EYCK, Hubert van
(died 1426)


In the past, art historians, for various reasons, have sometimes cast doubt on the existence of Hubert Van Eyck. Today, however, no one still seriously claims that the elder brother of Jan, Lambert and Margareta Van Eyck never existed. He was born at Maeseyck, near Mons, though the date of his birth is unknown. The name Hubert itself, which was not common in Ghent, may well indicate his foreign origin. A few facts can be gleaned from his tombstone, which is now in the Lapidary Museum in St Bavo's Abbey. An inscription engraved on a copper plate which has since disappeared but which was once affixed to the stone, recorded 18 September 1426 as the date of his death. However, the most crucial piece of information to have come down to us is the quatrain inscribed on the frame of the Adoration of the Lamb, the Van Eyck brothers' most celebrated work. The verse was placed there when the altarpiece was installed on 6 May 1432. It states that the polyptych was begun by Pictor Hubertus Eyck, and finished by his brother Jan, at the request of Jodocus Vyd, deputy burgomaster of Ghent, warden of the church of St John, and of his wife, Elisabeth Borluut, who commissioned it. The quatrain was discovered in 1823. Although its authenticity was once contested it is now generally recognized as genuine.

An additional argument for the existence of Hubert is provided by a stylistic analysis of the painting, in which the work of two different hands can be clearly discerned. The overall conception of the altarpiece is certainly the work of Hubert, along with the execution of certain parts, such as the panels in the lower tier: Here, the manner is archaic, and reflects the continuing dominance of the international style that was practised by Broederlam. The composition is typically unoriginal: the landscape is still conceived as a distant background, with which the figures at the front have no organic relation, an effect that is reinforced by the bird's eye point of view.