Instytut Historii Sztuki <Posen> [Hrsg.]
Artium Quaestiones — [1].1979

Seite: 45
DOI Artikel: DOI Seite: Zitierlink: 
https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/artium_quaestiones1979/0063
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0.5
1 cm
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JAN VAN EYCK — PORTBAIT OF JEAN DE CROY

45

into a shield — scutum (where this term means the Roman ovai shield
like the one of St George). The spell often appears in different editions
of “Dreyfacher Hoellenzwag” by Johannes Faustus.46

The shields with God’s names of St George at Gandua poliptych and
of St Michael at New York diptych play the same role by means of names
written on them.

Now, when all the names have been explained, it is worth consider-
ing that the beginning in the inscription of St. George’s shield according
to present interpretation: D[ominu]s FORTIS ADONAY SABAOT . . . was
supposed to mean: Lord Powerful, Adonay Sabaot and should be recon-
structed as: D[eu]S FORTIS, in Greek; THEOS ISHYROS; that means:
POWERFUL GOD.

The names Theos and Ishyros are always included in a formula of a
spell of the magie circle — a shield against demons of Evil.

Certainly the painter did not apply the God’s names of an enigmatie
eharacter to break the convention of altar painting according to the con-
cept of the Roman Church doctrines. The painter had known these con-
cepts very well and could have applied them perfectly for his artistic pur-
poses. In some cases, as on the shields of the heroes ready to fight with
demons, the motifs serving as a protection against the power of darkness
seem to be in the right place, as it was the common practice at the artisfs
times. He does not unitę with demons, on the contrary, he opposes them by
applying all the possible means, for his or his heroes’ sake he calls all the
names of God.

In the other works the mysterious mood is achieved by means of app-
lying God’s names which sounded strange to believers. By those means
the artist could achieve the effect significant even from the theological
point of view, stressing the fact that God appeared to be a creature hid-
den behind many veils, whose revelation, although manifested in many
different ways, remained in its very essence impenetrable.

A specific impression achieved througli application of mysteriously
sounding names, while conjuring the demons down, was rising the feel-
ing of their unusual and fearful power. This impression effected the
solemn eharacter of the painting and at the same time it was introducing
additional action and inner life to it.

Jan van Eyck had an extremely good chance to study the hermetic

46 The text of a spell is repeated in the editions: Dreifacher Hoellenzwange dr.
J. Faustus’ and in Trium perfectum magiae albae et nigrae ed. Romae (really Vienna)
1534. acc. W.-E. Peuckert, Pansophie, op. cit., p. 179: „Ego N. N. consecro et
benedicto istum circulum, per nomina dei altissimi in conscripta, ut sit mihi et omni-
bus scutum et protectic + Dei Elohim Adonay T. T. T. contra omnes malignos +
spiritus corumąue potestates . .. ”.
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