Jan van Eyck's surviving work comprises a series of painstakingly detailed oil paintings of astonishing verisimilitude. Most explanations of the meanings behind these paintings have been grounded in the disguised religious symbolism critics have insisted are uppermost in them. But in Jan van Eyck: The Play of Realism, such approaches to the art of this Netherlandish master are set aside. In a fascinating recovery of the neglected human dimension that is clearly present in these works, Craig Harbison interrogates the personal histories of the worldly participants of such masterpieces as the Virgin and Child with George van der Paele, the Arnolfini Double Portrait and the Virgin and Child with Nicolas Rolin. In this revised, reformatted and expanded edition, and with many colour and black and white illustrations, Harbison reveals how Van Eyck presented his contemporaries with a more subtle and complex view of the value of appearances as a route to understanding the meaning of life.
Craig Harbison is Professor Emeritus of Art History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Among his publications is The Mirror of the Artist, Northern Renaissance Art in its Historical Context (1995).