Throughout the history of art, there has always been a plethora of portraiture, no matter the time period or the medium whether is be sculptures, paintings or even carvings. Humans have always been fascinated with themselves and the way others look. But it’s not always about vanity, it means so much more and can be conveyed in many different ways. In some cases, the artists moved beyond that of a simple likeness and can instill different emotions in the viewer. That being said, in this essay I will compare and contrast two portraits. The first is an oil painting titled Man in a Red Turban by Flemish painter Jan van Eyck from 1433. The second work of art is Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud, a French Baroque painter. The portrait is from 1701 and is an oil-on-canvas painting. These two works of art both demonstrate a likeness of each of their subjects but use different styles, elements and emotions to captivate the viewer. In this essay I will detail why I believe Man in a Red Turban is the better portrait and why it is so effective.
In the grand scale of time, these two portraits technically were not painted very far apart. But in terms of art styles of each of said time periods, they are very different. Van Eyck’s paintings were created at the dawn of the early Renaissance, which drew upon ideas like science, humanism and philosophy. The art during that period preserved a medieval understanding of a hierarchical relationship as well as religious imagery but also while pleasing in a realistic treatment of elements that were both natural as well as man made. On the other hand, Rigaud was present during the Baroque cultural movement at the height of reformation. As a result of the time period, the art style for the Baroque was grand and stylistic. It exuberated a sense of drama and grandeur in order to get people interested in the Catholic Church again in response to the reformation. This is present in his portrait of King Louie XIV where he is portrayed as a wealthy, confident and even pompous individual. Rigaud made his presence a grand and majestic one. This is in stark contrast to van Eyck’s Man in a Red Turban painting in which the subject in surrounded in darkness and is seemingly downplayed, humble and simplified.
Eyck’s painting was a peculiar one in that it’ was the first painting in several thousand years that had the subject facing forward, eyes gazed at the viewer. His eyes pierce you with realism. The subject has a subtle and calm pose that makes him out to be a regal, intelligent man. The background behind the man is solid black; the man seems to materialize from darkness making the man and especially his fiery red turban pop out and art definitely the main focus. The man in the turban is said to have actually been a portrait of van Eyck himself, however this seems to only be a theory as there is no hard evidence to back that up.
Eyck conjures up many visual elements and principals of design in this particular painting. The lines used...