Portraiture

09.30.13

A Real Beard on Provisional Flesh

The Daily Pic: In around 1475, Hugo van der Goes paints what he can count on as truth.

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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