In my previous post I pointed out that the red turban in Jan van Eyck’s self-portrait was configured to represent aspects of the Passion of Christ.
When rotated 90º clockwise part of the turban takes on the appearance of a rooster, symbolic of Christ’s resurrection.
Another image to emerge at this angle is that of Christ crucified. It depicts his suspension from the cross, hanging by his left arm, and his bowed head capped or crowned.
A third image is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, resting her head against the rooster.
When viewed at the normal angle the turban reveals the presentation of the ‘Lamb of God’. Also, when the images of the Lamb and Mary resting her head are united, the combination can be recognised as a ‘Pieta’, a subject in Christian art depicting Mary cradling her crucified Son.
Another Flemish artist, Hugo van der Goes, picked up on three of these features and incorporated them in the St Vincent Panels painted some forty years later.
A contemporary of Van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, was also aware of what Jan had depicted in the red turban and made reference to it in two of his paintings, the Magdalen Reading, and the Seven Sacraments altarpiece.
There is also evidence that Rembrandt was aware of Van Eyck’s construction, even going as far to incorporate some of its features in his own ‘disguised’ style in the 1639 engraving referred to as The Death of the Virgin.
So what inspired Jan van Eyck to want to represent himself as a rooster and disguise elements of Christ’s passsion in his red turban? And what could possibly link this painting to the Somerset village of Templecombe and the discovery in 1945 of a painting on wooden boards known ast he Templecombe Head?
More on this in a future post.