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Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden, A Man Reading (Saint Ivo?)

Key facts
Full title A Man Reading (Saint Ivo?)
Artist Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden
Artist dates about 1399 - 1464
Date made about 1450
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 45 × 35 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1971
Inventory number NG6394
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Man Reading (Saint Ivo?)
Workshop of Rogier van der Weyden

A young man seems to be reading a paper covered in elaborate writing. The document is almost certainly a letter, although the places where the name of the recipient would have appeared are concealed.

A lost inscription named the figure as Saint Ivo, patron of lawyers and known as the advocate of the poor, but he lacks many of the saint’s usual features. The painting might be either an image of Saint Ivo made when his iconography was not fully understood or a different subject transformed into the saint when his cult was gaining popularity.

If it is not Saint Ivo, it is hard to suggest an alternative subject. If this is a portrait, it’s a totally unconventional one: fifteenth-century sitters were not shown engaged in activities in this way. It may have been part of a series or a polyptych. The composition, with the sitter looking towards the left, seems to need something to balance it on the right.

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