Weyden, Rogier van der ca. 1399–1464 Flemish Painter

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Weyden, Rogier
van der
ca. 1399–1464
Flemish painter

Aleading Flemish* painter of the early Renaissance, Rogier van der Weyden influenced artists in many areas of western Europe well into the 1500s. His expressive and finely detailed works were in great demand throughout much of Europe.

The son of a knife maker, van der Weyden was born in Tournai, a town in present-day Belgium. It is likely that he joined the workshop of the Flemish painter Robert Campin in 1427, probably as a partner rather than as a pupil. He may have trained earlier at the workshop of the Master of Flémalle and his works show the master's influence. However, many scholars believe that Campin and the Master of Flémalle were the same person.

Van der Weyden left Campin's workshop in 1432, and by 1435 he had moved to Brussels. The following year he became the city's official painter, a position he kept for the remainder of his life. His notable works in Brussels include a series of four large paintings on the subject of justice painted for the courtroom of the town hall. In 1450 van der Weyden traveled to Italy, where he was already well known. Several of his works had reached collectors in Genoa, Ferrara, and Naples, and he won high praise at the court of Milan. However, Italian art had very little impact on the style and content of the artist's later works.

Van der Weyden's surviving works bear neither dates nor signatures, and few documents exist to identify certain paintings as his work. One exception is Descent from the Cross, which portrays the tragic figure of Christ surrounded by grief-stricken mourners after the Crucifixion. Various texts identify this piece as the work of "Rogier" and of "the great and famous Fleming Rogel." Probably painted in the Netherlands before 1443, the work eventually entered the collection of Philip II of Spain.

The Descent from the Cross and other religious paintings by van der Weyden present dramatic scenes in a vivid and emotional manner. Some of the artist's works reflect the influence of the great Flemish painter Jan van Eyck, and van der Weyden reinterpreted several van Eyck paintings. Van der Weyden was also an outstanding portrait painter.

(See alsoArt in the Netherlands. )

* Flemish

relating to Flanders, a region along the coasts of present-day Belgium, France, and the Netherlands

see color plate 10, vol. 2