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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.