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Rogier van der Weyden, Middelburger Altar (sog. Bladelin-Altar), um 1450, Eichenholz, linker Flügel: 93,3 x 41,7 cm (Mitteltafel), 93,5 x 92 cm (rechte Tafel), 93,5 x 41,2 cm (linke Tafel), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie. © Volker H. Schneider

BERLIN.- Kulturforum Potsdamer Platz presents today The Master of Flemalle and Rogier Van der Weyden. Around 1430 painting in the southern Netherlands developed radical new ways of rendering the visible. A special exhibition in the Gemäldegalerie Berlin is devoted to two founding figures of this new art who are closely associated with each other: Rogier van der Weyden (1399–1464) and the Master of Flémalle – often identified with Robert Campin (ca. 1375–1445). The exhibition brings together outstanding paintings from all over Europe, Russia and the USA. This is a unique opportunity to view and directly compare paintings that count among the most valuable treasures of European art.

The Gemäldegalerie owns the world's most important collection of 15th century panels from the Netherlands. Its permanent collection includes paintings of others of the famous artists of the era such as Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling or Hugo van der Goes. In Room 5 of the Gallery, and in tandem with this exhibition, 15th century drawings from the Netherlands will be on exhibit.

Rogier van der Weyden was born in Tournai as 'Rogier de le Pasture' (Roger of the Pasture) in 1399 or 1400. His parents were Henri de le Pasture and Agnes de Watrélos. The family had settled before in the city of Tournai where Rogiers father worked as a 'maître-coutelier' (knife manufacturer). In 1426 Rogier married to Elisabeth, the daughter of the Brussels shoemaker Jan Goffaert and his wife Cathelyne van Stockem. Rogier and Elisabeth had four children: Cornelius who became a carthusian monk was born in 1427, a daughter Margaretha in 1432. Before 21 October 1435 the family settled in Brussels where the two younger children were born: Pieter in 1437 and Jan the next year. From the second of March 1436 onwards held the title of 'painter to the town of Brussels' (stadsschilder) a very prestigious post because Brussels was at that time the most important residence of the splendid court of the Dukes of Burgundy. It was at the occasion of his move to the Dutch-speaking town of Brussels that Rogier began using the Dutch version of his name: 'Rogier van der Weyden'.

The setting is derived from the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck. Boston, c. 1440.Little is known about Rogier's training as a painter. The archival sources from Tournai (completely destroyed during World War II, but luckily partly transcribed in the 19th and early 20th century) are somewhat confusing and have led to different interpretations by scholars. From a document it is known that the city council of Tournai offered wine in honour of a certain 'Maistre Rogier de le Pasture' on March the 17th 1427. However, on the 5th of March of the following year the records of the painters' guild show a certain 'Rogelet de le Pasture' entered the workshop of Robert Campin together with Jacques Daret. Only five years later, on the first of August 1432, Rogier de le Pasture obtains the title of 'Master' (Maistre) as a painter. Many have doubted whether Campin's apprentice 'Rogelet' was the same as the master 'Rogier' that was offered the wine back in 1426. The fact that in 1426-1427 Rogier was a married man in his late twenties, and well over the normal age of apprenticeship has been used as an argument to consider 'Rogelet' as a younger painter with the same name. In the 1420's however the city of Tournai was in crisis and as a result the guilds were not functioning normally. The late apprenticeship of Rogier/Rogelet may have been a legal formality. Also Jacques Daret was then in his twenties and had been living and working in Campin's household for at least a decade. It is also possible that Rogier obtained an academic title (Master) before he became a painter and that he was awarded the wine of honour on the occasion of his graduation. The sophisticated and 'learned' iconographical and compositional qualities of the paintings attributed to him are sometimes used as an argument in favour of this supposition. The social and intellectual status of Rogier in his later life surpassed largely that of a mere craftsman at that time. In general the close stylistical link between the documented works of Jacques Daret, and the paintings attributed to Robert Campin and Rogier van der Weyden is considered as the main argument to consider Rogier van der Weyden as a pupil of Robert Campin.

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Rogier van der Weyden, Werkstatt, Kreuzigung Christi (Abegg-Triptychon), um 1445, Eichenholz, Mitteltafel: 103,5 x 72,4 cm, Flügel: je 103,5 x 32,8 cm. Riggisberg bei Bern, Abegg-Stiftung. © Riggisberg, Abegg-Stiftung, Christoph von Viràg, 1999

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Rogier van der Weyden, Bildnis einer jungen Frau. Eichenholz, 49,1 x 33 cm © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie; Foto: Volker H. Schneider