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The Painter and his Wife

print

Master of Frankfurt
1460 - 1533
1496
oil on panel
47.2 x 31.1 x 3.2 cm
Inventory number 5096

In this double portrait, the anonymous Master of Frankfurt represented himself alongside his wife. The couple are portrayed against an even background at a frugally laid table with a plate of cherries, some bread, two cups and a vase of flowers. The painter takes pride of place, with his wife seated beside him. She looks at him respectfully as she presents him with a violet. Violets also appear in the vase and in the foliage around the coat of arms of the Antwerp Guild of St Luke in the top of the picture. The Master's left arm is wrapped lovingly around his wife's waist, but his gaze is directed out of the painting, as if he were trying to establish eye contact with the viewer. His facial features are quite striking, with eyes set wide apart, a prominent nose and a round protruding chin. Clearly it was his intention to portray himself not just as an artist, but also as a husband. Love as the source of creativity, if you will. The original frame mentions the year in which the painting was produced and the age of the couple: in the year 1496, he was thirty-six and she was twenty-seven.

An oddity

This painting is an oddity in Netherlandish art from around 1500. Not only is it one of the earliest examples of a double portrait within a single frame, it is also one of the first pictorial representations of an artist and, moreover, one of the oldest surviving self-portraits.

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