Famous Portraits – Portrait of a Man (in a Turban)

Jan van Eyck was one of the first painters to use oils on panels. Born in Netherlands, the Flemish is now regarded as one of the best painters of the 15th century.

His paintings show a great technique and are full of details. In 1433 he completed what is now seen as his most famous work. He titled it simply “Portrait of a Man”, and it could be a self portrait. It shows a quarter view of a man wearing a red chaperon, with its sides lifted.

Although might seem unusual today, for that time in the Western Europe this type of head wear was common. The black background, dark garments of the subject as well as the light that falls from one side make his face stand out and emphasis its volume, making it appear three dimensional. Another great visual impact is the contrast between the red chaperon and the dark surroundings.

Van Eyck makes use of the technique called “sfumato” which is applying the paint in overlapping thin layers to blend the hues. This makes the portrait look smooth without any hard edges or visible brush strokes.


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