PMA Painting Biography



Reagan Wish

Does anyone else remember the scene in IT when that freaky lady came out of the painting to chase the one kid around the synagogue? Does anyone else think about that constantly? Does anyone else share my completely irrational fear that paintings will crawl out of their frames and reach for me when I am not looking?

Hopefully you didn’t, but if you answered yes to any of the above, boy do I have a painting for you! 

This beauty—and it really is beautiful—is a fabulous painting by Robert Campin (also called the Master of Flémalle, if you want to be fancy). I was originally attracted to it based on the intense, almost three-dimensional appearance of the gemstones in the piece. The painted stones adorning Jesus’ and Mary’s halos look like literal gems set into the paint, as if you could pluck them from the canvas. Ya girl is big into this sort of realistic depiction, if you couldn’t tell. 

The slightly creepier part (or wonderful, God-connecting artistry—depending on your perspective) is the way the gazes and the hands are arranged. Mary looks at Jesus who looks out of the frame…directly at the viewer (should they be standing in front of Mary). This type of gaze direction forces the viewer to take part in the piece—Jesus is calling your attention to this work of art. Jesus’ hands are also painted so his fingers resting on the edge of the frame, as if they are able (and about to) reach out to touch the viewer. 

Try having a staring contest with these two in Gallery 219 on the second floor of the PMA. Just don’t turn your back on them for too long…