In This Article Rogier van der Weyden

  • Introduction
  • Monographs, Catalogues Raisonnés, and Collection Catalogues
  • Primary Sources
  • Relationship to Campin, Daret, and the Flémalle Question
  • Workshop and Followers
  • Technical Studies
  • Seven Sacraments Altarpiece
  • Durán Madonna
  • Portraiture
  • Drawings and Manuscript Illumination
  • Relationships to Sculpture
  • Rogier’s Influence Abroad

Renaissance and Reformation Rogier van der Weyden
by
Mitzi Kirkland-Ives
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0232

Introduction

While Rogier van der Weyden (b. 1399/1400–d. 1464) was famed as one of the most skilled artists in Europe in his own time, recognized both north and south of the Alps as a leader in painting, his life and work have presented difficulties to modern scholars. As is the case with many artists of the early 15th century, little is known of Rogier’s life. The connection between his name and attributed works is circumstantial, with only a handful of authenticated works through which his oeuvre has been reconstructed. Unlike some 15th-century artists—in particular Jan van Eyck—Rogier did not sign his works, and with the paucity of archival evidence that is typical of the era, even those surviving works considered authenticated (the Prado Deposition, the Miraflores Altarpiece, the Crucifixion from El Escorial) have at times lacked universal acceptance. The division of attributions of related works, furthermore, is contentious, even today without firm consensus. Much of the scholarship concerning him, then, has been dedicated to the simple clarification of his oeuvre and the related problems of his training and early years (his possible connection to Campin’s atelier, and the body of work associated with that style and division among hypothetical and provisionally named masters, including the Master of Flémalle and Master of Mérode, among others). This obscured view of his training and circle (complicated by a presumably large workshop with a number of assistants) and the chronology of his works accounts for the richness of connoisseurial and technical analysis–based literature surrounding Rogier; in the last twenty-five years great progress has been made in separating authentic works of his hand from those of his workshop assistants and more distant followers and imitators. Other discussions stemming from the dearth of documentation regard his possible 1450 journey to Rome and his possible workshop relationship with Hans Memling and other artists influenced by his workshop’s style. In addition, in the 20th century, Rogier’s work was frequently (and sometimes somewhat disparagingly) characterized as highly emotionally charged, in comparison to the perceived meticulous detail and iconographic density of other artists of his era; In Alfred Acres’s words, “Rogier van der Weyden has come to be centrally defined by the extent to which he is not Jan van Eyck” (Acres 1998, cited under Middelburg and Columba Triptychs). Comparatively little of the discussion, then, has focused on detailed catalogues of symbolic motifs, but instead on various aspects of his composition that often reveal highly subtle and ingenious narrative techniques, compositional abstraction, and connections to devotional thought and practice. He is also widely acknowledged as a pioneer in portraiture, developing a number of compositions and devices both in independent portraits and devotional diptychs that would be widely adopted by his successors.

Monographs, Catalogues Raisonnés, and Collection Catalogues

These overviews provide excellent entry points into the literature. Several works published since the mid-1990s provide a number of up-to-date perspectives on Rogier’s life and work. Included here, de Vos 1999 provides a widely cited updated catalogue raisonné preceded by thorough discussions of Rogier’s life, context, and prior research; also relatively recent are Châtelet 1999 and Kemperdick 2013, which provide succinct accounts. Campbell 2004 also provides much current thought. Other works remain foundations of the literature, with Davies 1972 and Friedländer 1967 as dominant voices in English-language surveys through the 20th century, and this latter edition of Friedländer providing insight into the developments over the course of the century. Catalogues of major collections also provide a great deal of useful information: included here are a selection that include some of Rogier’s more important works, Christiansen and Ainsworth 1998 is sumptuous catalogue on collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Stroo and Syfer-d’Olne 1996 is part of the Flemish Primitives series, focusing on van der Weyden and the Flémalle oeuvre.

  • Campbell, Lorne. Van der Weyden. London: Chaucer, 2004.

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    Updated version of a 1977 edition; accessibly written essay summarizing Rogier’s life and entries on major works, as well as a short section on copies and studio productions. Concluding bibliographical essay provides overview of the state of scholarship since 1977, especially new data concerning Rogier’s biography.

  • Châtelet, Albert. Rogier van der Weyden: Problèmes de la vie et de l’œuvre. Strasbourg, France: Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 1999.

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    Contains a compilation of known documentation regarding Rogier (biographical, family, early critical reception); a catalogue raisonné organized by suggested date, short catalogue of works associated with his son Pieter and with Vrancke van der Stockt, lost works, and spurious attributions. Useful bibliography and list of exhibitions.

  • Christiansen, Keith, and Maryan W. Ainsworth, eds. From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.

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    Selective catalogue of key works tied to thematic essays: several entries highlighting works by Rogier and his imitators, including the portrait of Francesco d’Este, a Nativity altarpiece, and copy of the Miraflores Christ appearing to his Mother, here attributed to Juan de Flandes.

  • Davies, Martin. Rogier van der Weyden: An Essay, with a Critical Catalogue of Paintings Assigned to Him and to Robert Campin. London: Phaidon, 1972.

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    Principal mid-20th-century English-language monograph and catalogue raisonné. Introductory essay with an emphasis on connoisseurial and stylistic interests and questions of attribution. Brief timelines of then-known data from the careers of Rogier, Robert Campin, and Jacques Daret. Catalogue of works associated with Rogier and with Campin organized by location, with iconographical index as cross-reference.

  • de Vos, Dirk. Rogier van der Weyden: The Complete Works. Translated by Ted Alkins. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

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    Comprehensive coverage of Rogier’s career and works, including thematic essays and a complete catalogue raisonné, including works by Rogier’s workshop and problematic attributions. Includes texts of the principal primary source documents of the 15th century, a list of exhibitions of Rogier’s works, and a full bibliography.

  • Friedländer, Max Julius. Early Netherlandish Painting, Vol. 2, Rogier van der Weyden and the Master of Flémalle. Translated by Heinz Norden. Edited by Nicole Veronee-Verhaegen. New York: Praeger, 1967.

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    Volume from the 1967 update of Friedländer’s Altniederländische Malerei (1924–1937). A formative discussion, divided into thematic essays, including aspects of the work, relationship to other artists, and genres of his painting. Brief catalogue of works including, those here attributed to the Master of Flémalle and Daret.

  • Kemperdick, Stephan. Rogier van der Weyden, 1399/1400–1464. Translated by Anthea Bell. Cologne: Ullmann, 2013.

    E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Meister des niederländischen Kunst—Rogier van der Weyden. Concise introduction to Rogier’s life, work, and context, arranged by thematic essays. Includes entry-level discussions of peripheral topics, including the functions of drawings, illuminated manuscript production, and technical examination methods. Brief glossary of terms. Very accessible entry point.

  • Stroo, Cyriel, and Pascale Syfer-d’Olne. The Flemish Primitives: Catalogue of Early Netherlandish Painting in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Vol. 1, The Master of Flémalle and Rogier van der Weyden Groups. Brussels: Brepols, 1996.

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    First volume of catalogue series of 15th- and 16th-century Flemish art, including updated technical examination material when available and summaries of the literature with bibliographies. Entries on prominent works include the Brussels Pietà, Sforza Triptych, and portraits of Anthony of Burgundy, Laurent Froimont, and Charles the Bald.

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