Eye Candy for Today: Campin’s St. John the Baptist and Heinrich von Werl

Saint John the Baptist and the Franciscan Heinrich von Werl, Robert Campin
Saint John the Baptist and the Franciscan Heinrich von Werl, Robert Campin.

Commissioned by a contemporary 15th century Franciscan to portray himself praying in the company of Saint John, this is, like Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife, another marvel of detail and glazing.

It was in paintings like this that the early Flemish masters had a field day with the amazing capabilities of the relatively new medium of oil painting.

Also, like Van Eyck’s image, Campin is playing with our point of view, by showing other figures standing in our (and the painter’s) place in the reflection in the convex mirror.

The original is in the Prado, Madrid. Click the magnifier to go to the zoomable image. If you right-click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac) on the zoomable image, you can choose to view the entire image.

6 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Campin’s St. John the Baptist and Heinrich von Werl”

  1. I have to agree with you, Charlie! It is interesting that the use of the convex mirror was used in both of these paintings. I wonder how many other paintings there are out there from this period using the same idea!

  2. The clear, beautiful coloring and the naturalistic detail of these early flemish paintings never ceases to amaze me. I remember from my visit in the Prado a detail from another Campin painting which I found very unusual: a very lifelike Iris flower in a vase. I had seen the familiar white lilies many times in such paintings, but never a blue Iris, which is why this Campin stayed in my memory. (Is there a special symbolic meaning attached to this flower?) The painting I am talking about is actually the accompagnying picture to the one in your post, and is hung right next to it: http://www.museodelprado.es/coleccion/galeria-on-line/galeria-on-line/zoom/1/obra/santa-barbara-1/oimg/0/


    1. I don’t know the specific meaning of the iris, but I’m sure it has one, as these paintings were filled with allegorical references and almost every significant object in them had meaning.

  3. On the use of convex mirrors in paintings:
    There is one in the background of a Memling diptych: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_Memling_-_Diptych_of_Maarten_Nieuwenhove_%28left_panel%29_-_WGA14956.jpg

    I found an entire blog about mirrors in art named art.mirrors.art, which seems to have some interesting posts including on this Campin painting:

    One of the most well-known paintings with a convex mirror must be Parmigianino’s self portrait, 1524.


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