The heart-shaped book this sitter holds is probably a prayer book; he is depicted before a view of the church of Sainte Gudule in Brussels, where a mass is performed by a priest in the background. The man’s identity is unknown, but he may have been a member of a confraternity or guild with a particular devotion to Saint Augustine, whose symbolic attribute was a heart surmounted by a flame. It is possible this formed the right wing of a devotional diptych; as such, the shape of the book would echo the open form of two joined, arch-shaped panels.
Leopold Friedrich Franz, Herzog von Anhalt, gothisches Haus, Wörlitz (d. 1817; acquired from "an aged painter at Lille"); Herzogen von Anhalt, gothisches Haus, Wörlitz, and Schloß, Dessau (until at least 1926); [Knoedler, New York, by 1928; sold to Harkness]; Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, New York (1928–his d. 1940); Mrs. Edward S. (Mary Stillman) Harkness, New York (1940–d. 1950)
Bruges. Palais du Gouvernement. "Exposition des primitifs flamands et d'art ancien," June 15–September 15, 1902, no. 143 (as by Roger de la Pasture, lent by the duc d'Anhalt, Woerlitz).
Exposition universelle et internationale de Bruxelles. "Cinq siècles d'art," May 24–October 13, 1935, no. 59 (lent from a private collection).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 34.
G. Parthey. Deutscher Bildersaal. Vol. 1, A–K. Berlin, 1863, p. 416, lists as in gothisches Haus, Wörlitz, a "Männliches Bildniss in dunkler knapper Kleidung" [portrait of a man with a dark page or squire's costume, or a dark, close-fitting costume] by "Eyck, van; unbestimmt welcher" [ie. an undeterminable member of the van Eyck family (Jan, Hubert, or Margaret, all of whom he ascribes pictures to)] (possibly our picture).
Georges H. de Loo Palais du Gouvernement, Bruges. Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles: catalogue critique précédé d'une introduction sur l'identité de certains maîtres anonymes. Ghent, 1902, pp. 36–37, as by an unknown artist, about 1480–90; observes that it seems to be a product of Flemish Wallon or of "Hainaut (?)," which appears to be confirmed by an inscription on its reverse stating that it was purchased in Lille.
W. H. James Weale. "The Early Painters of the Netherlands as Illustrated by the Bruges Exhibition of 1902, Article III." Burlington Magazine 1 (April 1903), p. 217, ill., believes this portrait should be attributed to an unknown master, perhaps of Valenciennes.
Max J. Friedländer. "Die Brüsseler Tafelmalerei gegen den Ausgang des 15. Jahrhunderts." Belgische Kunstdenkmäler. Ed. Paul Clemen. Munich, 1923, vol. 1, pp. 318–20, ill., ascribes a group of works, including the "Pastoral Sermon" (Louvre, Paris), this portrait, and a very similar one in the National Gallery, London—in which the sitter also holds a heart-shaped book—to a single artist, whom he dubs the Master of Sainte Gudule, presumably active in Brussels, and named for the views of the Brussels church of Sainte Gudule that often appear in the background of his pictures; notes that the young men in the London and New York portraits wear uniforms similar to those worn by the elegantly dressed young men in the Louvre picture; observes that the rood screen and altar in our panel are similar to these elements in the Sacrament altarpiece in the Antwerp museum [Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten] by Rogier van der Weyden, the city painter of Brussels.
Friedrich Winkler. Die altniederländische Malerei: Die Malerei in Belgien und Holland von 1400–1600. Berlin, 1924, p. 371, as by an artist from the circle of Rogier during his lifetime.
René van Bastelaer. "Note sur quelques peintures du maître anonyme dit 'de Sainte-Gudule'." Bulletin de la classe des beaux-arts 6 (1924), pp. 16–18, 22–25, suggests that this portrait and the one in London follow a required formula and were part of a more extensive gallery of dignitaries of the guild of archers; based on the ornament on the hats of the two subjects, suggests they were winners of the annual archery meet; identifies the church in the background of the London portrait as Notre Dame du Sablon and believes these men served as administrators there; observes that the church in the background of our portrait resembles the church of Sainte Gudule and remarks that the church of the Sablon was required to share with the church of Sainte Gudule any offerings made at its altar during the sacrament of the Eucharist; identifies the different sites in Brussels represented in the background of each portrait as the meeting-place for each sitter's specific militia; concludes that our sitter was a crossbowman of Saint-Georges, Master of the church of the Sablon for the archers' guild, and the particular member whose honor it was to deliver Eucharistic offerings to the church of Sainte Gudule.
"Dans une 'note sur quelques peintures du maître inconnu dit de Sainte Gudule' . . ." Académie Royale d'Archéologie de Belgique Bulletin 1 (1924), pp. 93–94.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 4, Hugo van der Goes. Berlin, 1926, p. 142, no. 77.
Charles R. Beard. "A Problem Solved: A Portrait of Louis XI." Connoisseur 87 (May 1931), p. 276, identifies the sitter in the National Gallery portrait as Louis XI, noting that when it was in the sale of Horace Walpole's collection at Strawberry Hill it was described as a "very curious original Portrait of Luis XI. with his Prayer Book, illuminated, in the shape of a heart" and attributed to Quentin Massys; attributes the London picture to the French school, accepts the identification of the church in its background as Notre Dame de Sablon in Brussels and concludes that if this picture, like the "variant at Dessau which is by another hand" represents Louis, it must belong to the years 1456–58, "when Louis was living on the charity of his 'Bel Oncle,' Philip, Duke of Burgundy, at Genappe, not far from Brussels"; finds the costume, age of sitter, and style of the hair consistent with such a date.
J. Porcher and E. Droz. Le chansonnier de Jean de Montchenu. Paris, 1933, p. 109, publish a heart-shaped song book from the second half of the 15th century (collection of Henri de Rothschild), made for Jean de Montchenu; mentions the London portrait in this context and refers to ours as a replica representing the same sitter; observes that this sitter evidently belonged to a specific confraternity, and that although Notre Dame du Sablon was the seat of the crossbowmen's guild, this organization appears to have had a different uniform.
"'Marriage of the Virgin' Painted by the Master of St. Gudule." Connoisseur 92 (July–December 1933), p. 40, claims that the Western facade of the church of Sainte Gudule, with its twin towers, can be seen in the background of this portrait.
Oda Van de Castyne. "Autour de 'L'instruction pastorale' du Louvre (A propos de l'exposition d'art ancien à Bruxelles)." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 5 (October–December 1935), pp. 326–27, ill., believes the painting of the "Pastoral Sermon" (Louvre, Paris) represents a scene from the Legend of Saint Augustine; based on the costume and hair style of our sitter, which are similar to those of the young men shown in the Louvre work, suggests that he is a clerk of the chapter of Sainte Gudule, an aspiring canon, and a spiritual descendent of Saint Augustine; the heart-shaped book, he hypothesizes, would refer to this saint's attribute, a heart surmounted by a flame, and thus to the sitter's attachment to Augustinian doctrine; views the scene in the background of our portrait as an indication of its subject's role as a canon in celebrating mass; mentions the London portrait as "a replica or an original variant"; believes both portraits were executed on the occasion of a distinction or a canonical promotion and that they have a common origin, if not the same author, as the "Pastoral Sermon".
Pl. Lefèvre. "Mélanges: À propos de 'L'instruction pastorale' du Louvre." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art 6 (October–December 1936), p. 359, rejects Van de Castyne's [Ref. 1935] association of a cult of Saint Augustine with the church of Sainte Gudule in Brussels, observing that not a single chapel in the church was dedicated to the Saint; also rejects the notion that this church was entitled to deduct any offerings made at the altar of Notre Dame du Sablon; in general, finds Van de Castyne's thesis very fragile.
Charles Sterling. La peinture française: Les peintres du moyen age. Paris, 1942, p. 63, rejects the attribution of the National Gallery portrait to the French school and the identification of its sitter as Louis XI; attributes it to the Master of Sainte Gudule and mentions our panel as a variant.
Martin Davies. National Gallery Catalogues: Early Netherlandish School. London, 1945, pp. 75–76, calls our portrait "hardly a version, but . . . related" to the one in London.
Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 37, Leipzig, 1950, p. 130.
Martin Davies. The National Gallery, London [Les primitifs flamands. 1. Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux au quinzième siècle, 3]. Vol. 2, Antwerp, 1954, pp. 206–6, believes the present work and the London portrait represent different sitters; rejects Van Bastelaer's [Ref. 1924] identification of the subjects as members of the archers' guild, observing that according to A. Wauters [Les Serments de Bruxelles, in Revue de Bruxelles, April 1841, p. 43] the costume of this guild in 1412/15 was scarlet with green piping and included a scarlet hat with plumes; also rejects Van de Castyne's [Ref. 1935] claim that the heart-shaped book refers to Saint Augustine as well as her theory connecting the London portrait and the church of Sainte Gudule in Brussels in different ways with Saint Augustine and Notre Dame du Sablon; calls the London picture "possibly, but not probably, the right wing of a diptych".
Colin Eisler. "Erik Larsen, Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York, 1960." Art Bulletin 46 (March 1964), p. 103, refers to this painting as in an excellent state of preservation, representing "the happiest aspect of the School of Brussels in the second half of the fifteenth century".
Lorne Campbell. Unpublished notes. 1981, observes that it is not certain whether the sitter holds a prayer book or a volume of romantic verse; states that "the priest, his attendant and the interior of the choir are freely copied from Rogier van der Weyden's altarpiece of the 'Seven Sacraments' [Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp]".
Guy Bauman. "Early Flemish Portraits, 1425–1525." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 43 (Spring 1986), pp. 40–41, ill. (color), states that infrared examination reveals in both this portrait and the related work in London, "extensive and highly individual underdrawings that accord precisely and indicate that the portraits were, at least, designed by the same artist"; observes that the Master of Sainte Gudule was capable of broad stylistic range and that "it seems appropriate to regard the New York and London portraits as illustrative of the poles of that range"; also notes that "the similarity of costumes may be explained by the rules of dress for one or another particular guild to which both men belonged"; suggests the heart-shaped books may indicate a romantic context for these portraits, but notes that a prayer book might just as well have a heart shape—indicative of passionate devotion—and the Eucharistic scene in the background of our portrait supports the latter interpretation
Craig Harbison. Jan van Eyck: The Play of Realism. London, 1991, pp. 146–47, 210 n.15, ill., suggests that the heart-shaped books in the London and New York portraits may refer to the sitters' devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 352, no. 343, ill.
Nicole Veronée-Verhaegen. Les primitifs flamands et leur temps. Ed. Brigitte de Patoul and Roger van Schoute. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1994, p. 229.
Eric Jager. "The Book of the Heart: Reading and Writing the Medieval Subject." Speculum 71 (January 1996), pp. 18–22, ill., sees the heart-shaped books in the London and New York portraits as a reflection of 15th-century devotional ideals and practices, including the emergence at this time of prayer with the heart, or silent prayer, as opposed to spoken prayer.
Lorne Campbell. Letter to Mary Sprinson de Jesús. August 28, 1997, refers to this portrait and the replica in London as examples of praying men who wear hats, believes the heart-shaped books they hold are devotional texts, and observes that there is a heart-shaped Book of Hours similar to them in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Use of Amiens, late 15th century.
Mary Sprinson de Jesús inFrom Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 71, 178–81, no. 34, ill. (color), dates it about 1480; believes the MMA and London panels were produced by two different hands in the workshop, noting that it is difficult to say which panel is more likely to be by the Master himself; believes both sitters hold prayer books.
Lorne Campbell. National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Netherlandish Schools. London, 1998, pp. 346, 349–52, ill., compares a heart-shaped Book of Hours of about 1500 (Bibliothèque Nationale, MS lat. 10536) with the books held by the sitters in the London and New York portraits; notes that "the numerous initials and divisions in the text [of the NG portrait] suggest a devotional rather than a secular manuscript," and that the inclusion in the background of our painting of a priest elevating a Host would support such an identification; calls our portrait, of a different sitter, "closely related" to the London panel, but on the basis of costume dates ours to the late 1470s and the one in London probably from the early 1480s.
Eric Jager. The Book of the Heart. Chicago, 2000, pp. 121–36, 196 n. 1, p. 197, fig. 9, believes that the celebration of Mass in the background indicates the focus of the sitter's worship, the "remembrance of Christ's Passion".
Philippe Lorentz and Micheline Comblen-Sonkes. Musée du Louvre, Paris. III [Les primitifs flamandes, I: Corpus de la peinture des anciens Pays-Bas méridionaux et de la principauté de Liège au quinzième siècle, vol. 19]. Brussels, 2001, text vol., pp. 243, 246, 249.
Anne Hagopian van Buren. "Eric Jager, 'The Book of the Heart.' . . . 2000." Studies in Iconography 23 (2002), pp. 218–21, 224 n. 7, notes that the text of the book in our portrait looks more like the verses and responses of an office or liturgy than the continuous text of a Passion narrative; believes "the two sitters' doublets, jerkins, and gowns (and the similar garments of three men in the 'Pastoral Sermon') are not a uniform, but simply the current fashionable dress"; finds it likely that both panels were originally the wings of a diptych that included an object of devotion on the left wing; supports the view that different painters were responsible for the two portraits and that they represent different subjects; thinks the correspondence of the date of the Montchenu song book (about 1480) and the probable date of execution of these panels suggest that the heart-shaped book had recently been invented and had become something of a fad.
Lorne Campbell inUnderdrawings in Renaissance Paintings. Ed. David Bomford. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2002, p. 106, fig. 185, mentions our portrait in relation to the panel in London; identifies the artist as "Master of the View of St Gudula".
Bodo Brinkmann. "'Quelque chose d'un peu sauvage': Ein ungewöhnliches Interieur für den Bruder eines Holbein-Kunden." Hans Holbein und der Wandel in der Kunst des frühen 16. Jahrhunderts. Ed. Bodo Brinkmann and Wolfgang Schmid. Turnhout, Belgium, 2005, pp. 264–65 n. 21.
Jeffrey F. Hamburger and Hildegard Elisabeth Keller. "Bilder in der Kirche, im Herzen oder gar nirgends? Überlegungen zu Periodisierungen am Beispiel des Bilderstreits in der Frühen Neuzeit." Die Aktualität der Vormoderne: Epochenentwürfe zwischen Alterität und Kontinuität. Ed. Klaus Ridder and Steffen Patzold. Berlin, 2013, p. 30, fig. 5, note that until the seventeenth centuy, the heart was considered the place of the soul; cite this work as an example of the belief that God's message had to be inscribed on the human heart.
A very similar portrait is in the National Gallery, London, but the exact relationship of the two works is ambiguous. The costumes of the young men are so similar that they appear to be in uniform, both hold heart-shaped books and face towards the left, but the backgrounds of the pictures are different. Most likely these panels were produced by different hands in what appears to have been a large workshop. As Campbell (1980) has observed, the London portrait is closer to the name work of the artist, the Pastoral Sermon (Louvre, Paris), although the New York artist is "certainly more skillful."
The priest, attendant, and choir interior represented in the background of this panel are based on these elements in Rogier van der Weyden's Triptych of the Seven Sacraments (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp). Although the nave in Rogier's triptych appears to be based on that of the church of Sainte Gudule in Brussels (ill. in R. Maere, "L'Église S. Gudule à Bruxelles," La Revue d'Art 25 , pp. 190, 199), that of the church in our portrait bears only a generic rather than literal resemblence to it.