09.30.13 7:59 PM ET
A Real Beard on Provisional Flesh
This portrait was painted by Hugo van der Goes (pronounced “Hose”, more or less) in about 1475 and is now in the rehung Old Masters galleries at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I’m fascinated by the contrast between the lack of spatial naturalism in such Flemish pictures (there’s something a bit off in the rendering of this sitter’s head) and their extraordinary surface illusionism (his sandpaper beard and liquid eyes could not be more convincing). It’s as though the artists are unwilling to commit to the ontological solidity of things in the sublunary world, but are happy to capture their superficial appearances.
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