Jan van Eyck - Portrait of Timothy

by Alexandra Tuschka

From a black background we meet a young beardless man. The words "Leal Souvenir", present as a trompe-l'oeil in the lower part of the work, distinguishes the work as a realistic image of the person. The bust of the man is turned into three-quarter profile, his gaze reaching into the distance. The identity of the sitter is not clear. However, based on his clothing, it cannot be assumed that he is an aristocrat or cleric. It is believed that the painting was created posthumously as a souvenir.


Van Eyck overcomes the Gothic courtly tradition by imitating the material of marble in front. The hand of the sitter holds a document. It rests on the ledge, breaking the picture boundary into the real world. However, the dark background is typical of Flemish painting of the 1st half of the 15th century, when this portrait was created.


The Greek letters that read as "Tymotheus" can be understood as a transliteration into Latin "tum otheos" - which means, as it were, "Then God". Whether this was really intended by the artist is unclear.


The back of the painting is painted in imitation of marble. An inscription tells us the exact date of creation: 10 Oct. 1432.


Jan van Eyck - Portrait of Timothy

Oil on wood, 1432, 33.3 cm x 18.9 cm, National Gallery in London

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