Who’s Who in Portraits 1: Early Netherlandish

When the Roman Empire started to decay in the early centuries AD so did realistic portraiture. By the fifth century it was dead and did not reappear again until a thousand years later in Tuscany in the early fifteenth century. Despite its resurrection by Italians, it was artists in the North who quickly brought the genre to maturity using sharp observation and painstaking attention to detail. In the first of five easy-to-read essays (long on images and short on text) we take you through some of the most famous early portraits produced in the Netherlands. In it we demonstrate that they either look so like the artist's own self-portrait, or like portraits by the same artist, that the idea that Renaissance portraits in the North are accurate representations of the sitter must be dismissed. Furthermore, as you will see, they appear to demonstrate that these great portraits are a fusion of the artist's face with the sitter's.

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