Brokaat, 2016

This painting is based on a photograph of a detail of the coat of Donatian, bishop of Reims, who stands on the right of the Madonna in the painting of Flemish artist Jan Van Eyck The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele (Madonna Met Kanunnik Joris Van Der Paele, 1436), from the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, Belgium. Because it was first photographed and then painted, the brocade’s colors are very different from those of the original painting and one can quickly see a ‘mise en abyme’ effect. The viewer doesn’t know whether what he sees is a clothing or furniture fabric. The rich, embroidered fabrics of the time, in particular brocade, were reserved for the aristocracy and high clergy. No one else could use them besides these two classes, not only because of their cost, but also because of their symbolic meaning. Furthermore, the use of colors was strictly codified. For example, it was forbidden to use red, which recalls blood and death, or blue and white, the Virgin’s colors. Here, Donatian’s brocade coat is particularly rich, with silver and gold threads. Since at the time the middle class could not use the same colors and fabrics as the rich, they often used black, in particular in this region of Europe (today Belgium and the Netherlands). The painting thus also refers to social segregation, including in present times.