About this artwork
Rogier van der Weyden was one of the most influential artists of the fifteenth century. He settled in Brussels, where he was named official city painter in 1436 and maintained a busy workshop. He executed altarpieces and portraits for religious institutions, court functionaries, and the powerful dukes of the Burgundian Netherlands.
The coat of arms, motto, and personal device of a pulley painted on the back of the Art Institute’s portrait identify the subject of this painting as Jean Gros, an official of the Burgundian court. This portrait depicts him at the outset of a successful career, during which he amassed a large fortune and led a privileged life. Rogier presented the half-length figure against a plain, dark background, which accentuates the sitter’s features and the prayerful gesture of his expressive hands. This gesture indicates that the panel was once part of a diptych, a folding, portable altarpiece used for private devotion: Gros’s devout, abstracted gaze was in fact directed at another panel bearing the image of the Madonna and Child (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tournai). Gros’s coat of arms is on the back of that panel as well.
This type of diptych, which was intended to suggest continuous prayer and to record the donor’s features, was probably first made for princes around 1400, but Rogier revitalized the form, giving a striking focus and elegance to examples he produced for members of the Burgundian court.
- Rogier van der Weyden
- Portrait of Jean Gros
- Oil on panel
- Inscribed: Reverse: coat of arms of Jean Gros,1 GRACES . A DIEV. (on banderole), JG (flanking escutcheon)
- 15 3/16 × 11 3/8 in. (38.5 × 28.8 cm); painted surface: 14 3/8 × 10 5/8 in. (36.5 × 27 cm); reverse: 15 3/8 × 11 3/8 in. (39 × 28.8 cm); reverse painted surface: 14 1/2 × 10 1/2 in. (36.8 × 26.7 cm)
- Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection