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Religious Symbolism in 15th Century Flemish Art The Madonna with Chancellor Rolin

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In this particular work, the Romanesque forms of the Madonna, the infant, and the Chancellor are representative not of the ethnicity of the characters depicted is intended to depict the common practice of the era to create a visualization of the break from Old to New Dispensation (Panofsky, 1971, 139). However, upon close examination of the work, one might discover other less obvious symbolism within the work.
“Where Romanesque forms are thus employed to visualize the antithesis between the Old and the New Dispensation, the eras "under law" and "under grace," their symbolism is, so to speak, retrospective. it expresses a reconciliation of the present with the past. In other works of Jan van Eyck, however, this symbolism is projected into the future. To his way of thinking, the Romanesque was appropriate not only to the old, terrestrial Jerusalem — and thus, by implication, to Judaism as opposed to Christianity — but also to the New, or "Heavenly," Jerusalem and thus, by implication, to the life in Heaven as opposed to the life on earth (Panofsky, 139).”
There are two figures in the background of the painting, two apparently child-like figures with their backs turned to the scenes of the Chancellor and the Madonna. Even though it is an open space between where the Chancellor and the Madonna are, the children are nonetheless occupied with things which cannot be seen from the painting. In this instance, it might reflect the artist’s suggestions that the children of Israel had turned their backs on recognizing the Messiah born amongst them. That we cannot see that which occupies the child-like figures, occupies them in such a way as to not see one of the most important religious figure in history, suggests a blindness in recognizing who the Holy Mother was, and that she is the Mother of the Messiah about whom Jewish tradition spoke about.
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