Work by Jan van Eyck added to the Madonna Meets Mad Meg exhibition
Jan van Eyck’s little panel with the Madonna at the Fountain has been added to the exhibition Madonna Meets Mad Meg at the Mayer van den Bergh Museum in Antwerp. The painting – a masterpiece from the same city’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) – is exceptional in several respects. It still has its original frame, for instance, which Jan van Eyck inscribed with his famous, authentic motto ALS IXH XAN (‘as I can’ or ‘to the best of my ability’), his name and the year of execution. Van Eyck’s Antwerp Madonna featured this spring in the major international exhibition of the artist’s work at the Museum of Fine Art (MSKG) in Ghent before it was abruptly forced to close its doors in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Van Eyck’s Madonna at the Fountain shows the Virgin Mary in a lush, flowering garden. Dressed in a long blue robe, she gazes lovingly at Jesus, whom she holds in her arms and tenderly presses against herself. Behind her, two angels with brightly-coloured wings hold up a cloth of honour in gold brocade, decorated with floral and animal motifs. The fabric is spread across the ground too, so that Mary does not stand on the damp grass. The scene is set in a garden with red rose-bushes behind a low wall. All sorts of flowers bloom in the garden, including irises or lilies, violets, forget-me-nots and lily of the valley.
The painting – a masterpiece from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA) in Antwerp – is exceptional in several respects. Barely larger than a hand, it is packed with Marian symbols. What’s more, the panel still has its original frame, which Jan van Eyck inscribed with his famous, authentic motto ALS IXH XAN (‘as I can’ or ‘to the best of my ability’), his name and the year of execution. It is also the final dated and signed autograph work by the master that we know of: Van Eyck painted it two years before his death.
The painting featured this spring in the exhibition Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution before it was abruptly obliged to close in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Madonna at the Fountain has now been added to the Madonna Meets Mad Meg exhibition, which features a selection of masterpieces that once belonged to the passionate collectors Florent Van Ertborn and Fritz Mayer van den Bergh. Here, in the intimate setting of the Mayer van den Bergh Museum, this marvellous little painting has an additional story to tell: that of the fervent collector Florent van Ertborn, who succeeded in acquiring a work by Van Eyck. Van Ertborn purchased the work shortly before 1835 from the priest in the village of Dikkelvenne near Ghent. Madonna Meets Mad Meg runs until 31 December 2020.
Madonna Meets Mad Meg: Masterpieces and Their Collectors runs until 31 December 2020.
Mayer van den Bergh Museum, Lange Gasthuisstraat 19, 2000 Antwerp
€ 8.00 / € 6.00 / free. For the time being, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum is only accessible to visitors with a pre-purchased ticket. All information on tickets and safely visiting the museum can be found at www.museummayervandenbergh.be/coronavirus.
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday: 10.00 am–5 pm. Closed: Mondays and public holidays (1 November, 25 December).
The exhibition is a co-production with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA).