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A Man
Robert Campin
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This striking portrait of a man in a red hat forms a pair with Campin’s A Woman – the sitters were clearly husband and wife. We do not know who they were, but their clothes suggest they were prosperous townsfolk, perhaps from Tournai where Campin lived and worked.

Campin has arranged the older husband’s clothes and face to convey his character: he seems world-weary, uncertain and disillusioned. His face is dimly lit and his skin sags beneath his jaw and forms crow’s feet around his dull eyes. He slouches. His head is off centre, and his hat has been brought forward so it seems to press down on his head.

Instead of looking out at us he gazes across at his wife. The shadows cast on his face stress the falling lines of the pattern Campin has created. His hands are not included, perhaps because they would have been at odds with this pattern.

Key facts
Artist Robert Campin
Artist dates 1378/9 - 1444
Full title A Man
Series A Man and a Woman
Date made about 1435
Medium and support Oil with egg tempera on oak
Dimensions 40.7 x 28.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG653.1
Location in Gallery Room 63
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A Man and a Woman

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A man and a woman, clearly husband and wife, gaze towards each other. We don‘t know who they were, but their clothes, which are not excessively rich, suggest that they were relatively prosperous townspeople. The clarity and credibility of these portraits, which were designed as a pair, is astonishing – but they do more than reflect how the sitters looked.

Campin’s ability to convey textures of skin, fur and fabric means that we are not immediately aware of the skill with which he arranged the sitters’ clothes and even their features. These are highly ordered geometric compositions devised to show us what the couple were like: an older, world-weary man and a bright, optimistic young woman. The man slouches and the drooping lines of his face are echoed by his clothes; the woman’s skin is smooth, her eyes are bright and her features and clothes form rising lines.

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