Revealing the Léal Souvenir

This portrait of a man by Jan van Eyck is dated October 10, 1432. Art historians are uncertain as to who the sitter is. On the painting to the name Timotheus, but opinion is divided on what or who it refers to. This is what the National Gallery in London has to say about its painting:

The words ‘Léal Souvenir’ (Loyal Remembrance) are painted on the parapet as though carved into the stone. They may mean that the portrait is an accurate likeness or, conceivably, that it was a posthumous, commemorative likeness. The sitter has not been identified; he is not grandly dressed and is unlikely to be an aristocrat or a cleric.

The inscription in Greek letters has been read as ‘Tymotheus’ (Timothy), but it seems to be a transliteration into Greek script of two words in Latin, ‘tum otheos’ meaning ‘Then God’. What this signifies is not clear.

The reverse of the picture is painted in imitation of marble. The translation of the inscription along the bottom of the parapet reads ‘Done in the year of Our Lord 1432 on the 10th day of October by Jan van Eyck’.

Coming soon… details of the painting’s iconography and who the subject is!


Portrait of a Man (‘Léal Souvenir’) by Jan van Eyck
National Gallery, London