WEYDEN, Rogier van der
(b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles)

St Luke Drawing a Portrait of the Madonna (detail)

Oil on canvas transferred from wood
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

According to legend, St Luke the Evangelist was also the first Christian painter, and had painted the Virgin Mary from life. As a consequence he was the patron saint of painters, and in many towns and cities was regarded as patron of their guilds. As a result, most of the major pictures of St Luke were destined for the altars of these communities; Rogier's painting was probably an altarpiece for the Brussels guild. The depiction of the saintly artist was of course also likely to be a self portrait of the contemporary painter, particularly when the panel was for so prominent a place as the altar of the guild. It expresses the artist's sense of his professional and personal dignity, and it is no coincidence that Rogier's St Luke resembles those portraits of the painter himself that have come down to us, though with idealized features.