Saturday, 17 October 2015


“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.” - John Lubbock

Henryk Wieniawski (Henryk also spelled Henri - born July 10, 1835, Lublin, Pol., Russian Empire [now in Poland]—died March 31, 1880, Moscow, Russia), was a Polish violinist and composer, one of the most celebrated violinists of the 19th century.

Wieniawski was a child prodigy who entered the Paris Conservatory at age 8 and graduated from there with the first prize in violin at the unprecedented age of 11. He became a concert violinist at age 13 and began touring Europe with his brother Joseph, a pianist. His wide-ranging concert tours brought him international fame. In 1860 he was appointed violin soloist to the tsar of Russia, and from 1862 to 1869 he taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1872–74 he toured the United States, playing with the pianist Anton Rubinstein, and he subsequently taught for a time at the Brussels Conservatory.

As a violinist Wieniawski was admired for his rich, warm tone, glowing temperament, and perfect technique. His own compositions for violin are Romantic in style and were intended to display his virtuosity. He composed two violin concerti, one in F-sharp Minor (Opus 14) and a quite popular one in D Minor (Opus 22). His other compositions include ‘Le Carnaval Russe’ (Opus 11), ‘Legende’ (Opus 17), ‘Scherzo-Tarantelle’ (Opus 16), and études, mazurkas, and polonaises.

The Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22 may have been started in 1856, but the first performance did not take place until November 27, 1862, when the composer played it in St. Petersburg with Anton Rubinstein conducting. It was published in 1879, inscribed to his dear friend Pablo de Sarasate.

The work is in three movements:
Allegro moderato in D minor/F major
Romance: Andante non troppo in B flat major
Allegro con fuoco – Allegro moderato (à la Zingara) in D minor/D major

Both main elements of the first movement, its sombre, restless first subject, and its lyrical pendant (begun by a solo horn) are discussed freely and subject to dazzling embellishments by the solo violin. This movement includes a demanding variety of technique, including chromatic glissandi, double stops, arpeggios, sixths, octaves, thirds, chromatic scales, and artificial harmonics, not to mention a myriad of bowing techniques. The beat is based on a 4/4 or common time.

The first movement uses a half-sonata form where the orchestral coda after the exposition transitions into the second movement instead of a development section. The slow movement, a Romance, follows without a break. It is based on a lilting tune in 12/8 time and rises to an impassioned central climax. A rhapsodic passage marked Allegro con fuoco and mainly a solo cadenza, leads to the finale, a dashing rondo in the gypsy style, which quotes the first movement’s subsidiary theme in the course of its second and third episodes. The final movement implements a 2/4 time, which allows the violinists to emphasise certain notes in the beginning of some measures.

Wieniawski's second Violin Concerto remains one of the greatest violin concertos of the Romantic era, memorable for its lush and moving melodies and harmonies. Here it is played by soloist Ye Eun Choi at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach, in concert with the SHMF Orchestra.

Friday, 16 October 2015


“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” - Harriet Ann Jacobs

We are getting some good Spring weather at the moment and it’s a pleasure to see all the wonderful, fresh, Spring vegetables at the greengrocers. It’s a perfect time to make this soup!

Spring Vegetable Soup
Ingredients for Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white parts and heart, sliced thinly
2 Spring onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
10 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 cup white cannellini beans (boiled until almost cooked)
2 tomatoes, peeled and grated
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 bunch of asparagus spears, use only the tender tops, snapped off and chopped
4 artichoke hearts (with leaves and choke removed), chopped

For the Basil pesto
1 and 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaped tablespoon pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Method for the soup
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add leek, Spring onion, carrot, salt and pepper and stir frequently until softened - 5-7 minutes.
Add tomato paste and garlic, stirring for one minute until paste is well mixed with other ingredients.
Add the stock, beans, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down heat to medium high and cook for 10 minutes, keeping it at a low boil.
Add the tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes and zucchini. Cook until tender - approximately 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with the pesto on the side, to be added as desired.

For the Pesto
Combine basil and pine nuts in food processor, pulsing a few times to mix well.
Add garlic and cheese, pulsing a few more times. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in while continuing to pulse until it forms the proper consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Please add your favourite recipe below, using the Linky tool.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


“Perhaps the courtyard will be knee-deep in sunlight and pigeons” - Nâzim Hikmet

Nâzim Hikmet (1902-1963) is one of the most important figures in 20th century Turkish literature and one of the first Turkish poets to use free verse. He became during his lifetime the best-known Turkish poet in the West, and his works were translated into several languages. However, in his home country, Hikmet was condemned for his commitment to leftist ideals, and he remained a controversial figure decades after his death. His writings were filled with social criticism and he was the only major writer to speak out against the Armenian massacres in 1915 and 1922. Hikmet proclaimed in the early 1930s that, “the artist is the engineer of the human soul”. He spent some 17 years in prisons and called poetry “the bloodiest of the arts.” His poem ‘Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison’ reflected his will to survive.

“To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.”
 (from ‘Some Advice’, 1949)

Hikmet was born in Salonica in Greece and but grew up in Istanbul. His mother was an artist, and his pasha grandfather wrote poetry; through their circle of friends Hikmet was introduced to poetry early; publishing first poems at seventeen. This poem of his I am very partial to:


If half my heart is here, doctor,
the other half is in China
with the army flowing
toward the Yellow River.
And, every morning, doctor,
every morning at sunrise my heart
is shot in Greece.
And every night, doctor,
when the prisoners are asleep and the infirmary is deserted,
my heart stops at a run-down old house
in Istanbul.
And then after ten years
I look at the night through the bars,
and despite the weight on my chest
Nâzim Hikmet (1948)

After the disastrous events in Greece and Turkey in 1922, the poet went to Russia, attracted by the Communist ideals. He returned to Turkey and was imprisoned several times on trumped up charges. He went back to Russia, returned to Turkey and between 1929 and 1936 he published nine books (five collections and four long poems) that revolutionised Turkish poetry, flouting Ottoman literary conventions and introducing free verse and colloquial diction. While these poems established him as a new major poet, he also published several plays and novels and worked as a bookbinder, proofreader, journalist, translator, and screenwriter to support an extended family that included his second wife, her two children, and his widowed mother.


This country shaped like the head of a mare
Coming full gallop from far off Asia
To stretch into the Mediterranean

Bloody wrists, clenched teeth
bare feet,
Land like a precious silk carpet

Let the doors be shut that belong to others
Let them never open again
Do away with the enslaving of man by man

To live! Like a tree alone and free
Like a forest in brotherhood

In January 1938 he was arrested for inciting the Turkish armed forces to revolt and sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison on the grounds that military cadets were reading his poems, particularly ‘The Epic of Sheikh Bedrettin’. Published in 1936, this long poem based on a fifteenth-century peasant rebellion against Ottoman rule was his last book to appear in Turkey during his lifetime.

In the late forties, while still in prison, he divorced his second wife and married for a third time. In 1949 an international committee, including Pablo Picasso, Paul Robeson, and Jean Paul Sartre, was formed in Paris to campaign for Hikmet’s release, and in 1950 he was awarded the World Peace Prize. The same year, he went on an eighteen-day hunger strike, despite a recent heart attack, and when Turkey’s first democratically elected government came to power, he was released in a general amnesty. He managed to make his way to Moscow. During his exile his poems were regularly printed abroad, his ‘Selected Poems’ was published in Bulgaria in 1954, and generous translations of his work subsequently appeared there and in Greece, Germany, Italy, and the USSR. He died of a heart attack in Moscow in June 1963.

He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman.
The woman’s dream was of a miniature house
with a garden where honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house.

The giant loved like a giant,
and his hands were used to such big things
that the giant could not
make the building,
could not knock on the door
of the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
at that house.

He was a blue-eyed giant,
He loved a miniature woman,
a mini miniature woman.
The woman was hungry for comfort
and tired of the giant’s long strides.
And bye bye, off she went to the embraces of a rich dwarf
with a garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house.

Now the blue-eyed giant realises,
a giant isn’t even a graveyard for love:
in the garden where the honeysuckle grows
in a riot of colours
that sort of house...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015


“The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.” - Henri Frédéric Amiel

This week, Poets United has as its theme, “Fire”. Whether seen as friend or foe, fire always has to be respected as it can burn more easily than it can warm.

Bushfires in Australia are frequent events during the hot months of the year, due to Australia’s mostly hot, dry climate. Each year, such fires impact extensive areas. While they can cause property damage and loss of human life, certain native flora in Australia have evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction, and fire events are an interwoven and an essential part of the ecology of the continent. For thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used fire to foster grasslands for hunting and to clear tracks through dense bush (see here for more details).

Major firestorms that result in severe loss of life are often named based on the day on which they occur, such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday. Some of the most intense, extensive and deadly bushfires commonly occur during droughts and heat waves, such as the 2009 Southern Australia heat wave, which precipitated the conditions during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in which 173 people lost their lives. Other major conflagrations include the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires and the 2006 December Bushfires.

Victoria has seen the majority of the deadliest and largest bushfires in Australia, most notably the 2009 Black Saturday fires, where 173 people were killed, around 2,000 homes and structures were destroyed, towns were gutted, and some, such as Marysville, were destroyed. Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of bushfires and will lead to increased days of extreme fire danger.

Perhaps the most distressing thing about bushfires is that some of them are deliberately lit by arsonists, firebugs, demented individuals who get a thrill out of seeing the flames leap up and destroy all in their path. In Australia, we fear and respect fire as it can cause destruction and death and endless misery. Firebugs have no place amongst us…

Drought and Fire

The demon lit the match and hell began
As soon as fire started in the tinder-dry bushland.
Parched earth and dead grass stretch listlessly
As heat waves shimmer in the distance
And oppressive heat mingles with the pungency of smoke.

The crackle of the flames consumes all other sounds
Leaves sublimate as the wave of towering fire touches them.
The wind roars, and the conflagration burns, destroys all,
While in its wake, nothing but ashes, blackened earth
And shells of gutted homes and stumps of trees.

The sun is red, the sky is gray in a vision of apocalypse
And as evening falls the dull infernal glow of bushfire
Colours even one’s thoughts incarnadine.
The embers fly and showers of sparks light up the sky
As fire spreads consuming all in its path.

A lack of water in the rivers of the heart,
A fire raging in the fevered brain,
Black charred remains and ashes in the soul:
The demon lights the match, the flames of hell burn on.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” - Neil Armstrong

One of the most ancient and important among the festivals observed by the Greeks was that of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which was celebrated in honour of Demeter and Persephone. The name was derived from Eleusis, a town in Attica, where the Mysteries were first introduced by the goddess herself. They were divided into the Greater and Lesser Mysteries, and, according to the general account, were held every five years.

The Greater, which were celebrated in honour of Demeter, and lasted nine days, were held in autumn; the Lesser, dedicated to Persephone (who at these festivals was affectionately called Kore, or the maiden), were held in spring. It is supposed that the secrets taught to the initiated by the priests (the expounders of the Mysteries) were moral meanings, elucidated from the myths concerning Demeter and Persephone; but the most important belief inculcated was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. That the lessons taught were of the highest moral character is universally admitted. “The souls of those who participated in them were filled with the sweetest hopes both as to this and the future world”, and it was a common saying among the Athenians: “In the Mysteries no one is sad”.

The initiation into these solemn rites (which was originally the exclusive privilege of the Athenians) was accompanied with awe-inspiring ceremonies; and secrecy was so strictly enjoined that its violation was punished by death. At the conclusion of the initiation great rejoicings took place, chariot-races, wrestling matches, poetry contests, music recitals were held, and solemn sacrifices offered. The initiation into the Lesser Mysteries served as a preparation for the Greater.

The Mysteries began with the march of the mystai (initiates) in solemn procession from Athens to Eleusis. The rites that they then performed in the Telesterion, or Hall of Initiation, were and remain a secret. Something was recited, something was revealed, and acts were performed, but there is no sure evidence of what the rites actually were, though some garbled information was given by later, Christian writers who tried to condemn the Mysteries as pagan abominations.

It is known, however, that neophytes were initiated in stages and that the annual process began with purification rites at what were called the Lesser Mysteries held at Agrai (Agrae) on the stream of Ilissos, outside of Athens, in the month of Anthesterion (February–March). The Greater Mysteries at Eleusis was celebrated annually in the month of Boedromion (September–October). It included a ritual bath in the sea, three days of fasting, and completion of the still-mysterious central rite. These acts completed the initiation, and the initiate was promised benefits of some kind in the afterlife.

In the Hellenistic age (300-150 BCE), the cult was taken over and run by the state, and two aristocratic families from Eleusis officiated (the Eumolpidae and Kerykes). In this age, mystery cults were becoming very popular, unlike classical Greece (400s BCE) when the Eleusinian mysteries were a rare form of worship. The annual Eleusinian mysteries attracted thousands of people from all over the Greek world, and the only initial requirement to become a mystes (initiate) was to be without blood guilt nor a barbarian (in other words, if you spoke Greek). It was open to both men and women, and remarkably, slaves were also allowed into the cult.

The mysteries existed from Mycenaean times (circa 1600-1200 BCE), thought to have been established in the 1500s BCE and held annually for two thousand years. The Roman emperor Theodosius closed the sanctuary in CE 392, and finally it was abandoned when Alaric, king of the Goths, invaded Greece in CE 396. This brought Christianity to the region, and all cult worship was forbidden.

Monday, 12 October 2015


“My feminism is humanism, with the weakest being those who I represent, and that includes many beings and life forms, including some men.” - Sandra Cisneros

Docufiction is the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction. It is a film genre which attempts to capture reality such as it is (as direct cinema or cinéma vérité) and which simultaneously introduces unreal elements or fictional situations in narrative in order to strengthen the representation of reality using some kind of artistic expression. More precisely, it is a documentary contaminated with fictional elements, in real time, filmed when the events take place, and in which someone (the character) plays his own role in real life.

A docudrama is a genre of radio and television programming, feature film, and staged theatre, which features dramatised re-enactments of actual events. On stage, it is sometimes known as documentary theatre. In the core elements of its story a docudrama strives to adhere to known historical facts, while allowing a greater or lesser degree of dramatic license in peripheral details, and where there are gaps in the historical record. Dialogue may include the actual words of real-life persons, as recorded in historical documents. Docudrama producers sometimes choose to film their reconstructed events in the actual locations in which the historical events occurred.

A docudrama, in which historical fidelity is the keynote, is generally distinguished from a film merely “based on true events”, a term which implies a greater degree of dramatic license; and from the concept of “historical drama”, a broader category which may also encompass largely fictionalised action taking place in historical settings or against the backdrop of historical events. As a neologism, the term docudrama is sometimes confused with docufiction. However, unlike docufiction (which is essentially a documentary filmed in real time, incorporating some fictional elements) docudrama is filmed at a time subsequent to the events it portrays.

Hybrid genres such as these raise ethical questions regarding truth, since reality may be manipulated and confused with fiction, or the converse, which may be also quite pernicious: Fiction being regarded as the historical truth.

We watched the 2014 Alan Rickman movie “A Little Chaos” starring  Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci and Steve Waddington. The scenario credits go to Jeremy Brock, Alison Deegan and Alan Rickman, and there is a disclaimer at the very beginning of the movie warning viewers that some of the events are based on historical fact… The problem is that most of the film is fiction, including the historically non-existent female lead and most of the film’s basic premise.

The plot revolves around the King of France Louis XIV (who really existed) and who built an impressive palace in the Paris suburb of Versailles and surrounded it with spectacular gardens which included an outdoor ballroom (all true). Kate Winslet plays a fictional woman gardener named Sabine De Barra, who the movie shows receiving a commission to design and build the outdoor ballroom portion of the gardens at Versailles. She is working for a male landscape artist named André Le Nôtre (the actual historical royal landscaper), played by Matthias Schoenaerts.

My first issue was with the ages of Louis XIV (5 September 1638 – 1 September 1715) and André Le Nôtre (12 March 1613 – 15 September 1700), the King being 25 years younger than Le Nôtre. In the film this age difference is reversed, Le Nôtre being younger. The fictional Madame De Barra is the other major historical no-no, and her existence is central to the film’s plot and its mildly feminist premise. A whole range of other historical inconsistencies and historical solecisms, if you like, pepper the film. But even if we ignore all of this, the plot is thin and the film too long, the empty, pointless silences too many. More film should have been left on the cutting room floor.

The sets, costumes and props were largely acceptable and the music suitably non-descript, but lacking period authenticity (to match the holes in the plot). The acting I was not overly impressed with, Winslet being too earnest while trying to make the most of her lines, while Schoenaerts looked for the most part non-plussed and uncomfortable. Rickman was rather full of himself at times but I guess one should forgive him that as he was playing Louis XIV…

I would not go out of my way to see this film, but it was pleasant enough as "filmzak" (I did end up doing something else halfway through it while watching the remainder of the film). Watch it at your discretion and perhaps you will enjoy it more knowing it’s all balderdash and only amusing as a romantic comedy of a mildly feministic kind where the woman is the heroine and the men around her range from the completely incompetent to the supercilious but mindless male chauvinist pig.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.” - Claude Monet

Rogier van der Weyden (b. 1400, Tournai, d. 1464, Bruxelles) was a Flemish painter (French Rogier de le Pasture) who, with the possible exception of Jan van Eyck, was the most influential northern European artist of his time. Though most of his work was religious, he produced secular paintings (now lost) and some sensitive portraits.

Rogier was the son of a master cutler, and his childhood must have been spent in the comfortable surroundings of the rising class of merchants and craftsmen. He may even have acquired a university education, for in 1426 he was honoured by the city as “Maistre (Master) Rogier de le Pasture” and began his painting career only the next year at the rather advanced age of 27. It was then, on March 5, 1427, that Rogier enrolled as an apprentice in the workshop of Robert Campin, the foremost painter in Tournai and dean of the painters’ guild.

Rogier remained in Campin’s atelier for five years, becoming an independent master of the guild on Aug. 1, 1432. From Campin, Rogier learned the ponderous, detailed realism that characterises his earliest paintings, and so alike, in fact, are the styles of these two masters that connoisseurs still do not agree on the attribution of certain works. But the theory that the entire sequence of paintings credited to Campin (who, like Rogier, did not sign his panels) are actually from the brush of the young Rogier cannot be maintained.

Campin was not the only source of inspiration in Rogier's art. Jan van Eyck, the great painter from Bruges, also profoundly affected the developing artist, introducing elegance and subtle visual refinements into the bolder, Campinesque components of such early paintings by Rogier as “St. Luke Painting the Virgin”. Although as an apprentice Rogier must certainly have met Jan van Eyck when the latter visited Tournai in 1427, it was more likely in Bruges, where Rogier may have resided between 1432 and 1435, that he became thoroughly acquainted with van Eyck’s style.

By 1435, Rogier, now a mature master, settled in Brussels, the native city of his wife, Elizabeth Goffaert, whom he had married in 1426. The next year he was appointed city painter; and it was from this time that he began to use the Flemish translation of his name (van der Weyden). Rogier remained in Brussels the rest of his life, although he never completely severed his ties with Tournai. He was commissioned to paint a mural (now destroyed) for the town hall of Brussels showing famous historical examples of the administration of justice. During this same period, around 1435-40, he completed the celebrated panel of the “Descent from the Cross” for the chapel of the Archers’ Guild of Louvain.

Devotional qualities are even more striking in Rogier’s works of the 1440s such as the twin Granada-Miraflores altarpieces and the Last Judgment Polyptych in Beaune, France (Hôtel-Dieu). In these the settings are stark, the figures are delicate Gothic types, and the action, though stilled, is exquisitely expressive. The removal of Rogier’s art from concern with outward appearances and his return to medieval conventions is surprising; for it was during this decade that Rogier’s international reputation was secured and commissions increased from noblemen such as Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, and his powerful chancellor, Nicolas Rolin. Rogier may well have also been influenced by the writings of Thomas à Kempis, the most popular theologian of the era, whose practical mysticism, like Rogier's painting, stressed empathetic response to episodes from the lives of Mary, Christ, and the saints.

Perhaps as an extension of a journey to install the Last Judgment Altarpiece in Rolin’s chapel at Beaune or possibly to obtain a plenary indulgence for his daughter Margaret, one of Rogier’s four children, who had died that year, the renowned painter visited Rome during the Jubilee of 1450. He was warmly received in Italy. Praise from the Humanist Bartolomeo Fazio and the eminent theologian Nicholas of Cusa is recorded; Rogier also received commissions from the powerful Este family of Ferrara and the Medici of Florence. He painted a portrait of Francesco d’Este (originally thought to be Leonello d’Este), and his painting of the Madonna and Child that still remains in Florence (Uffizi) bears the arms and patron saints of the Medici.

While on his pilgrimage, Rogier apparently tutored Italian masters in painting with oils, a technique in which Flemish painters of the time were particularly adept. He also seems to have learned a great deal from what he viewed. Although he was primarily attracted to the conservative painters Gentile da Fabriano and Fra Angelico, whose medievalising styles paralleled his own, Rogier was also acquainted with more progressive trends. In the “St John Altarpiece” and the “Seven Sacraments Triptych”, executed between 1451 and 1455, shortly after Rogier’s return north, his characteristic austerity is tempered by his recollection of the more robust Italian styles; and, in both, the panels are unified from a single point of view.

The last 15 years of his life brought Rogier the rewards due an internationally famous painter and exemplary citizen. He received numerous commissions, which he carried out with the assistance of a large workshop that included his own son Peter and his successor as city painter, Vranck van der Stockt, a mediocre imitator. Even before his death, however, Rogier’s impact extended far beyond his immediate associates. The influence of his expressive but technically less intricate style eclipsed that of both Campin and van Eyck. Every Flemish painter of the succeeding generation - Petrus Christus, Dieric Bouts, Hugo van der Goes, and Hans Memling (who may have studied in Rogier’s atelier) - depended on his formulations; and, during the 16th century, Rogierian ideas were transformed and revitalized by Quentin Massys and Bernard van Orley.

Rogier’s art was also a vehicle for transporting the Flemish style throughout Europe, and during the second half of the 15th century his influence dominated painting in France, Germany, and Spain. Nevertheless, the fame of Rogier van der Weyden quickly waned, and no painting by him had been signed or dated. By the end of the 16th century the biographer Carel van Mander had referred mistakenly to two Rogiers in Het Schilderboek (1603; “Book of Painters”), and by the middle of the 19th century his fame and art had all but been forgotten. Only through a meticulous evaluation of the documents have scholars over the past century been able to reconstruct Rogier’s work and to restore the reputation of one of 15th-century Flanders’ leading masters.

The “Descent from the Cross” (or Deposition of Christ, or Descent of Christ from the Cross) a panel painting created c. 1435, now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, is shown above. The crucified Christ is lowered from the cross, his lifeless body held by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. The c. 1435 date is estimated based on the work’s style, and because the artist acquired wealth and renown around this time, most likely from the prestige this work allowed him.

It was painted early in his career, shortly after he completed his apprenticeship with Robert Campin and shows the older painter’s influence, most notable in the hard sculpted surfaces, realistic facial features and vivid primary colours, mostly reds, whites and blues. The work was a self-conscious attempt by van der Weyden to create a masterpiece that would establish an international reputation. Van der Weyden positioned Christ’s body in the T-shape of a crossbow to reflect the commission from the Leuven guild of archers (Schutterij) for their chapel Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Ginderbuiten (Notre-Dame-hors-les-Murs).

Art historians have commented that this work was arguably the most influential Netherlandish painting of Christ’s crucifixion, and that it was copied and adapted on a large scale in the two centuries after its completion. The emotional impact of the weeping mourners grieving over Christ’s body, and the subtle depiction of space in van der Weyden’s work have generated extensive critical comments, one of the most famous being, that of Erwin Panofsky: “It may be said that the painted tear, a shining pearl born of the strongest emotion, epitomises that which Italian most admired in Early Flemish painting: Pictorial brilliance and sentiment”.