Arts and Culture

Following a teaser campaign which included hints on Snapchat and in-museum clues, the Speed Art Museum has unveiled their newest piece — Jan van Eyck’s “Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor.” The piece is on exclusive loan to the Speed through early September from the Frick Collection in New York.

The painting is now displayed at the entrance to the European and American permanent collection galleries.

It features the Virgin Mary holding Jesus. She is attended by St. Barbara and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. A kneeling Carthusian monk, Jan Vos, is also present. The painting was commissioned as a memorial to Jan Vos, and was dedicated on Sept. 3, 1443.

Jan van Eyck is one of the most important painters of Europe’s late medieval period. He was literate, and signed and dated many of his pictures, which was highly unusual at that time. Van Eyck was also one of the first artists to master oil painting, which led to his ability to render light, surfaces and detail.

He employed workshop assistants who made exact copies, variations and pastiches of his completed paintings to sell (basically he was a medieval Thomas Kinkade) — so when Van Eyck died before completing “Virgin and Child with Saints and Donor,” his workshop assistants finished the painting.

The Speed Museum recently lent Anthony van Dyck’s “Portrait of a Woman” (1640) to the Frick Collection for their exhibition, “Van Dyck: The Anatomy of Portraiture.” The Speed’s painting was considered to be a highlight of that show. In return, the Frick Collection is sharing their van Eyck with the Speed.

“We are so excited to showcase this important piece of art, even if it is for a brief period,” said Ghislain d’Humieres, CEO of the Speed Art Museum, in a news release. “This is a rare opportunity to see a masterwork of this quality up close, and we hope many visitors will take advantage of this unique and exciting experience.” 

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.