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The Painter and his Wife

Master of Frankfurt
31.1 cm x 47.2 cm x 3 cm
Inventory number: 
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp
Category A: Flemish primitives
15th century Portraits

It is generally taken that this deals with a self-portrait of the painter in the companionship of his wife. They are depicted against an equal background. On the table stands a dish of cherries and a vase with violets. On the original frame, the date 1496 is mentioned and the age of the man and the woman, namely 36 and 27.
The man takes the place of honour, the woman sits to the left. The painter has lovingly placed his left arm on her middle. He looks directly out of the painting, while the devoted gaze of the wife is directed to her husband. She shows him a violet, the same flower that is also in the vase and in the decorative work above the panel. There, one sees the coats of arms of the Antwerp Saint Luke guild. On the banderole is the motto of the Violieren, the rhetoricians division of the painter’s guild, “Wt lonsten versaemt” (united by friendship). This is one of the earliest Netherlandish double portraits within one frame and one of the earliest portraits of an artist. If it indeed is a self-portrait, then it is one of the oldest preserved self-portraits as well. This work is part of the changing of the self-image of the artist at the beginning of the 16th Century. The new self-consciousness speaks from the gaze that the man has upon the viewer.