrait, which is apparent from the face, which shows more lines but also by the fashion of his clothes and hair. He is wearing a different type of hat and clothes. His hair is also much longer, going towards a renaissance haircut. Some people suggested he is wearing a wig (when his father Philip was gravely ill, doctors told him to shave his head and Philip ordered all the nobleman to do the same), but he was more likely just being fashionable.

The other remarkable thing is the collar of the Golden Fleece. Theoretically knights had to wear the large collar during all official occasions and only could wear the smaller chains on certain occasions, such as when they were travelling. Note the portrait of Charles by Rogier van der Weyden on which Charles is also wearing the small chain.

The information on the website of the Musee Condé states:   

“Le revers du panneau est peint : on trouve les lettres I.N.E. (jusqu’ici inexpliquées) reliées par une cordelière de saint François, car le Grand Bâtard appartenait au Tiers Ordre, sa devise : ” nul ne si frote “, qui apparaît sur sa médaille italienne et sur sa cotte d’armes à Tourneham, près d’Ardres, où il est enterré, et un emblème, une hotte de guerre, sorte d’auvent mobile en bois et en fer servant à jeter sur les assiégeants des matières enflammées. Cet emblème et la devise Nul ne s’y frote se retrouve au revers d’une plaque conservée au musée de Cluny et représentant Le Calvaire.”

The provenance is listed as follows: 1886 Donation sous réserve d’usufruit : Henri d’Orléans duc d’Aumale.

With regard to the quality I like the Chantilly portrait a lot better.

The Cantilly portrait belonged to the Duchess of Sutherland. At one point in the 19th century, she contacted a certain Mr. Planche, who proved that the portrait was not, as the Duchess thought, Charles of Burgundy, but his illegitimate half-brother Anthony of Burgundy. This could be deducted from Anthony’s blason and motto that was painted on the portrait. The portrait and its provenance is described extensively in Les Primitifs flamands (see bibliography in part 5)

There are a number of other respresentations of Anthony in art but most are based on the above prototypes.

We know for sure that this is Antony, due to his motto on the back of the Chantilly painting. But is the Man with the arrow Anthony? Or does he just look like him? Because there is no information on the portrait by Rogier van der Weyden.

That is for the last post of the series together with a list of sources.