It appears from historical accounts that Christus succeeded Jan Van Eyck as master painter in his workshop when he passed away. His reputation and influence would have been formidable in Flemish cultural circles and although we know little about his life his talent is obvious.
This painting is regarded by experts as one of the finest examples of new Netherlandish painting from the Northern Renaissance period.
For me this painting is pure poetry due to the specific use of colour and contrast. There is a clarity of vision in composition here that seduces the eye and this effect increases the more time one spends gazing at it. I'm not so much intrigued by the young lady who seems to be the subject of the painting even though she is a curiosity. We'd like to know who she was, where she was from, what she was thinking at the time and the details surrounding her life. She will unfortunately, remain a mystery for all time although there are some clues in her dress and bearing which point to her background. If one had an interest in faces then there is plenty to look at and be intrigued by here.
My fascination is with the marvellous control of colour and the way the figure almost takes on a photographic quality due to the expert sculpturing of light and shadow rendering a contrast bordering on the metaphysical. There is also a graphic awareness inherent in the work and a complex simplicity that prefigures modern sensibility in image-making and positions it far ahead of its time.
There is no doubt in my mind as to the influence of this portrait on later Dutch painters such as Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt Van Rijn and i've provided some examples here of portraits i believe highlight this influence. In this way it is possible to follow the historical link between periods and the artistic innovations developed by painters who were aware of and sensitive to the work of their peers and predecessors.
Of course there is no room here to list all those that came after Rembrandt and Vermeer suffice to say there is an unbroken documented art-historical legacy that we are fortunate to have inherited in the West.
I would like one day to be able to visit the Gemaldegalerie in Berlin and stand in front of the original painting. There is in my opinion no substitute for the original and reproductions are almost always a poor substitute for study and evaluation.
I hope you, the reader, will also appreciate this beautiful work of art and learn a bit more about the artist, his work and the times in which he lived.