image source: closer to van eyck
It’s generally accepted that the face gazing out of the Just Judges panel is Jan van Eyck, Hubert’s brother. The pose is like a modern-day ‘selfie’ and portrayed to make eye contact with the viewer – a common technique adopted by artists to identify themselves and their work.
However, in this case Jan has given a second identity to the man in black, that of Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy. Van Eyck has also applied multiple identities to some of the other figures in this section of the Ghent Altarpiece.
There are a couple of reasons why the duke and his court artist are coupled and positioned leaning into the figure wearing the red hat. Firstly its about conversation, or more precisely, gossip. Secondly, Jan is presenting a mirror effect, repeated two years later in his famous Arnolfini Portrait, and for a similar reason. So where or what is the mirror feature in the frame?
More on this in my next post.