According to The Guardian newspaper, “the National Gallery in London is to make an exceptional loan of a painting by Jan van Eyck to a one-off exhibition celebrating the 15th-century Flemish master. Portrait of a Man (Léal Souvenir), one of the earliest dated works by the painter, will be among the star exhibits in Van Eyck – an Optical Revolution, which will open at the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent, Belgium, in February.”
The newspaper added that “theories abound as to who the sitter was” for Van Eyck’s Léal Souvenir. The “sitter” is also portrayed sat on a horse in the Knights of Christ panel of the Ghent Altarpiece. He is Pierre de Bauffremont (c1400 – 1472), Count of Charney and Lord of Montfort. He was Sénéchal of Burgundy and a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Pierre was also married to Marie de Bourgogne, a legitimised daughter of the Duke. It was his third marriage.
Incidently, what is often referred to in the painting as a parapet, isn’t. It represents an inscribed foundation stone. The painting is also linked to two other works by Van Eyck, the Arnolfini Portrait and Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban. He also features in Rogier van der Weyden’s Seven Sacraments Altarpiece.
Could we be one step closer to solving Belgium’s most enduring mystery – the disappearance of the Just Judges panel from the world-famous altarpiece known in English as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan Van Eyck and his brother Hubert? The work is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of early Netherlandish art, and was created for St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, painted by Jan Van Eyck between 1430 and 1432, according to a design made by Hubert a decade earlier.
• I have since discovered that the panel to the right of the Just Judges, referred to as the Knights of Christ, has features that connect to the Arnolfini Portrait and Jan’s Portrait of a Man (Léal Souvenir).
Another discovery is that the Petrus Christus painting, A Goldsmith in his Shop, was also inspired by these three works of Van Eyck. More about this at a later date.
Can it be coincidence that the seated figure in the Petrus Christus painting “A Goldsmith in his Shop” (1449) is similar in composition and concept to Jan van Eyck’s Léal Souvenir portrait of Pierre de Bauffremont (1432)?
The inscribed underside of the shop counter and foundation stone share the same theme of a sacrificial altar; the faraway, searching gaze of the two men, both wearing red pleated coats and holding an object in the right hand, is also matched; the hand descending on the shoulder mirrors the descending liripipe of the green chaperon; the left forearm of both men extends across their chest and the sleeve cuff is fur-lined – but note the fur cuff is absent on the right sleeves!
So is Petrus attempting to link the identity of the man in Van Eyck’s painting, Pierre de Bauffremont, with one of the identies assigned to the goldsmith, apart from St Eligius? Or is he hinting at the possibility that the woman, standing at the goldsmith’s right hand and portrayed as Joan of Arc, may have had some connection to Pierre?
I am now able to confirm the name of the person who is the subject of Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man (Léal Souvenir) painted in 1432, and now housed in the National Gallery, London.
It’s Pierre de Bauffremont (c1400 – 1472), Count of Charney and Lord of Montfort. He was Sénéchal of Burgundy and a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Pierre was also married to Marie de Bourgogne, a legitimised daughter of the Duke. It was his third marriage.
Incidently, what is often referred to in the painting as a parapet, isn’t. It represents an inscribed foundation stone. The painting is also linked to two other paintings by Van Eyck, the Arnolfini Portrait and Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban. He also features in Rogier van der Weyden’s Seven Sacraments Altarpiece.
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