Friday, April 27, 2018

Petrus Christus. Saint Eloy (Eligius) in his Shop.1449


Form:  The use of oil paint to create an incredible level of realism is quite evident in this image.  Here, the artist shows off again by showing how well he is able to paint the textures and surfaces of all of these loveley items.Iconography:  We see all the images of wealth and power.  Petrus Christus has probably even included a "cameo" shot of the patrons of the image next to the Saint.  Everyday life is transposed on the story of Saint Eloy who payed a ransom for his fellow brothers out of his own pocket.  The elevation of a goldsmith, or moneylender, who is roughly the equivalent of our bankers is certainly a way of giving one's profession a positive spin.  Manuel Santos Redondo discusses this in the passage below.
St. Eloy (Eligius) in His Shop, 1449, by Petrus Christus,[xxix] is the clear representation of a goldsmith working in his shop and attending two clients: a rich, well-born bridal couple. It seems to be a representation of the goldsmith's trade, with the excuse of the portrait of a saint (hardly a subtle ploy, since St. Eloy is the patron of goldsmith's guild). The goldsmith sits behind a window sill extended to form a table, a pair of jeweler's scales in one hand, a ring in the other. Only his halo suggests that the painting deals with legend. On the right is a display of examples of the goldsmith's craft. The picture may very well have been painted for a goldsmith's guild (the one in Antwerp)
St. Eligius is the Patron of metalworkers. As a maker of reliquaries he has become one of the most popular saints of the Christian West. Eligius (also known as Eloy) was born around 590 near Limoges in France. He became an extremely skillful metalsmith and was appointed master of the mint under King Clothar of the Franks. Eligius developed a close friendship with the King and his reputation as an outstanding metalsmith became widespread.  It is important to notice that most prominent features in the life of St. Eligius can be seen both as indications of sanctity and the best professional characteristics of a good goldsmith. In the goldsmith's trade, skills were as important as reliability, as Adam Smith notices in Wealth of Nations: “The wages of goldsmiths and jewelers are every-where superior to those of many other workmen, not only of equal, but of much superior ingenuity; on account of the precious materials with they are intrusted”.[xxx]   Eligius is praised for both qualities. From his biography, we can see how important this reliability of his goldsmith was, for the king to become Eligius' protector: "The king gave Eligius a great weight of gold.  Eligius began the work immediately and from that which he had taken for a single piece of work, he was able to make two. Incredibly, he could do it all from the same weight for he had accomplished the work commissioned from him without any fraud or mixture of siliquae, or any other fraudulence. Not claiming fragments bitten off by the file or using the devouring flame of the furnace for an excuse."[xxxi] The portrait Saint Eligius by Petrus Christus is a fine example of the “occupational portrait”, describing a goldsmith's shop, the only religious connection being the halo and the fact than the saint is the patron of the guild.The moneychanger and his wife: from scholastics to accounting,
by Manuel Santos Redondo
Context:  About the artist: Petrus Christus 1420-1472/73, Bruges
Born in Baerle, a village in Brabant, in the early 1400s, PetrusChristus came to the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Bruges in 1444, when he purchased citizenship. His earliest extant works date from around 1445. They are deeply influenced by the supersharp delineations of Jan van Eyck. It used to be thought that Christus studied with Jan, but it is now known that he arrived in Bruges too late to have had any direct encounters with the master. Nevertheless, the many copies he made of Jan's work (several of which are included in this exhibition) suggest that he had access to Jan's workshop after his death.Exhibition notes. by Roger Kimball New Criterion, May94, Vol. 12 Issue 9, p55, 2p  HTML Full Text

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