Master of Flémalle
Netherlandish painter named after three paintings in the
Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt that were wrongly supposed to have
come from Flémalle, near Liege. There is a strong consensus of scholarly
opinion that he is to be identified with
(active 1406-44), who was the leading painter of his day in Tournai but
none of whose documented pictures survive. The identification depends
on the similarity between the Master of Flémalle's paintings and those
of Jacques Daret and
Rogier van der Weyden,
for Daret was Campin's pupil and Rogier almost certainly was.
The hypothesis that the Master of Flémalle's paintings are early works by
Rogier now has few adherents.
While there is still doubt about the Master of Flémalle's identity,
there is no argument about his achievement, for he made a radical break
with the elegant
style and ranks with
as one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of painting. None of
the paintings given to him is dated with the exception of the wings of
the Werl altarpiece of 1438 in the Prado, a doubtful attribution but it
seems likely that his earliest works antedate any surviving picture by
van Eyck. The earliest of all is generally thought to be
(Courtauld Institute, London) of about 1410/20.
This still has the decorative gold background of medieval tradition,
but the influence of Claus Sluter is clear in the sculptural solidity
and dramatic force of the figures. The most famous work associated with
the Master of Flémalle is the
(Metropolitan Museum, New York), and he is indeed sometimes referred to as
the Master of Mérode. However, the attribution of this painting has also been
questioned. Among the other works generally accepted as his are
The Marriage of the Virgin
(Musee des Beaux-Arts, Dijon), and
The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen
(National Gallery, London), which shows the homely detail and down-to-earth
naturalism associated with the artist (the firescreen behind the Virgin's
head forms a substitute for a halo).
The National Gallery also has three portraits associated with the Master
of Flémalle. In spite of the many problems that still surround him,
he emerges as a very powerful and important artistic personality.