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Melchior Broederlam biography

Facts about Melchior Broederlam life & bio

This Netherlandish painter is believed to have been active during 1381-1409. No details are documented with regard to his birth and childhood. But some surviving paintings could surely be credited to him. He worked mostly for Philip the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy. Although only a single pair of large panel paintings can be attributed to him, any talk of western painters will not hold water without a mention of Melchior.

It is said he stayed in Italy for a long time. His work there was influenced by Trecento painting. From 1381 he was a court painter for Louis de Male, Duke of BRABANT, AND AFTER THIS FOR HIS SON IN LAW AND SUCCESSOR Philip the Bold. He lived in Ypres doing much of the decorative work at Philip’s now non-existent Hesdin Chateau. Several mechanical devices in this chateau needed painting and Melchior did the work.


Like many court artists (eg jan Van Eyck), Melchior was appointed Valet de Chambre to the Duke in 1387. He was promoted the court painter in 1391. he continued to work for Philip’s successor John the Fearless. He is last mentioned in the Ducal accounts of 1409. Melchior’s works include the well documented outside wings of the altarpiece of Jacques de Baerze commissioned by Philip for the Charterhouse of Champmol near Dijon which was completed in 1399. He also did the gilding and painting of the wood carvings inside. This work is now in the Dijon museum.

The use of oil paint impacted the later generation greatly including Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck. Both panels include extensive landscapes with two scenes and merge into pavilion like Italian buildings. Light and shadow were employed to create sense of depth. Realistic depiction of st Joseph was to become characteristic Netherlandish painting.

In the Dijon panels the sky is painted gold with a flying hawk in one. The buildings in the Annunciation combine Romanesque and Gothic areas intended perhaps to contrast the Old and New Testaments in a visual metaphor that was to become the characteristic of Eyckian painting. These panels contain the contemporary international Gothic combined with a new world of naturalism and concealed symbolism that will be further refined in the works of his successors in the Netherlands.

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Melchior Broederlam
active 1381-1409

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