Rogier van der Weyden was a Flemish painter, born in today’s Belgium. He was a representative of the Early Netherlandish painting and became internationally famous and highly celebrated during his lifetime.
Rogelet de le Pasture (Roger of the Pasture) was born circa 1400. His parents, Agnes de Watrelos and Henri de le Pasture, settled at the city of Tournai, in today’s Belgium, where his father worked as a knife manufacturer, or maitre-coutelier. There are several blank spots in van der Weyden’s history, especially documents on his training and early life, due to a series of archive losses, the last being during World War II, which destroyed the archival source in Tournai. Sources suggest that by 26 years old, van der Weyden was already established as a painter and by 32 would receive the title of Master.
Records suggest that by 1435 he was living in Brussels when he also changed his name to its Flemish version as Rogier van der Weyden. He appointed as Brussels’ official painter, a post made only for him and meant to be extinguished after his death. The several portraits of the Burgundian Dukes, as well as distinguished people, states van der Weyden’s close relationship with the Netherlandish elite. As much as there are documents stating his sumptuous wealth, there are records of his philanthropy, such as an administrator of the Charitable Foundation and hospital Ter Kisten of the Beguine convent for two years.
According to some sources, van der Weyden would have traveled to Italy in 1449. In the next year, following a jubilee, he went to Rome, where he came in contact with many influential Italian artists and patrons alike. However, his experiences in Italy did not influence his art style. Soon, the artist received commissions from the Medici family and the House of Este, two considerably powerful and respected families.
Van der Weyden’s recognition and respect were such that he would be persuaded by the Duke of Burgundy and the future King of France to accept Zanetto Bugatto - who was the court painter to the Duchess of Milan - as an apprentice. Bugatto became one of the most documented court painters of the 1400s.
Rogier’s international recognition increased exponentially. By the 1460s, the artists were considered by humanist scholars, such as Filarete, Nicolas Cusanus, and Bartolomeo Facio, as the noblest and most magnificent of all painters.